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Author: Neal Hannon (Page 2 of 2)

The Accountant Who Knew Too Much

It was a dark and rainy night. She toiled way past normal quitting time for all but accountants with Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings deadlines looming. Cranking away on her first XBRL SEC filing, Debbie became quite frustrated. "I know what is supposed to go into all of these "other" accounts, but XBRL just doesn’t care," she lamented. You see, Debbie is the accountant who knew too much.

Debbie is not alone. In a recent conversation with Louis Matherne, former XBRL International President and Director, XBRL Services for Clarity Systems, the situation described above is actually a common occurrence for accountants tagging XBRL filings for the first time. He suggested a simple example:

The company balance sheet says "prepaid expenses and other". "Other" is there because it represents several accounts that aggregated to the balance sheet become immaterial as separate items. The registrant, however, knows what it is and thinks they should create a new taxonomy concept that better captures the details of "other". No where in the financial statements or footnotes to the financial statements do they describe what that ‘other’ is."

The object of using XBRL for compliance with the SEC mandate is to present the company’s required financial statements and footnote disclosures, not to expose the preliminary accounts and internal decisions the led to the final, top level reports. XBRL is not meant to extend, expand or further explain legal filings. It simple puts your disclosures into a machine readable form. The last word comes from Matherne: "XBRL for the SEC is primarily about the disclosure of the accounting".

The US GAAP XBRL taxonomies can be found here.

The Accountant Who Knew Too Much

Tweeting XBRL

Over the last few months, I have become acquainted with the wonders of the 140 character “tweet”. For those of you who are not “tweets”, I am referring to the combination of instant message and social networking that has converged at In essence, twitter asks “peeps” a simple question, What are you doing right now? In 140 spaces, you can communicate what you are thinking or what you have just read on the web.  Long URL’s are easily truncated leaving enough space to communicate simple messages.  If you find people that are doing or reading about interesting things, you can follow their “tweets”.

In efforts to keep up on XBRL, I use Yahoo and Google key word alerts as well as selected RSS feeds from the SEC and others. I have found, however, that this system falls short of the daily updates the people using are providing for me. Its amazing how effective a 140 character message can be in sending you directly to fresh web content relevant to your interests. To improve my “hit” rate, I’ve added a few Tweet favorite tools such as tweetdeck (, TwitScoop, WeFollow, and MrTweet. Join up and send me a note. I’d love to follow you!

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