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Congress is Keen on XBRL

CongressAICPA staff members are very busy keeping up with activity related to eXtensible Business Reporting Language in the U.S. Congress.  Earlier this month House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Geoff Davis (R-KY) and Ranking Member Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) introduced H.R. 3339, the Standard Data and Technology Advancement Act, or the “Standard DATA Act.” The bill aims to establish consistent requirements for the electronic content and format of data used in the administration of key human services programs. Specifically, it calls for the incorporation of existing nonproprietary standards, such as XBRL.

If enacted, this bill would improve the collection and dissemination process for the federal government by standardizing data and eliminating time-consuming and error-prone manual processes. 

Some of the federal assistance programs that would be covered by this legislation include Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), child care, child support, foster care and adoption, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and unemployment insurance. Sponsors believe the federal government can establish standard elements for information and define how those elements relate to one another, thereby creating an evident and consistent system which enhances transparency and efficiency.

This is certainly not the first bill that calls for the use of XBRL. Earlier this year, President Obama signed the Children and Family Services Innovation and Improvement Act into law. This law requires that the Department of Health and Human Services designate a common data reporting standard, i.e. XBRL. Specifically the law is aimed at standardizing the reports that the states submit to the federal government on how they spend federal funds for child welfare programs.

Another bill entitled the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, or “DATA Act,” H.R. 2146/S.1222 is also under consideration in Congress. While the previous two bills focused on the Department of Health and Human Services data, the DATA Act calls for the use of consistent government-wide data standards for all federal spending. This bill also calls for the use of a nonproprietary data reporting standard, such as XBRL. The DATA Act is currently awaiting debate and a vote on the House floor.

Many of us in the CPA profession understand the value of XBRL when it comes to financial reporting.  As we have seen through the Securities and Exchange Commission’s XBRL program, standardized data has the ability to improve the reporting process as well as provide easier access and enhance analysis. By leveraging investments in technology already available, the use of XBRL will proliferate to many areas of business reporting. It’s great to see the federal government acknowledging that. The use of XBRL as the data standard for reporting will provide transparency and efficiency to federal and state governments.

As an early champion of XBRL, the AICPA has developed a number of resources to assist those who create XBRL files as well as those who review or use XBRL.  The XBRL resource page provides the history of XBRL, links to articles, whitepaper and guidance as well as educational events and other CPE related to XBRL. XBRL.us also has tools and resources that you may find of use.

What are some other uses you’ve seen for XBRL?

Ami Beers, CPA, Manager - Business Reporting, Assurance and Advisory Services, American Institute of CPAs. Ami is responsible for providing information, tools and resources that enable members to provide valuable business reporting, assurance and advisory services. This includes building awareness and understanding of XBRL and supports the AICPA XBRL Assurance Task Force.

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