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Accounting Model, Report Model, Financial Analysis Model

The accounting model explains how double-entry bookkeeping works.  The double-entry accounting model is a mathematical model explained in Luca Pacioli's book about mathematics, Summa de arithmetica.  The mathematical model was consciously created to be redundant (i.e. double-entry) in order to better detect mistakes and to distinguish a mistake from fraud.

I am not going to go into details, if you want to know that read about the accounting equation, you can watch this video that explains the accounting model, and you can watch this video which expands on that model and explains the logic of debit and credits.  The primary point I want to make is that accounting is a model.

A financial analysis model is likewise a model.  There are many different types of financial analysis models. Again, I am not going to go into details, if you want to learn about creating a financial model, there are plenty of resources like this video. The primary point here is that financial information is analyzed using financial models.

And so why do many accountants believe that a financial report is a document?  A document is a type of knowledge media.  There are other types of knowledge media: word of mouth, book, video, etc.  What makes something a knowledge media?

  1. Easy for knowledge bearer to represent information: The effort and difficulty required for the knowledge bearer to successfully formulate the knowledge in the medium must be as low as possible.
  2. Clear, consistent meaning: The meaning conveyed by the knowledge bearer to the knowledge receiver must be clear and easily followed.
  3. High-quality information representation: The form in which the knowledge is represented via the media to the receiver must be as good as possible.

The purpose of a general purpose financial report is to convey information about the financial position and financial condition of an economic entity.  Two types of information are conveyed: quantitative and qualitative. Again, not going into details here. Both quantitative and qualitative information are important.

It is not much of a stretch to make the claim that the information that comes out of the accounting model (i.e. the general ledger transactions) and might go into a financial model should likely best be a model and not a document.  And so certainly aspects of a financial report is a model such as the balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement, and all the disclosures that tie to the line items of those statements.

But the qualitative information can also be represented in the form of a model.  For example, inventory is an important number; but it is likewise important to understand if that inventory is valued using LIFO or FIFO and to what extent a reserve exists to capture the difference between inventory cost and the current market value of the inventory.  The qualitative information of a financial report helps to further explain the quantitative information.

At the top level, all financial reporting schemes are the same: assets = liabilities and equity (or some modified version of that equation).  At the next "layer" both US GAAP and IFRS tend to be relatively the same in terms of high-level concepts such as "current assets" and "current liabilities", etc.  Companies can report using different patterns, which I call reporting styles.  No problem.  Ambiguities in reporting standards, misunderstandings of reporting rules, and other such things impact what goes into the model and how those things might be orgnaized; but a financial report has a model.

Accounting was first formally described in about 1494, long before databases and computers existed.  As such, accountants use whatever tools they had available to represent financial reports.  That ended up being paper-based documents.  When computers came along, accountants seemed to have forgotten about the accounting model and started representing documents in tools such as spreadsheets, not the accounting model.  Today we have different tools.  Some of those tools quite possibly could be better than paper for representing financial reports.


I am going to do an experiment with a number of other accountants that want to learn about XBRL (contact me if you want to be considered for inclusion). 

I have represented general ledger trial balance information using XBRL.  I have represented financial statements using XBRL.  And I have represented financial models using XBRL.  What is interesting is that I can get the GL transactions, the financial report, and the financial models into one XBRL document.  That is actually really easy as they all share the XBRL global standard technical syntax.  Further, they all share the same business report multidimensional model and conceptual model.

But what ends up happening is because of the "taxonomy spaghetti" that tends to exist; the general ledger representations, the financial report representations, and the financial model representations are not well syncronized semantically.  I am going to fix that.

What I am going to do is create a syncrnozied version of the general ledger transactions, the reported financial information, and the financial model; all using the same XBRL taxonomy where they should.  I will make this robust enough so that it is a good exercise but simple enough to be understood by the average accountant and hopefully even non-accountants.  I am going to follow best practices.  I am going to use what I call my "XASB" taxonomy for this first iteration so that I am not constrained by the idosyncricies of the US GAAP or IFRS taxonomies or public company reports.

As a second step, I will repeat this exercise for a US GAAP report and an IFRS report.

This will likewise be an excellent test of software that I am using. 

Stay tuned if this sounds interesting to you! Again, if you want to participate please contact me directly.

This is a summary of what I have created in the prior versions of GL transactions, financial report, and financial model:

There you have it.  If you feel you might need more information, please let me know what it is that you think you need.

Posted on Wednesday, September 5, 2018 at 08:24AM by Registered CommenterCharlie in | CommentsPost a Comment

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