iXBRL: All smoke and no fire?

SITTING in a Softworld seminar about tax technology, iXBRL, it struck me that iXBRL could be the modern version of Y2K. Everyone believed the switch would cause a big technology problem but in reality it was business as usual.

Inline eXtensible Business Reporting Language is a technology used to highlight or tag financial information in company tax returns and accounts. HM Revenue & Customs set the deadline that all corporation tax must be filed in iXBRL format from 1 April 2011.

That date appeared to cause concern for accountants that software wasn’t ready, filing returns would take substantially longer, would incur greater costs etc.

I headed over to the iXBRL seminar at Softworld, run by ICAEW tax faculty head Paul Booth, thinking it would be jam packed with accountants trying to understand how to get to grips with the software, moan about its expense and other gripes.

I was shocked to find just 7 other people in attendance. The majority of them represented companies that were small enough to not have complex filing requirements and were able to use HMRC’s free software and were just brushing up as to what exactly iXBRL was.

Booth later told me that according to an ICAEW report of IT in accounting practices just 13% of the 800 or so accountants surveyed currently found iXBRL either difficult or very difficult.

It got me thinking, have we made a Y2K out of iXBRL? The switch to filing in this format seems to be a bit like the concerns that computers would all cease functioning at midnight 2000, when really it was all smoke and no fire.

Or are accountants waiting for the two year soft landing (HMRC will take a lenient approach to penalties) to end before taking the situation more seriously?

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