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XBRL Mapping: Best Practices

March 13, 2010

Have you begun to prepare for implementing XBRL? If so, here are a few best practice ideas for your consideration.

  • Have at least two people available when mapping financial information with XBRL. One should be an expert in XBRL and another should be an expert in financial reporting practices. Ideally, each expert should know something about the other’s area of expertise.
  • Establish a reliable internal process. A reliable process is especially important because the SEC will soon require concurrent delivery in all data formats.
  • When searching the US GAAP Taxonomy (UGT) on your XBRL software or on the XBRL US Viewer, it is best to look for the disclosure you are seeking by expanding the appropriate section of the taxonomy tree where the disclosure is located. For example the Segment Reporting Disclosure highlighted in the image below was found by expanding the taxonomy tree under the Segment Reporting Disclosure section of the UGT.  If the appropriate element cannot be located in by exploring the taxonomy tree, you may search for the appropriate Element using the XBRL US Viewer’s search function.

  • When a UGT Element is used, always use the Taxonomy’s Standard Label even if different from the entity’s HTML label. The reason for this practice is that a US GAAP Element used anywhere within an SEC filing must always utilize the same Label or a validation error will occur. By using the Taxonomy’s Standard Label, multiple XBRL implementation participants can easily keep HTML labels in sync.
  • When an Extension Element is created, the Extension Element’s Name should be descriptive of the financial concept. Extension Element Names appear without a space between each word (i.e., ShorttermDebtMaximumMonthendOutstandingAmount). This type of naming approach is called CamelCase Concatenation.
  • When an Extension Element is created, the Extension Element’s Label should be the same as the Element’s Name with a space between each word (i.e., using the example above the Label would be Shortterm Debt Maximum Monthend Outstanding Amount). This practice minimizes validation errors.
  • For handling the billions, report these values as whole numbers and indicate that they’ve been rounded to the nearest billion. Use the same approach for handling millions, thousands and other amounts.
  • Establish naming conventions so you’ll know how to quickly distinguish one context from another. For example, “USD” could be the standard for U.S. dollars, “YTD” could be the standard for year-to-date, Current could always refer to the current year, “Prior” could always refer to the prior year, etc.
  • Dashes cannot be tagged. They may be left blank or mapped to the UGT as zeroes. Mapping the UGT to Zeroes is considered the best practice because the mapped financial concept persists into future periods when it might contain a non-zero value.
  • Utilize textual abstracts to insert headings. By doing so, rendered XBRL documents are better organized.
  • Denote each HTML table with a lead in abstract, such as “The components of net investment income”. When rendering the lead in abstract will look like a caption above the table.
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