Announced: Seahorse® is the T4U Successor

After the recent EIOPA announcement that the XBRL reporting tool T4U will be decommissioned next month, many filers are now looking for a quick solution to keep their submissions compliant.

At CoreFiling, it’s our business to keep you compliant – that’s why we are proud to announce that we are offering a free trial to our cloud-based regulatory filing platform, Seahorse®. The successor to T4U.

This free trial gives you the opportunity to create one complete filing to submit to a regulator – and even better, users will have three months to explore the software before submitting their filing. Here are just some of the ways in which Seahorse® can help your organisation:

The Benefits

  • Seahorse® lets you create fast, error-free XBRL filings. Unlike T4U, its data rendering is XBRL-based, so the reports you send will never have data conversion errors or approximations. The data is 100% accurate every time.
  • Seahorse® is hosted in the cloud. Its architecture lets you update taxonomies instantly, with no tedious installations. You can create and view your filings anywhere, any time.
  • Seahorse® allows you to easily create XBRL filings in the familiar environment of Microsoft Excel.

How do I sign up?

Trial access is available to anyone. To claim your trial, simply visit our website and fill out the sign up form.

XBRL accounting taxonomy design and categorisation

1. The future of taxonomy design

This is the first in a series of articles in which I propose a novel categorisation of accounting taxonomies based on three aspects of taxonomy design: Architecture, Coherence and Extensibility.

In this first overview article I will introduce the three design aspects. In future articles I will cover these aspects in more detail and examine how they apply to the US GAAP, IFRS and UK FRS taxonomies. The series will conclude with a discussion of how I’ve categorised these taxonomies and how this categorisation might inform the current direction of taxonomy design.

2. Why are taxonomies so important?

XBRL taxonomies are the key components of any electronic financial or business reporting system. An XBRL taxonomy is the formal definition of a financial or business reporting vocabulary for a given jurisdiction or reporting domain, imparting meaning to the concepts which describe the facts being reported and providing a framework within which reports are structured. It defines, the “contract” between reporter and regulator.
Just as importantly, it defines what is not permitted, except insofar as “locally negotiated” extensions allow. A taxonomy also defines relationships between reporting concepts, meaning that the “contract” not only defines the reporting vocabulary (the “what”) but also the grammar (the “how”) – how reported concepts can legitimately be combined and related to each other.
It is for these reasons that taxonomies matter in an electronic world. They are fundamental to any financial or business reporting regime and their design exerts a direct influence on the capabilities and expressive power of reporting and analysis tools.
XBRL tools and technologies are still evolving to suit the market’s needs. Experience has shown that deploying XBRL solutions takes a considerable amount of time and effort, and a large portion of this is invested in taxonomy design and development. Taxonomy authors are continually developing new ways to address the complex challenges of financial and business reporting.
It’s clear that XBRL taxonomies are currently undergoing a period of rapid evolution as they colonise a number of new financial niches, with new taxonomies building on the successes – and avoiding the perceived failures – of previous generations. I’m proposing the establishment of a new classification system for taxonomy evolution, with the hope of illuminating the future of taxonomy design.

3. Taxonomy evolution

In the family tree of taxonomies, those concerned with company financial statements can be broadly classified according to three key aspects. This has resulted in taxonomies that can be classified as belonging to one of three generations.

3.1 Aspects of taxonomy design

3.1.1 Architecture

Some taxonomies model the applicable accounting or financial standards; some model the required reporting documents; and some model the underlying data.

3.1.2 Coherence

‘Coherence’ is the degree to which a taxonomy “hangs together” and permits the creation of a body of instance documents that are consistent and comparable. At one extreme some taxonomies give the freedom to combine reportable concepts with any dimensions and to combine dimensions freely. At the other extreme such combinations are carefully controlled by the taxonomy.

3.1.3 Extensibility

Some taxonomies are very permissive when it comes to extension, to the point that “anything goes”; some taxonomies provide specific extension points so that extension can be controlled, if not actually defined; and some taxonomies provide specific mechanisms to support extension.

3.2 Taxonomy classification

3.2.1 First generation

First generation taxonomies are literal interpretations of accounting or financial standards, where the filer can do pretty much whatever they please with the base taxonomy, and any additional structured information can be captured as a privately-defined but uncontrolled extension.

3.2.2 Second generation

Second generation taxonomies model not the accounting or financial standards themselves but the regime’s required document structures derived from the applicable accounting or financial standards. Additional structured information can be captured in a private extension that should follow certain rules or guidelines laid down by the taxonomy author.

3.2.3 Third generation

Third generation taxonomies move away from an architecture derived from the accounting/financial standards or reporting document structures and instead simply model the data within the taxonomy. Additional structured data can be captured by ‘extension’ mechanisms built in to the data model of the base taxonomy itself.

All three generations exhibit convergent evolution in that they all provide a document-oriented browsing and presentation view that will be familiar to preparers and accountants, but each is derived in a fundamentally different way.

4. A new taxonomy classification system

The key taxonomy design aspects that categorise taxonomy evolution are summarised as follows:

Taxonomy Classification

5. Next article

In the next article in this series I will discuss the Architecture aspect of taxonomy design in depth, with reference to the US GAAP, IFRS and UK FRS taxonomies.

I would like to also thank Andy Greener for his contributions.

Will XBRL help UNCTAD fulfil plans to adopt corporate reporting as part of the sustainability development agenda?

My colleague Ian Hicks was in Geneva this week speaking at the ISAR (International Standards of Accounting and Reporting) workshop during the UNCTAD World Investment Forum. The workshop debated current challenges in corporate reporting and how these might be addressed in the context of enterprise economic activities, as well as areas such as corporate social responsibility, environment protection, and corporate governance.

During a session highlighting major trends and initiatives in corporate reporting models, Ian, in his capacity as Chair of the XBRL Inc. Best Practices Board (BPB), offered his perspective on how XBRL supports corporate financial and non-financial reporting and how this might benefit the monitoring and analysis of sustainable development as part of the UNCTAD agenda.

Continue reading “Will XBRL help UNCTAD fulfil plans to adopt corporate reporting as part of the sustainability development agenda?”

Analysis for Fun and Profit

On Tuesday, Chairman Cox announced an early release of some open source
software that allows you to analyse information that has been filed with the
SEC in XBRL format. It’s a web based demonstration environment, available here.

So, this is an interesting start. It’s a hint at some of the power that is
available when analysing XBRL information. It highlights some of the things
that still need to be done to improve the framework for filing XBRL with the
Commission (or indeed, any regulator). I think it also provides a bit of a
wake-up call to the consortium about the so-called "rendering"
problem.

Some of the obvious issues include:

  • Requiring meaningful labels for logical groupings of concepts. In the XBRL
    specification we call these "extended link roles". At CoreFiling we
    call them "Groups" because the other name is not very helpful.

  • Enforcing a single entity identifier.

  • Determining and enforcing a single versioning/taxonomy life cycle strategy so
    that it’s easy to construct a time series across multiple filings by the same
    company.

  • Imposing an “order” constraint on disclosure segments and contexts, and equally
    important, imposing a consistent framework for segment identifiers, for
    individual filers, across time.

Marc van Hilvoorde is leading a working group that is coming to grips with some
of the issues to do with rendering. Rendering is a really tricky area. At one
level, accountants that prepare financial disclosures need them to look exactly
"so". Developing a specification that can provide really precise
rendering descriptions could take quite some time be impossible. Those
consuming the data, on the other hand, are really just looking for a broad
brush approach, that will help set out tables and headings etc., so that the data can be easily conveyed to the user. It is this latter area that Marc’s
group is going to be thinking about.

I gather that that there will be another, independently developed analysis
tool, that will also be open source, that the Commission’s contractors are
still working on. Cool! Bring it on. Oh! One other point. I believe the data in
this current trial is being batched up overnight. Fair enough, it is early
days. One reason for that is that the SEC’s RSS feed is only updated every
night. What about sorting that out, guys? Once it’s been filed, it should be
available… shouldn’t it?

Welcome, Mark Bolgiano

A very welcome face at the conference was Mark Bolgiano, the new XBRL-US
Executive Director. In the unlikely event that we didn’t scare him away with
the proverbial information fire hose, he will be starting on 11 December. Seems
like a very capable guy coming into the middle of the XBRL-US group at a
crucial time.

SpiderMonkey… unveiled

So, lots of people have been wondering about what we have been up to over the last few months. It’s true. We’ve been pre-occupied. But now we are beginning to take the wraps off. SpiderMonkey! It’s here!

Based on Eclipse, SpiderMonkey offers a phenomenal new experience for taxonomy builders everywhere. It provides a user interface that offers all the power of XBRL, but in a user-friendly way. SpiderMonkey is based on True North, so you can be completely confident about the output. As one of our early testers says "The UI reflects a complete understanding of the XBRL spec – not some approximation to it". But that’s what you expected from us.

Now in Beta… (the program is pretty full up, but if you can convince me that you’ll really work it, you know what you are talking about, and will file bugs and enhancement requests, we might squeeze you in). In general, you can Sign Up to get it on general release.

PS: Did you hear us say "three way merge"??? Yup. It does that too!