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Finally, Tool Useful to Accountants Verifying SEC XBRL Financial Filing

Finally, a tool which is useful to accountants verifying an SEC XBRL financial filing! While it isn't perfect (Version 1.0), XBRL Cloud's Evidence Package is a big, big step toward giving accountants the tools they need to effectively create and verify that they have created an appropriate SEC XBRL financial filing.

You send the URL of any XBRL instance to the Evidence Package and it returns a battery of HTML files.  Here is that battery of reports for the Reference Implementation of an SEC XBRL Financial Report which I have been maintaining for several years now. (This is where you can grab the XBRL files for that reference implementation.)

I was able to convince XBRL Cloud to use the report level semantic model I gleaned from SEC XBRL financial filings and summarized in the Financial Report Semantics and Dynamics Theory. As you look at the Evidence Package, notice how you see virtually no XBRL technical syntax. The information is very readable and understandable to accountants.  There are a few things you need to understand like the terms of the Financial Report Semantics and Dynamics Theory like "characteristic", "fact", and "component" and some US GAAP Taxonomy/SEC filing terms such as "Network", "Table", "Axis", "Member" and so forth, but you need to understand no such XBRL technical syntax.

If you want to understand the report level logical model articulated by the Financial Report Semantics and Dynamics Theory and determine for yourself, looking through this Evidence Package is the way to do it.  And like I said, every one of the 8000 or so 10-K and 10-Q SEC XBRL financial reports fits into this model.  Report level semantic errors in filings do exist and the illogical nature of the modeling is clear. For example, what does it mean to have a [Member] within a set of [Line Items]? That modeling error stands out clearly.

The narrative and videos of ten key areas of the Evidence Package helps you understand how to use the Evidence Package and helps you see how helpful it is.

(Video viewing tips: The videos seem to appear best if viewed in a Safari browser.  The best size is the medium size offered by YouTube. Sorry about the quality, this is the best my tools allow.)

  1. Clarity as to your responsibility. The Evidence Package helps you see exactly what you are responsible for by summarizing both automated and manual verification tasks into an understandable dashboard and a list of each automated verification rule you must pass and manual verification task you must perform.
  2. Seeing all the pieces clearly. Often, just trying to read reported information can be a challenge.  The SEC leaves off certain information from renderings as one example.  But the Evidence Package provides 100% of all relevant information and the ability to drill down into each and every relevant property.
  3. Utility of component view. Rather than providing long lists thinks like validation rules, models, and other pieces which you then must refer to; the Evidence Package takes each of those very useful lists and provides them organized by component.  This component view is extremely helpful in verifying that each component of your financial report is correct.
  4. Helpful, specifically focused reports. Special purpose, focused reports help you perform common verification tasks.
  5. Seeing 100% of all relevant properties. Seeing all the relevant pieces is 90 percent of the battle when it comes to making sure your SEC XBRL financial filing is correct.
  6. Seeing all the business rules. Automating verification tasks such as determining that mathematical computations are correct can save lots of time.  But, to automate these verification tasks, you need to create the rules.  Also, seeing the rules and component together is helpful in determining if in fact a necessary rule has been defined and if that rule is successfully passed.
  7. Quickly scanning characteristics using fact table. Fact tables are very helpful tools for scanning a component to be sure things are consistent where they should be consistent.
  8. Terminology understandable to accountants. XBRL technical jargon is not something that an accountant needs to understand.  Software should be built to hide that ugly terminology.
  9. Seeing that categorizing report elements is helpful.  Report elements can be categorized or grouped and those groups can be leveraged to make many things easier to understand and tasks easier to perform.
  10. Providing you piece of mind with a dashboard of verification status. A dashboard of green tells you that things are good to go!

Like I said, the Evidence Package is not necessarily perfect.  But for a version 1.0, it is extremely helpful and a good sign for accountants trying to tame the XBRL beast.  I find that this tool is very helpful in helping me understand if the digital financial reports I create are created as I desire them to be created. I was able to detect issues in my reference implementation which had gone undetected prior to using this tool.

If you want to understand the underlying model or other details, please read Digital Financial Reporting, a resource I put together to explain the report level model being used in detail.

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