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FASB Chairman discusses interrelation between standard-setting and XBRL

  • FASB speech (lt blue) Image

08 Nov 2019

At the XBRL US Investor Forum 2019 earlier this week, FASB Chairman Russell G. Golden explained how high-quality structured data helped take financial reporting to a higher plane and called structured data "the future of financial reporting".

In his speech, Mr Golden outlined how the FASB is using XBRL data to make better standard-setting decisions.

Mr Golden began by pointing out that the FASB had to learn how to fully reap the benefits of XBRL. When the FASB first took over the responsibility for the XBRL taxonomy, taxonomy development was separate from standard-setting. Only after an accounting standard was proposed and then issued, the changes required for the taxonomy were considered.

Today, the taxonomy and standard-setting teams work together to concurrently develop and issue accounting standards and matching taxonomy improvements. This allows taxonomy staff to provide the Board and technical staff with real-time input on how to optimise reporting requirements from a data modeling perspective. This, as Mr Golden pointed out, ultimately results in better standards and better coverage of their requirements in the taxonomy. In fact, he noted: "Today, my FASB colleagues and I frequently ask members of the XBRL team for data to help us better understand standard-setting issues." The FASB also initiated XBRL post-implementation review projects. These projects help the FASB understand whether the taxonomy meets its objectives and what areas the FASB may need to improve. They also alert the Board to areas of accounting guidance that might need clarification as the wording might not have been precise enough originally.

The FASB also uses structured data to inform its standard-setting process and uses XBRL research to develop and monitor implementation of its standards. Since 2012, the FASB has performed more than 175 research projects using XBRL data. The Board turns to XBRL data for information to develop proposals, for insights for ongoing deliberations, and to help companies implement standards.

An example Mr Golden cited was the new standard on leases, which took effect for public companies in early 2019. The FASB used XBRL data to understand how companies are applying the new standard and to identify where it may need to provide support or clarify guidance. So in 2019, the FASB paid close attention to first quarter filings. Specifically, it wanted to see if there were areas in need of more implementation support — from both a standard-setting and a taxonomy perspective. Thanks to XBRL, the FASB was able to gather detailed data on what publicly traded companies are disclosing about their operating lease liabilities, lease costs, and weighted average discount rates, among other data points. Mr Golden lauded the efficiency of using XBRL to compile and analyse this detailed information that will also help to proactively address issues that private companies and organizations may confront when they implement the standard in years to come.

However, as Mr Golden pointed out, not everyone has embraced structured data yet - academia for example has not. Mr Golden noted that here are significant advantages to using XBRL data in academic research. But the use of XBRL data in academia has lagged for several reasons. Most academics are unfamiliar with it. Many do not know how to access the data. Those who do access the data find the data set unwieldy and challenging to work with. And the risk of operator error is significant. For this reason, the FASB is working on hands-on training sessions to help academics use XBRL data in their research and in their classrooms. Ultimately, the FASB believes that this will promote increased use of XBRL in relevant academic research and in the classroom. And the FASB has a vested interest in this, as academic studies also help inform its standard-setting process.

Please see the full text of Mr Golden's speech on the FASB website.

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