The Inland Revenue has revealed it could delay technology designed to accept statutory accounts using the controversial computer language XBRL. Officials said that the merger between the Revenue and Customs & Excise has caused the department to reassess its priorities.
The news came as US financial watchdog, the Securities and Exchange Commission, announced it was ready to accept filings using the technology and encouraged companies to make the switch.
The Revenue was working to a deadline of October for having technology in place to enable UK companies to send their accounts in XBRL.
Defending the delay, a Revenue spokesman said: ‘The merger of the Revenue and Customs is priority – other things may move around it. All sorts of different factors could come into play.’
Controversy surrounding XBRL has already seen the Financial Services Authority suspend its programme of receiving regulatory submissions using the language.
Meanwhile British subsidiaries of US companies have been assured they will not be forced to use XBRL for US filings, even though the SEC has thrown its full weight behind ‘encouraging’ a switch to the format.
Dennis Keeling, chief executive of BASDA, the industry body for business software providers, said there was ‘no interest’ from industry to report using the format, because of the complexities involved. For business, use of XBRL was a ‘mighty task’ and would only be taken up if it was ‘simplified’.
XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language) is essentially tagged data that makes it easier for analysts and investors to compare like-for-like financial information.
The SEC opened its doors to XBRL reporting following a seven-month consultation. William Donaldson, chairman of the watchdog, said the XBRL initiative was part of its ‘broader effort’ to improve the quality of information available to investors and the marketplace.
‘The commission can now improve how content is organised and analysed – improvements that will benefit everyone who utilises the SEC’s public disclosure process,’ he said.
The SEC announced last August that it would seek public comment on the reporting language.
Rob Blake, vice president for product management at US-based software company Rivet, said XBRL would address problems with comparing financial data that had been ‘running for the last few decades’.
Blake added: ‘Initially there is pain as it is difficult to implement. The cost of implementing XBRL will be a spike for first-time users’.
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