Seahorse rides in on the iXBRL wave

A program called Seahorse is coming to the aid of UK accountants who are all at sea over the new requirements to handle CT computations and statutory accounts in the online XBRL (iXBRL) format.

Developed by XBRL experts CoreFiling, Seahorse is a web-based application that imports final accounts in Word and Excel format and helps the accountant to apply the relevant iXBRL tags according to the GAAP under which the accounts were prepared. The file is then converted into an iXBRL file ready for submission to HMRC or Companies House.

CoreFiling CEO John Turner described Seahorse as a "post-production" tool that was targeted at firms that did not want to overhaul their accounts preparation processes in order to comply with HMRC's mandatory deadline for filing CT accounts data in iXBRL from 1 April next year. He also said that the company had several years' experience working with US regulators and HMRC.

In a live demonstration at the ICAEW's recent iXBRL seminars, Turner showed how the program converted the Microsoft Office files into HTML web pages and then identified portions of the accounts such as P&Ls and balance sheets. Based on a collection of underlying rules built up from previous experience, the software highlighted elements that it thought needed to be tagged and put forward suggested XBRL tags in a pull-down menu next to the accounts file.

If previous year figures are included in the accounts file, Seahorse can differentiate between each year and tag them accordingly. (As one conference delegate pointed out in London on Monday, HMRC's CT system won't actually need the comparable figures required within a set of statutory accounts prepared for Companies House – one of the many minor anomalies floating around the iXBRL issue).

At the end of the tagging process, Seahorse outputs an iXBRL file, which in Turner's description, "is just an HTML document showing the data with the XBRL contained beneath". The accounts file can also be output back to the source program and "rolled forward" for the next year. The accounts data can be updated in Word or Excel and sent back to Seahorse with the iXBRL descriptions intact.

Because it is web-based, the underlying taxonomies for UK GAAP, IFRS or the forthcoming IFRS for SMEs will be updated centrally and old tags will either be updated automatically or users will be prompted to choose the most appropriate new description. Validation rules will also ensure that accounts that do not comply with HMRC's specifications will not be output from the program.

Pricing has yet to be finalised for the UK edition - but we will update this article the minute we get confirmation of the company's plans.