Treasury tips $4m more into XBRL effort

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Treasury tips $4m more into XBRL effort

Effort to make accounting more accountable.

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The Federal Government has committed a further $4 million of funding into a long-running plan to streamline financial reporting.

The Treasury-led scheme, which mirrors US efforts to encourage a standard means of reporting financial data across the nation, was expected to generate $1.3 billion of economic benefit to the wider economy over five years.

The Federal Government was reportedly prepared to spend $243 million on the voluntary scheme.

This week it spent $4 million on Fujitsu software designed to speed the flow of financial data as it sluiced through the economy.

The project was aimed at increasing the transparency of financial data by tagging it with standard definitions.

Currently, businesses used a variety of confusing and at times misleading terminology to report financial data to the markets.

"Opaque" measures such as EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) - a questionable accounting measure of profitability - would be captured and singled out, said XBRL Australia founder and consultant Trevor Pyman.

By standardising how financial data was reported, it was hoped that analysts, investors and numbers nerds could more easily and reliably build platforms that surfaced the data into spreadsheets, visualisation packages, RSS feeds and even Twitter streams for publication.

The increase in standard financial data availability could also give Australia's economy a kick along and release capital for investment similar to the spreadsheet revolution that spurred mergers and acquisitions activity in the 1980s.

Pyman said such goals rely on financial data being appropriately and consistently tagged by agencies and the private sector.

Fujitsu's Interstage XWand software extracted financial data from reports and "tagged" it for processing using the eXtensible Business Reporting Language or "XBRL", an open standard for finance reporting.

XWand development tools were compatible with modern flavours of Windows including Windows 7 by the time it was released on October 22. Applications developed under XWand ran on the Java 1.4.2 virtual machine making it compatible with any modern operating system.

Although he wouldn't reveal which accounting software makers were ready for the new system, Treasury deputy secretary and program director Paul Madden told iTnews that Treasury had "strong relationships" with Australia's leading developers.

SAP and Oracle were reported to be among 10 such software makers supporting Treasury's plans. Microsoft's Great Plains has also used XBRL tags since at least 2003.

Software developers have also been provided with a set of 2838 common definitions or tags of financial meanings such as "earnings" and "revenue", to assist them in creating platforms or modifying existing products to conform to the Treasury-led initiative.

Definitions were coalesced from 87 forms including business activity statements and income tax returns and provided to developers with a software development kit last Friday.


Read on for information on the long road to XBRL adoption...

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