While creating the disclosure templates I am putting together I noticed something and a question occurred to me. How does someone creating an SEC XBRL financial report know which [Table] to use and which [Axis] to use when expressing their financial information and how is this "controlled" by the SEC?
This is what I mean. Take a look at a rather straight forward disclosure, product warranty accrual. To create the product warranty accrual disclosure template, I started by looking at what other filers did. I built a nifty application which helps me do this. That application generates a nice little summary which shows the disclosure template and lets you look at the model structure of other SEC filers who modeled that same disclosure. You can see this here.
If you go to the section "Similar SEC XBRL Filer Examples" you will see links to about 42 SEC filings which provided this disclosure.
Of those 42, the vast majority of filers modeled this disclosure without using any [Table] and therefore not providing any additional [Axis] beyond the reporting entity, period, and concept which they are required to provide for all facts provided. So here is one example of that approach.
Three of the filers added an additional characteristic, the "Legal Entity [Axis]". Personally I prefer this approach because I prefer to (a) consistently use [Table]s for everything (as compared to using them for some things but not for others and (b) because it explicitly states that the legal entity characteristic is the consolidated entity (as opposed to having to imply this information).
However, of these three filings; two different [Table]s were used to disclose the product liability accrual roll forward:
These two SEC XBRL financial filings used the Range [Axis]. That seems like it could be reasonable; however these two filers did not use any of the [Table]s above, rather they created their own [Table] and used that:
This filer used the Business Acquisition [Axis] and created their own [Table]:
This filer used three different [Axis], two of which used the [Domain]:
This filer created its own [Table] and its own [Axis], whr:ProductWarrantyAndRecallAxis, and this does seem to make sense because they choose to break down the information into product recalls and normal product warranties; plus the do provide the total of these two categories which is comparable to all the other disclosures of this information:
This SEC filer provides no explicit [Table] and packs the product warranty accrual together with a bunch of other disclosures as compared to focusing on that specific disclosure in this specific network. (Approximately 50 percent of the total focus on one thing and the other 50 percent pack multiple pieces together):
Clearly this product warranty liability accrual roll forward is a rather basic and straight forward disclosure. Consider these examples and consider the fact that there are I would guess perhaps approximately between say 1300 and maybe 3000 specific disclosure.
How do SEC XBRL financial report filers know
- When two things should go into one network or be separated into two different networks,
- What goes into a [Table] within a network or when separate [Table]s should be used,
- Whether to use an existing [Table] or create their own explicit [Table],
- And what [Axis] to put onto a [Table].
Here is another good example, document information.
Clearly it is highly unlikely that 8000 or so different SEC filers are going to figure this out themselves and consistently do the right thing without some sort of guidance. SEC XBRL financial reports filed with the SEC bear this out.
The point here is that some sort of general guidance would be nice from the FASB, the SEC, and/or XBRL US.