Companies House is set to launch a pilot project for e-filing using the
controversial reporting data standard XBRL.
The ‘e-accounts’ project, to be launched towards the end of the year, will
allow filers to send in unaudited accounts data ‘tagged’ in the XBRL format,
through accounting software packages developed to work with Companies House
Alternatively, customers will be able to file accounts electronically using
‘intelligent document’ templates. These will contain in-built guidance and
checks to help customers avoid omitting information or miscalculating figures
before they upload its contents to Companies House as XBRL.
Company accounts filing is one of the few high-volume transactions that the
department has not yet been able to complete electronically.
XBRL is used to ‘tag’ financial data, allowing the data to be easily
understood, transmitted and viewed by stakeholders.
But the tagging technology has been dogged by controversy. The Inland Revenue
and FSA have put back their own schemes to require businesses to file
information in the XBRL format until its benefits can be fully realised.
Some industry experts have said that too many taxonomies have been created
within XBRL, making it too complicated, time-consuming and costly for companies
to incorporate in its current guise.
But Richard Day, a senior manager at PwC, said that XBRL had been ‘accepted’
but not yet ‘fully implemented’.
He suggested that rather than limit its use to external financial reporting,
the tags could be used to gather information more reliably from spreadsheets
within a business. ‘Then it can be tagged and incorporated to provide extra
control and auditability,’ said Day.
PwC and Fujitsu have recently worked on a pilot project to introduce XBRL
into one of the Irish Central Statistics Office’s quarterly industry surveys.
The project was the first live implementation of XBRL in Ireland. The CSO
stated that when the adoption of XBRL increases in Ireland, the publication of
its taxonomy will facilitate companies to complete the survey directly from
their accounting systems, making it easier to comply with CSO reporting
Fujitsu architect Cormac McKenna said that there were many XBRL initiatives
underway across Europe, and insisted he was optimistic about the format’s
takeup. ‘It’s still in an early adoption phase,’ he added.
Another major trialler of XBRL-based submissions is the US SEC. It is
currently accepting filings in an XBRL format as part of its own pilot scheme.
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