XBRL US, a nonprofit organization that helps develop Extensible Business Reporting Language data tags in the U.S., is offering free data quality tools to help companies improve their XBRL financial filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission and avoid "Dear CFO" letters.

The organization noted that the SEC has begun issuing “Dear CFO” letters to public companies expressing concern over problems in XBRL filings. XBRL US is a nonprofit dedicated to helping public companies create good quality XBRL data and to encouraging the use of XBRL corporate data. The SEC began mandating the use of XBRL, an interactive data-tagging format, by public companies, in 2009, starting with the largest companies and phasing in smaller public companies over the next two years.

The technology is supposed to help investors and analysts compare financial metrics across companies and industries more easily, but problems with data quality have hampered its usefulness. XBRL is also used for U.S. GAAP. In 2008, XBRL US completed the first release of the XBRL US GAAP Taxonomy. The Financial Accounting Standards Board has since taken over maintenance of the taxonomy, although XBRL US continues to work closely with FASB ON the effort.

XBRL US noted that getting XBRL financials right can be challenging because of the complexity of U.S. GAAP reporting. It has conducted an analysis showing that XBRL filings still contain errors related to the use of the U.S. GAAP Taxonomy that can be easily resolved. This chart displays the kind of errors identified.

The issues were identified by running over 15,000 logic rules against every financial filing submitted to the SEC. The rules were developed to identify inconsistencies across filings but they will not capture every potential problem in a filing as there may be errors related to completeness, accuracy or other issues that require manual review. The public company, its accounting firm and its service provider are best equipped to handle issues that the rules cannot capture.

To help filers, XBRL US has developed a set of free resources that provide industry and company-specific information on XBRL filings. They include tools that allow filers to obtain reports based on their own XBRL filing that show the total count of all errors in a filing, broken down by statement and footnote, along with a detailed description and resolution of errors specific to the pension footnote. XBRL US also has developed charts with an industry breakdown depicting errors by category, industry and company size, along with a description of the rules and guidance resources.

The industry-specific charts and data illustrating trends in error rates in company XBRL filings are available in the Data Quality Analysis section at http://quality.xbrl.us/statisticsIndex.html. To access all the data quality tools, visit http://quality.xbrl.us.

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