AICPA, SEC Honchos to Co-Keynote XBRL Meeting

In what may propel needed increased market awareness of eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) and reinforce the fact that the accounting profession has led the development of that Internet-based technology, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Christopher Cox and American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) President Barry Melancon are the co-keynote speakers at the next XBRL International conference.


XBRL is a technology in which key elements of electronically-formatted business reports are tagged so that they can be immediately accessed and collated to meet the needs of the reports’ preparers and end users. The AICPA in 1998 organized a consortium of technology vendors and businesses that deal with financial reports to launch development of XBRL, and the effort has since blossomed into a worldwide movement that includes the XBRL International group, but American companies’ use of the technology has been limited.

The conference theme, “Interactive Data: the Revolution in Business Reporting,” fittingly represents both the AICPA and SEC. Ever since they began developing XBRL in the late 1990s, AICPA officials have said the technology will revolutionize business reporting. Subsequently the SEC has embraced XBRL as a means to improve financial reporting and has been the group most responsible for connecting XBRL with the phrase “Interactive Data”

The conference will be held Dec 4-6 in Philadelphia. Registration information is available online.

The SEC began using the term “interactive data” in programs designed to encourage businesses to use XBRL in reporting to the commission. In May, when announcing that 20 companies had signed up for the SEC’s most recent XBRL reporting project, Cox hailed, "Interactive data will vastly improve the delivery of financial information to individuals and institutions alike." He continues "It has the potential to slash hours of waste, cost, and inefficiency - not just for the users of financial data, but for the companies that prepare it as well. Even more importantly, it will help level the playing field for tens of millions of average investors."

Should Cox speak as forcefully at the upcoming XBRL conference, it may draw increased financial and technology industries’ interest in XBRL. After the SEC first showed a strong interest in the technology, the media for the technology industry and for financial officers, including the Wall Street Journal, began publicizing XBRL.

Added publicity could conceivably generate the awareness required to get more companies to use XBRL. The SEC wants companies to report in XBRL, but cannot mandate that until there is a wider general market acceptance. In addition to just 20 sign-ups in the first four months of the SEC’s 2006 XBRL program, only nine companies signed up in the first 12 months of a voluntary XBRL filing program the SEC launched in 2005.

In a separate matter related to XBRL, the AICPA has objected to a July 6 AccountingWeb news item that reported that XBRL software systems Rivet Software intertwined its business future with the AICPA by rolling out a business analysis software suite at the same time the institute combined its separate XBRL and Enhanced Business Reporting (EBR) programs under one management in an effort to further advance the business reporting model to include non-numeric information.

“We just want to point out that the Rivet announcement is not tied in any way to the Institute’s efforts,” the AICPA said, It further explained, "XBRL deals solely with presentation, whereas Enhanced Business Reporting is concerned with content, Rivet’s product is geared entirely toward analysis of XBRL data."

Denver-based Rivet never claimed that its new product was connected with the AICPA’s XBRL and Enhanced Business Reporting effort.

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