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Day: August 11, 2009

Mind the XBRL GAAP

Recently, XBRL US and the FASB released a new taxonomy reference linkbase to enable referencing to the FASB Codification. The FASB Codification is the electronic data base that contains all US GAAP authoritative literature and was designated as official US GAAP as of July 1, 2009.  Minding the GAAP between the existing 2009 US GAAP taxonomy reference linkbase, which contains references to the old GAAP hierarchy (such as FAS 142r or FAS 162) and the new Codification system is an interesting trip indeed.

The good news is that the efforts of the XBRL US people working in co-operation with FASB and the SEC have resulted in direct links from the new XBRL reference database to the Codification.  There are a couple problems, however.

The new reference linkbase is unofficial and will not be accepted by the SEC’s EDGAR system. URI links point to the proper places in the COD for FASB publications but require a separate log in and give you access to the public (high level) view only.

Firms and organizations with professional access to the Codification will not find this a problem, but individual practitioners will have to subscribe (at $850 per year) to get any views beyond the bare bones.

SEC literature stops at the top of the page for ALL SEC GAAP citations. For example, any XBRL element that has a regulation SX reference will point to exactly the same place, the top of the document. Not very useful. The SEC should address this.

So it appears we have three levels of accounting material to deal with, 1) the high level public access literature, which is official US GAAP in the Codification; 2) the professional view additional detail and explanations, and 3) and the non-GAAP material the FASB left out of the COD that is in their hard copy literature but didn’t make the COD/US GAAP cut. Ideally, all literature coming from the SEC or the FASB should be, in my opinion, easily accessible via the Internet.

The present plans to fix the GAAP in the US GAAP XBRL taxonomy are to wait until the 2010 taxonomy is issued (Spring 2010).  Although this would give the SEC plenty of time to tweak the EDGAR system into accepting the new linkbase, until then users of XBRL will have to accept workarounds to discover the authoritative literature link from an XBRL element tag and official US GAAP.