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XBRL tagging: lessons from the first wave

This past fall I attended a panel discussion presented by the SEC Professionals Group on detailed XBRL tagging. Overall it was very helpful and provided great insight into what other companies experienced for their first experience with detailed tagging.

The incredible workload surprised all of the panel members, who were primarily SEC reporting managers and controllers from high-tech companies that were part of the Group One XBRL. This first group had to prepare detailed tagged financial statements and footnotes (versus block tagging), so the panel included some of the first companies who experienced the joys and the trauma of detailed XBRL tagging.

Common pain points for these companies: the huge volume of work involved in the detailed tagging (an average of ~250 hours in prep/review/validation) in addition to their normal filing process; incredibly long turnaround times for changes from the printers (six to seven days in some cases); many errors in tags chosen by the printers; and subpar quality on work outsourced by the printers.

The lessons learned reflect my own work with XBRL: start the process early, and leave plenty of time for review; don’t rely on printers’ accounting expertise (you know your financials and footnotes better than they do); the responsibility for the accuracy of the XBRL filing resides with you, not the printer; and have a really solid methodology for tracking changes. Finally, do a test run to make sure the results meet your expectations.

Keep these things in mind, and things will go a lot more smoothly.

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