Do you really want to play iXBRL tag?

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Mark Lee
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Outsourcer Vipul Sheth sets out some controversial views about the impact of iXBRL on accountants and their clients in a conversation with Mark Lee.

As the deadline for filing accounts with iXBRL tags approaches more and more accountants are making the time to find out what will be the real impact on their practices and clients.

There are also decisions to be made about what type of solution is most appropriate for the practice or business. The main options seem to be:

  1. To use an accounts package that can produce an iXBRL file once accounts are completed; or
  2. To continue producing accounts in a non-standard format, such as Word or Excel and arrange for these documents to be Tagged using one of a range of tagging tools that are entering the market.

During a recent conversation, Vipul Sheth of accountancy outsourcer AdvanceTrack asked, “How can tagging accounts be the right solution for every company?”

He continued: “I don’t understand how professionals or corporates can take organised information, turn it into unorganised information in Word or Excel and then, due to the iXBRL filing requirements turn this same data back into organised information. Isn’t this madness?”
Digita managing director Jerry Rihll shares a similar view. Last week he told that once customers start looking at the long-term costs and benefits of tagging, most are opting for integrated accounts production/CT applications.

When people consider the processes and changes they have to make, they realise that mark-up is an expensive route operationally especially if you have to manually tag up sets of accounts for large numbers of companies or subsidiaries, Rihll argued.

Large and small businesses use accounting systems that are highly structured and then turn this data into a word document. Sheth and Rihll suggest it makes more sense if this highly structured information is retained in a highly structured format. Such an approach also reduces the potential for transposition errors as data is copied from one system into another.

Outsourcing companies like AdvanceTrack invariably use one or more of the leading accounting software solutions and can cater for firms preparing accounts with Sage, Digita, Iris, CCH, Caseware and other programs. At the point where the in-house accounts department are ready to prepare the accounts and iXBRL files in-house, they can be handed a complete accounts software file with all prior year data already populated.

Over to you. What solutions are you pursuing to address the iXBRL issue?

Mark Lee is Chairman of the Tax Advice Network and consultant practice editor for AccountingWEB. He writes a regular
blog for ambitious professionals.

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02nd Nov 2010 18:22

Its the cost...

and also a small firm thing.

The cost of buying new software and taking the time to learn new software is clearly putting people off. The trouble is that the cheaper products are so incredibly cheap.

I imagine that excel or word tagging product will come with macros that do the tricky bits. Anyone who has stuggled with the Companies House Abbreviated accounts template should be able to take it in their stride!

On a serious note we purchased VT accounts on an experimental basis this year to do some dummy runs for clients who are hell bent on using MS applications for management reporting only to find that the generate code button does not work. I expect VT will resolve this...however it will be interesting (sic) to see how this popular excel based product copes with new notes and changes to the templates.

Virtual Tax Support for accountants:


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03rd Nov 2010 12:07

The lost opportunity?

In other countries, notably the US where XBRL evolved as a Business Reporting Language, and the People's Republic of China, where filing using XBRL has been mandatory sice 2006, many businesses have benefitted from the ability of XBRL to be used as a tool for sophisticated financial analysis as it reduces the level of human error involved in financial planning and forecasting, as enormously speeds the preocess of financial analysis.

In the UK it is being imposed, and as an imposition resented, but we are perhaps losing out on a golden opportunity to see advances in business reporting - see for more information.  Time to reconsider before it is too late?

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03rd Nov 2010 15:18

iXBRL accounts production choices for corporates - In "any answe
iXBRL accounts production choices for corporates Created 01/11/2010 - 12:24


As a multi national corporate the decision has been taken to replace Word with an Accounts Production package for IXBRL submission purposes. The question is which package, therefore if there are any large corporates who have already chosen a package it would be interesting to know which one or at least know what is currently on the shortlist.

 Accounts production software


I am a member of the XBRL assurance services team at PwC and specialise in advising clients on software selection and implementation. I have good knowledge of accounts production packages and my team and me have good relationships with the main software vendors. I would be happy to discuss this with you if you wish.

My email address is [email protected] [1]

Kind regards


This is best reply [2]tooltip(); Posted by g.michalis [3] on Tue, 02/11/2010 - 10:29    Best reply [4]Most will be XRBL compliant

Most accounting packages are already XRBL compliant, so whilst that is the primary consideration your second is really how much you want it to do for you and whether you want it to integrate into anything else.

If you have been producing accounts in Word then in theory you can just buy some software to tag it. In my humble opinion manual tagging is a waste of anyone's time; you are much better off buying software to do it for you.

I would suggest that an easier solution is to buy an accounts production package where you sweep your TB into the new software, and then after making the necessary discloure tweeks you press a button and hey-ho, you can create a tagged version too.

I have been testing out VT accounts for clients with a group of companies who normally prep accounts on Excel and Word. It is the simpler end of the market, ideal if you have internal accounting set up and do not want to learn new software. It does the trick and seems to have a fairly solid template that is not difficult to change if you like Excel, the thing with VT is that it allows you to post journals and so once set up you are there.

So it depends on you and your budget. If you are a qualified accountant you may have started in practice and will be familiar with the typical accounts production package and so prefer something more sophisticated than a tagging tool. Be prepared to learn how to operate new software.

The bigger players are CCH, Iris, Sage and Thompson Reuters.   Alphatax is popular too this is launching an AP product.

Just finally, what is really worrying us is that clients will create their accounts - with tags they will pass them to us to prepare the tax comps and then for whatever reason we will be unable to submit them. I think with that in mind your best bet is to work on this with your tax advisers unless you are submitting your own tax comps.

Virtual tax support for accountants, [5]

This is not best reply [6]tooltip(); Posted by Nichola Ross Martin [7] on Wed, 03/11/2010 - 10:25   Source URL:

[1] mailto:[email protected]

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04th Nov 2010 13:03

Sometimes it is the only option

For the vast majority of our clients, Sage can output a set of accounts that doesn't require any manual adjustment.  Hopefully for them it will also be able to produce iXBRL accounts without any problems by selecting a new iXBRL output option alongside the existing word and pdf options.

However we have a few clients that Sage can't cope with.  We have a reasonably large local charity which is prepared manually on word, and an AIM listed plc with 50 different subsidiaries, associates and joint ventures in 8 different countries.  For that we have to convert all the subsidiary numbers to be IFRS compliant.  That includes the UK subsidiaries and the UK parent company's individual accounts as they are prepared using UK GAAP.  Then convert all the foreign accounts to GBP and do the usual consolidation adjustments.  There is absolutely no way Sage could cope that that, so the accounting work is done on Excel and the accounts on Word.  Individual subsidiary accounts are prepared on Sage or a foreign equivalent, so they can be presumably converted to iXBRL easily enough, but for the group accounts, and the local charity, manual tagging is the only option.

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30th Oct 2013 13:15


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