ACCA - The global body for professional accountants

Participants call for increased guidance on XBRL implementation

ACCA has jointly hosted a roundtable with FEE (the Federation of European Accountants) and Royal NIVRA (the Dutch accountancy body) to raise awareness of eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), the tool designed for the digital communication and presentation of financial and business data.

Entitled XBRL - The Impact on Accountants and Auditors, the roundtable explored the issues outlined in a recent FEE policy  statement (available from the Related documents box at the bottom of the page) that listed the benefits of XBRL, and what accountants, auditors and other finance professionals need to do in order to implement it successfully.

While XBRL serves to simplify access to timely, accurate and relevant financial information, a recent study by ACCA found very few practitioners seem to be fully aware of its benefits.

Enhancing the awareness of the use of XBRL in the financial reporting chain, the roundtable saw speakers including Jon Rowden, PricewaterhouseCoopers XBRL assurance leader and IAASB XBRL Task Force member, and others debate the next steps for XBRL and its impact on financial reporting and auditing.

'The business case for XBRL should be made more effectively since it has the potential to be extremely beneficial to numerous stakeholders,' said Philip Johnson, FEE deputy president and chair of the FEE XBRL Task Force.

Jan Pasmooij, manager, ICT Knowledge Center at NIVRA and chairman of XBRL Europe and Netherlands, added: 'XBRL has the potential to reduce costs of filing, to facilitate the re-use of electronic data stored, as well as speed up the preparation and increase the accuracy, integrity and reliability of data.

'It is time for small and medium-sized practitioners to get ready and understand the need to invest in XBRL.'

The general consensus among roundtable participants was that the main obstacle to widespread use of XBRL is due to a lack of understanding of how the technology works, as well as the necessary time needed to learn its functioning and the resources within practitioners' organisations to undertake its implementation.

Christine Helliar, co-author of the ACCA study, called on the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB) to complete its XBRL project and issue an ISA as soon as possible 'to provide guidance on what auditors should be required to do for XBRL filings to give users confidence in the data'.

Aziz Tayyebi, ACCA financial officer, added: 'It is important for the European capital markets as a whole not to be left behind, and take advantage of the opportunities offered by the next generation of financial reporting technology, by promoting an European regulatory framework, similar to the requirements currently put in place in the US by the Securities and Exchange Commission.'