Comment on s7-35-04

Comment on s7-35-04

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Comments on SEC Proposed Rule – 33-8496 XBRL VOLUNTARY FINANCIAL REPORTING PROGRAM ON THE EDGAR SYSTEM By the Information Systems and Artificial Intelligence/Emerging Technologies Sections of the American Accounting Association. About the American Accounting Association The American Accounting Association (AAA or Association www.aaahq.org) promotes worldwide excellence in accounting education, research, and practice. Founded in 1916 as the American Association of University Instructors in Accounting, its present name was adopted in 1936. The AAA is a voluntary organization of persons interested in accounting education and research. The mission of AAA is to foster worldwide excellence in the creation, dissemination, and application of accounting knowledge and skills. The Association is organized into 15 sections and six regions. The Information Systems (IS) section of the AAA has more than 850 members. The section seeks to foster an understanding and acceptance of information systems as an important branch of accounting and to provide a forum where educators and practitioners with IS interests can meet and interact with each other. The Artificial Intelligence/Emerging Technologies (AI/ET) section of the AAA strives to encourage application of the techniques of these two areas to accounting research, teaching, and practice. Artificial intelligence includes the sub-fields of knowledge-based systems, neural networks, and heuristic problem solving; ...

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 Comments on SEC Proposed Rule – 33-8496 XBRL VOLUNTARY FINANCIAL REPORTING PROGRAM ON THE EDGAR SYSTEM By the Information Systems and Artificial Intelligence/Emerging Technologies Sections of the American Accounting Association. About the American Accounting Association TheAmerican Accounting Association(AAA or Association www.aaahq.org) promotes worldwide excellence in accounting education, research, and practice. Founded in 1916 as the American Association of University Instructors in Accounting, its present name was adopted in 1936. The AAA is a voluntary organization of persons interested in accounting education and research. The mission of AAA is to foster worldwide excellence in the creation, dissemination, and application of accounting knowledge and skills. The Association is organized into 15 sections and six regions. The Information Systems (IS) section of the AAA has more than 850 members. The section seeks to foster an understanding and acceptance of information systems as an important branch of accounting and to provide a forum where educators and practitioners with IS interests can meet and interact with each other. The Artificial Intelligence/Emerging Technologies (AI/ET) section of the AAA strives to encourage application of the techniques of these two areas to accounting research, teaching, and practice. Artificial intelligence includes the sub-fields of knowledge-based systems, neural networks, and heuristic problem solving; emerging technologies include (among others) the Internet, the World Wide Web, electronic commerce, workgroup and workflow technology, and interactive multimedia. The AI/ET section has over 250 members.
Submission to the SEC from the Information Systems and Artificial Intelligence/Emerging Technologies Sections of the American Accounting Association on Release 33-8496. 31-Oct-04, Page 1
Given the importance of XBRL to the teaching and research interests of the two AAA sections, the IS and AI/ET sections have joined to prepare the enclosed submission. Membership of the working party is as follows:  Dr. Roger Debreceny, University of Hawaii, HI (Convenor) Email: rogersd (at) hawaii.edu Phone: (808) 956 8545  Dr. Samir Trabelsi, Brock University, Canada  Dr. Gerald Trites, St Francis Xavier University, Canada  Andy Lymer, The University of Birmingham, UK  Dr. Denise Guithues-Amrhein, Saint Louis University, MO  Dr. Maureen Mascha, Marqette University, WI  Chandra, The University of Akron, OHDr. Akhilesh  Dr. John J. Cheh, The University of Akron, OH Neal J. Hannon, University of Hartford, CT   Dr. Paul D. Hutchison, University of North Texas, TX  Dr. Diane Janvrin, Iowa State University, IA  Dr. Roberta Ann Jones, Pittsburg State University, KS Dr. Barbara Lamberton, University of Hartford, CT   Dr. Robert Nehmer, Quinnipiac University, CT.  Dr. Saeed Roohani, Bryant University, RI  Dr. Rajendra P Srivastava, University of Kansas, KS  Dr. Thomas Tribunella, Rochester Institute of Technology, NY  Dr. Miklos A. Vasarhelyi, Rutgers University, NJ Disclaimer: The views expressed in this document are those only of the members of the Working Party.
Submission to the SEC from the Information Systems and Artificial Intelligence/Emerging Technologies Sections of the American Accounting Association on Release 33-8496. 31-Oct-04, Page 2
V. SPECIFIC REQUEST FOR COMMENTS
1. (a) Is the proposed rule permitting volunteer filers to furnish financial information in XBRL appropriate?
We strongly support the initiative by the Securities and Exchange Commission to allow volunteer filers to furnish financial information in the XBRL format. The Internet1, with its attributes of low cost, immediacy, global reach and alternative forms of information presentation, is clearly important for purposes of transparency, stewardship and the smooth functioning of capital markets.2The eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) adds a vital attribute to these general characteristics: explicit semantic and machine-readable representation of the wide variety of information elements found in business reporting in general and in financial statements in particular.3A host of information consumers, including investors, analysts, researchers and value-added information intermediaries will be able to leverage XBRL reports to the Commission.  
We would also like to point out that while for an experimental period voluntary disclosure of financial statement information is adequate, XBRL is vital in the democratization of markets. At an early stage, the Commission should consider adopting XBRL for Form 8-K filings. Eventually the SEC should move to require XBRL filings for financial statements for all or major classes of filers. The Commission should also investigate employing extended XBRL taxonomies that incorporate financial and non-financial performance information. Later in this submission, we note with approbation the work of the AICPA’s Jenkins Committee in the 1990s (Special Committee on Improving Business Reporting) and the current work of the Starr committee of the AICPA that is recommending the progressive incorporation of a much wider set of performance measurements in an Enhanced Business Reporting Model.
                                                 1 Trites, G. (1999).The impact of technology on financial and business reporting.Toronto: Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants. IASC. (1999).Business reporting on the internet.London: International Accounting Standards Committee. FASB. (2000).Business reporting research project: Electronic distribution of business information.Norwalk, CT: Financial Accounting Standards Board. 2 J. E., Wright, A. M., and Wright, S. (2003). The supply and demand for continuous reporting. In S. Hunton, J. Roohani (Ed.),Trust and data assurances in capital markets: The role of technology solutions(pp. 7-16). Smithfield, RI: Bryant College. 3 Debreceny,of semantically rich accounting reports on the R., and Gray, G. (2001). The production and use Internet: XML and XBRL.International Journal of Accounting Information Systems, 2(1), 47-74.
Submission to the SEC from the Information Systems and Artificial Intelligence/Emerging Technologies Sections of the American Accounting Association on Release 33-8496. 31-Oct-04, Page 3
Benefits of XBRL:Benefits of XBRL arising to regulators such as the SEC, are effectively summarized in a recent commentary by Professor Ron Weber, who notes in part “In many countries, regulators concerned with business reporting have already shown a keen interest in XBRL. Many are participating in the development of XBRL and the dissemination of knowledge about XBRL. For regulators, XBRL offers at least two major benefits. First, it reduces the costs associated with their obtaining and assimilating information from businesses. Regulators are not forced to reenter information or expend resources on dealing with the problems that arise as a result of incompatibilities between their own information technology platforms and those of the businesses that fall within their jurisdiction. Second, the existence of XBRL allows them to argue more strongly for the standardization and harmonization of international business reporting standards. Use of XBRL mitigates some of the costs that businesses would otherwise incur in complying with such standards. Thus, any arguments made by businesses against proposed standards on the basis of the costs of compliance are undermined”4that lend support to the proposed rule. We support Professor Weber’s conclusions by the Commission. Academic research shows the benefits that come from XBRL. A recent paper from our colleagues, Professors Hodge, Kennedy and Maines, reports the result of an experiment on the application of XBRL.5researchers conducted a laboratory experiment that manipulated twoThe variables that are important in the financial reporting environment, that is: (i) provision of searchable technologies such as XBRL compared with no provision of search and (ii) recognition of the outcome of accounting choices (in this case, stock option compensation) in the body of the financial statements compared with disclosure in the footnotes. The study concludes, “that recognition versus disclosure of stock option compensation does affect users’ judgments and using a searchable technology [XBRL] mitigates this effect. This finding is consistent across [experimental] participants’ assessments of financial performance as well as their investment decisions.” This study demonstrates that XBRL is a useful technology that enhances the cognitive abilities of end-users in interpreting financial statements and improves the judgment
                                                 4 R. A. (2003).  Weber,XML, XBRL, and the future of business and business reporting. In S. J. Roohani (Ed.),Trust and data assurances in capital markets: The role of technology solutions(pp. 3-6). Smithfield, RI: Bryant College 5D., Kennedy, J. J., and Maines, L. A. (2004). Does search-facilitating technology improve the Hodge, F. transparency of financial reporting?Accounting Review, 78(2). Submission to the SEC from the Information Systems and Artificial Intelligence/Emerging Technologies Sections of the American Accounting Association on Release 33-8496. 31-Oct-04, Page 4
that they exercise when analyzing those statements. We also draw your attention to our longer discussion on the cost and benefits of XBRL adoption in Section XVIIII on Page 25. Issues with coding printed financial statements:As researchers, we are aware of the many problems that come from the high cost of interpreting financial statements that exist only in printed form. Much academic research relies on financial reporting databases (e.g. Compustat). The developers of these databases code data from corporation’s financial statements into their databases. In so doing, they use normalized data as interpreted by their coders. While this has some advantages for certain types of research, the coding process is a substantial simplification and is fraught with errors of interpretation and currency, as observed in a number of academic studies that compare the output from different databases.6In contrast, XBRL tagged data can serve to present data “as reported” and promotesubstantial motivation for companies to prepare comparable statements. Information Systems Adoption:Research on information systems innovation adoption shows the importance of a catalyst that brings together the disparate parties in the information supply chain. The SEC will play an important role as just such a catalyst. Conducting what is essentially, a field experiment by the Securities and Exchange Commission will enable the accounting and filer communities together with the academic and research community to learn from the widespread application of XBRL to the presentation of complete financial statements. The proposed rule ensures that a smaller group of volunteers will enable that opportunity as experimentation takes place in a relatively controlled manner. We also consider the implementation of this proposed voluntary process places the United States in a leadership role, as far as XBRL is concerned. This is important at a time when many of the major adoptions of this technology have been in countries in Asia-Pacific and Europe. Implications of voluntary filing program for research and teaching:The academic community will take the output of those voluntary XBRL filings and conduct a number of studies. We confidently expect that academics will research topics including the capital market                                                  6  See, for example, Kern, B. B., and Morris, M. H. (1994). Differences in the compustat and expanded value line databases and the potential impact on empirical research.Accounting Review, 69(1), 274-284. See also Vasarhelyi, M., Yang, D., and Liu, C. (2003). A note on the using of accounting databases. Industrial Management and Data Systems, 103(3), 204-210 Submission to the SEC from the Information Systems and Artificial Intelligence/Emerging Technologies Sections of the American Accounting Association on Release 33-8496. 31-Oct-04, Page 5
implications of the filings by the voluntary filers; the presentation choices made by the volunteer filers; the link between financial statements and the taxonomies; the quality of the taxonomies; the ability of taxonomies to meet the needs of the filers, the choices made on variations out of established taxonomies, and a wide variety of other research questions. We expect that the first output of the studies would be available at conferences in late 2005 and into 2006. The academic community will communicate the results of this research to the accounting organizations, filer communities, and the Commission. The proposed voluntary filing will also be valuable for the work of academics in their teaching role. Our colleagues at Bryant University and at the University of Kansas have each hosted a number of seminars and conferences on the research and teaching implications of XBRL. We expect that faculty and students will analyze the voluntary filings made to the Commission in the Fall semester.
1. (b) Is there a better way to accomplish testing and analysis of XBRL data?
While coding a complete set of financial statements, including footnotes, and Management’s Discussion and Analysis represents the ultimate goal for the adoption of XBRL in respect of the traditional annual financial reporting cycle, there are many other types of disclosures that lend themselves to the application of XBRL. In particular, we note that the recent extension of the requirements for corporations to file Form 8-K, is an ideal application for XBRL. This progression towards continuous reporting information is time sensitive and contains both monetary and non-monetary disclosures. Many of those disclosures fall into well-known categories that could readily be coded into an XBRL taxonomy. Indeed, we believe that the market would find automated handling of fully coded legitimate 8-Ks to be of more immediate value than fully coded financial statements. These latter classes of disclosures are substantially ex-post facto resulting more of a tombstone disclosure than providing active tools for investors. We also urge the Commission to consider how the important disclosures that are made in the Management Discussion and Analysis and other types of reporting should be accommodated within an XBRL taxonomy. Bryan (1997)7shows that certain MD&A disclosures, for instance the discussion of future operations and planned capital expenditures, are associated with future                                                  7 Bryan, S. H. 1997. Incremental Information Content of Required Disclosures Contained in Management Discussion and Analysis. The Accounting Review. Vol 72 (2) : 285-301. Submission to the SEC from the Information Systems and Artificial Intelligence/Emerging Technologies Sections of the American Accounting Association on Release 33-8496. 31-Oct-04, Page 6
performance measures and investments decision, after controlling for the information contained in financial-statement-based-ratios. We are not suggesting that the current proposal for voluntary filings in XBRL incorporate this class of information. We do suggest that the next class of XBRL-based disclosure that the Commission addresses should be these more fluid forms of disclosure. We note the various classes of disclosure addressed in the AICPA’s 1994 “Jenkins Report”8,and in the more recent moves in the Starr Committee towards Enhanced Business Reporting: (seehttp://www.aicpa.org/innovation/scebr.htmandhttp://www.ebrconsortium.org/). Disclosures of the type envisaged by Jenkins and Starr are, we believe, highly relevant for valuation and stewardship purposes. Given that these performance metrics vary by firm and industry, they lend themselves to reporting in XBRL.
2. (a) For purposes of the program, volunteers can furnish in XBRL format, among other types of financial information, a complete set of financial statements. Are there special issues or difficulties raised by providing notes to financial statements in XBRL format?
Please see our response to the next bullet point (2(b)).
2. (b) If so, should we permit volunteers to furnish financial statements in XBRL format if they omit the related notes? Should we allow volunteers to furnish in XBRL format some but not all financial statements (e.g., only a balance sheet)?
In this early stage of adoption of XBRL, we strongly recommend that filers be able to submit information at a variety of different levels of complexity. Given the much less developed state of taxonomies for financial reporting in respect of the footnotes and that the complexity of preparing footnotes is considerably greater than the body of the financial statements, some filers may wish to submit only the body of their financial statements. We believe that the Commission should encourage wide participation in this voluntary program. Whilst footnotes are of considerable value to our markets, investors, students, shareholders, and other observers of corporations, the financial statements are of greater information value. To require footnotes as tagged disclosures may rule out many filers from this voluntary program. This would be an unfortunate outcome of such a requirement.
                                                 8 (1994). AICPA.Report of the Special Committee on Financial Reporting: Improving Business Reporting -A customer focus: Meeting the information needs of investors and creditors. New York, NY: American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
Submission to the SEC from the Information Systems and Artificial Intelligence/Emerging Technologies Sections of the American Accounting Association on Release 33-8496. 31-Oct-04, Page 7
However it would be desirable that filers at least create tags for the entire footnote for classification purpose (e.g. accounting policy, compensation, etc) and for the most common ones (e.g. pensions) tag key fields that are mandated (e.g. interest assumptions and unfunded pension liabilities). Footnotes can be tagged at a variety of levels of detail. We would encourage the voluntary program to allow corporations to tag their notes even at the level of one tag per footnote as discussed above. Again, this would allow automated information retrieval and discovery software to identify the types of footnotes within the filing. While not a complete answer to the analytical of analysts, investors, researchers and students, it would be a considerable improvement over the raw text supplied as part of a Form-10k from EDGAR. In the future, detailed tagging of footnotes will be an important part of the adoption of XBRL by the Commission. We believe that the information contained in footnotes has high information relevance for investors. The highest quality of disaggregated tagging of the notes is desirable for smooth functioning of the capital markets. Capital market researchers often have to spend considerable time in hand-coding important information that is contained within the notes. Having this data available in an automated form will assist not only academic research, but also the work of analysts. Furthermore, in the future, detailed tagging of relevant non-financial information such as intellectual property, human resources, marketing, etc will be highly valuable (see our comment on Question 1(b)). Taking this in account will relate XBRL coded disclosures to the user-oriented frameworks proposed by Penman (2003)9and Schipper and Vincent (2003)10and by the SEC in its goal-oriented principles.
2. (c) Should we also allow tagging for other items, such as Management’s Discussion and Analysis or Management’s Discussion of Fund Performance that are part of existing taxonomies?
We strongly support the tagging of items such as Management’s Disclosure and Analysis or Management’s Discussion of Fund Performance. Academic research has consistently shown the value relevance of such disclosures, as we noted in the previous comment. As we noted taxonomy development in respect of such items is still relatively undeveloped. Nonetheless, we                                                  9 Penman, S. H. 2003. The quality of financial statements: Perspectives from the recent stock market bubble. Accounting Horizons17 (Supplement): 77-96. 10 Schipper, K.,and L. Vincent.2003. Earnings quality.Accounting Horizons17 (Supplement): 97-110.
Submission to the SEC from the Information Systems and Artificial Intelligence/Emerging Technologies Sections of the American Accounting Association on Release 33-8496. 31-Oct-04, Page 8
believe that filers should be encouraged to tag these elements of their reports. This would be desirable if only to allow automated information retrieval and discovery software to categorize efficiently all parts of the financial statements and ancillary reports. We also are strongly in support of a progressive route of taxonomization and coding of the non-financial data in annual reports.
3. (a) Are the standard taxonomies in the voluntary program sufficiently developed? If not, explain what further development would be necessary. Please address taxonomies with respect to specific industries or types of companies if you have information or views on these.
Several members of this working party have been actively involved in the development of US GAAP and IFRS taxonomies. We believe that (i) the processes employed in taxonomy building; (ii) quality of the imports into the taxonomy building process and (iii) the formal quality assessment processes of XBRL-US adopted have resulted in relatively high quality taxonomies. The SEC initiative provides an opportunity to determine how well taxonomy building has advanced. We suggest that there be an open communication channel between the taxonomy builder community and volunteer filers during the volunteer program. This will enable modifications to the taxonomies when these are preferable to forcing each volunteer to create extensions. The academic community has researched taxonomy building as well as automation in taxonomy building.11Much more research will be necessary over the next few years to build a better understanding of the relationship between accounting standard-setting, and the nature of financial reporting, the design of the information systems scheme, and end-user functionality. The details required in footnote disclosure make taxonomy building in this part of the financial statements very difficult. We are much less confident about the quality of taxonomies in respect of footnote disclosures, than we are with data on the body of the financial statements. On the other hand when building instance documents the author must specify accounts that are NOT in a standard taxonomy (extension taxonomies). Consequently, this will both serve to
                                                 11  Matthew Bovee, Alexander Kogan, Rajendra P. Srivastava, Miklos A. Vasarhelyi and Kay Nelson (2004) Financial Reporting and Auditing Agent with Net Knowledge (FRAANK) and eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), , Journal of Information Systems, forthcoming. Submission to the SEC from the Information Systems and Artificial Intelligence/Emerging Technologies Sections of the American Accounting Association on Release 33-8496. 31-Oct-04, Page 9
motivate filer to standardize their reporting as well as to help the XBRL community to create better taxonomies.
3. (b) Is the taxonomy builder software sufficiently developed that volunteers would be able to create extensions as needed? Many preparers of instance documents will need to not only build the instance document but also additionally create an extension taxonomy to meet the particular reporting requirements of that corporation. As faculty, we have used each of the taxonomy builder software offerings currently available. A number of these products have appropriate functionality to create both instances and extension taxonomies for the purposes of this trial. These products do not yet have fully satisfactory end-user functionality for widespread adoption amongst filers. As inadequate as these products have been, they are, however, acceptable for this proposed first round of efforts. Taxonomy builder software has improved significantly over the last 12 months, and we expect that they will be improved further over the coming year. As academics, we look forward to being able to using high-quality taxonomy builder software in the classroom and to providing feedback to the SEC and filer community based on of our perspective of the end-user functionality of such software.
4. What specific criteria should be applied to determine the adequacy of the standard taxonomies? We believe that there are a number of criteria that can be applied in determining the adequacy of taxonomies. Some of these criteria are in conflict with each other. For example, a principal criterion should be end user functionality. There is clearly a conflict between the completeness of the taxonomy and its usability. A taxonomy that attempted allow all possible permutations and combinations of disclosures likely to be made by filers would be, in our view, essentially unusable. Taxonomy builders must make wise choices between the depth of a taxonomy and its ability to be implemented by accountants, auditors, and other users that are not skilled in database and schema design. The ability of filers to develop valid XBRL extensions to taxonomies means that such taxonomies that might on the surface seem to have an inadequate number of tags are in fact kept deliberately small for reasons of usability.
Submission to the SEC from the Information Systems and Artificial Intelligence/Emerging Technologies Sections of the American Accounting Association on Release 33-8496. 31-Oct-04, Page 10
Some of the factors that should be considered in determining the adequacy of taxonomies include:
 Technical: Compliance with XBRL International’s XBRLSpecification 2.1.  best practice: Technical compliance with XBRLEmploy taxonomy construction International’sFinancial Reporting Taxonomy Architecture.  can be matched to two or three digit StandardUsability: The taxonomies Industrial Codes (SICs). A high proportion of companies within those SICs should be able to use the matched taxonomy without extension or with minimal extensions.  Completeness: The collection of standard taxonomies should be tagging over 90% of the information received by the SEC. The taxonomy should fully map to a company chart of accounts. There should not be any loss of data. Poor fit may lead to loss of information and subsequent resistance.  Accessibility: The goal of developers of instance documents should always be to link to standard taxonomies from any Internet accessible location.  Consistency: Reference to standard taxonomies must not degrade over time. If the taxonomies change, the change must be backwardly compatible or the taxonomies must accommodate versioning.  Information Use:Enhance information use to enable analysis without re-entering data.  Comparability: Facilitate comparability across firms and industries.  Continuous Reporting: Provide technological capability for near continuous financial reporting  Understandability: Support human readability and understandability.  .Authority: From financial reporting standards and general practice.
Submission to the SEC from the Information Systems and Artificial Intelligence/Emerging Technologies Sections of the American Accounting Association on Release 33-8496. 31-Oct-04, Page 11