Thursday, June 07, 2018

Blockchain and the Accounting Revolution

It is being said that blockchain will revolutionize accounting, because it enables an independent record of all transactions in a separate distributed ledger which is available, shared, independently recorded and unchangeable. Essentially, the entries would flow from the record of smart contracts, under which commitments entered into by parties to a transaction would become part of the shared distributed ledger and then the settlement of that contract would be automatically implemented by the contract and also recorded in the distributed ledger. Thus all parties to the contract would have a record of the entire transaction stream from beginning to end. Since these entries flow from the agreed contract and are then generated by that contract independently of the parties, it forms a tremendously valuable part of the audit trail for those transactions. Some have even suggested that this would eliminate the need for auditors, and although this is an overstatement of its effect, there is absolutely no doubt that it will transform the way that auditors work.

The aspect of blockchain that involves creation of the distributed ledger has been referred to as triple-entry accounting. For those with some knowledge of accounting history, this is a jarring nomenclature, as it evokes memories of Yuji Ijiri, the noted professor at Carnegie Mellon University who published a monograph of that name in 1982 along with a paper in The Accounting Review in 1986 outlining the nature of triple-entry accounting. Some academic writing has focused on this similarity and asked the question is the triple-entry accounting of Ijiri the same idea as that of blockchain? Some have said no and others yes, at least conceptually.

It’s not a simple issue. The essence of Ijiri’s model was the introduction of a new measure of performance called momentum and a Statement of Force that shows the rate of change in the organization. The addition of the Force Statement to the traditional Balance sheet and Income statement gives rise to the triple entry concept.

In blockchain, the third element to the accounting process arises from the creation of the distributed ledger that shows a complete record of all transactions in the enterprise – a very different concept.

However, the distributed ledger could easily be used to create Force Statements as it contains verifiable dates of all events through cryptographic methods. So, a logical conclusion is that the Ijiri and blockchain concepts are very different but at the same time that the two are very compatible. Will the Ijiri concept make a comeback? Who knows?

Blockchain is being adopted quite extensively, particularly in situations where smart contracts make sense. And an industry is forming around it. But it has not reached the level of general adoption across the spectrum of accounting. Whether it will remains an open question. But there is no question that it will be a major force in accounting providing new and better accounting controls and perhaps leading to the extension of accounting into new dimensions, like those of Ijiri, or something like that.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Earnings Reports in XBRL

XBRL US is conducting a survey of public company SEC filers to gain feedback on their thoughts about needing requirements to prepare earnings releases in XBRL. They point out that the CFA, in 2016, stated:

"Earnings releases and supplemental reporting packages are the documents that most often move markets. But data from earnings releases remain unstructured...We believe that requiring companies to tag their earnings releases ... will be beneficial for investors."

XBRL Canada has long been an advocate of providing earnings releases in XBRL format. Such releases are among the most important of documents in determining market responses to current corporate results. They come out first and markets react quickly. So quickly that a delay of minutes or even seconds in their release can create information gaps between investors, providing some of them with an unfair advantage in market trading. The fundamental principle of open and free stock markets is that all investors get the same information at the same time. Maintaining this principle is not possible with traditional paper reports. Nor is it possible with electronic reports prepared in the paper paradigm.

It is possible with XBRL, however, because the reports can be released more quickly and, most importantly, can be processed by machine without the need for human intervention. With the growth of machine trading, this has become a critical feature.

Yes. Earnings releases should be prepared in XBRL.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Financial Reports must be Machine Readable

Accountants have long tried to develop their reports so as to meet the needs of the users. Traditionally these users have been identified as investors, creditors and "other stakeholders". Under the traditional approach, the reports have been printed, delivered to the users and used by them in making their decisions. More latterly, the reports have been presented in human readable form - same as the print version - on websites.

Recent stats released by the SEC on  the use of its EDGAR database show a significant shift in the nature of the users. they announced that more than 85% of the downloads of report information from their EDGAR website were made by bots - ie, roaming automated electronic devices that can pick up the information and deliver it to the designated users. As the use of AI grows, it can be expected that the use and sophistication of the bots will increase.

All of this points to the need for the financial reports to be "machine readable" rather than, or in addition to, being human readable. The SEC is planning to address this need with the use of inline XBRL (iXBRL), which enables the traditional reports to be prepared in HTML, but also incorporate XBRL that makes the files "machine readable."

All regulators need to take note and ensure the data being made available can be picked up by bots as well as humans. Otherwise, their data will become increasingly irrelevant.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Preparing for inline XBRL

The SEC will be requiring inline XBRL for its filings so Canadian companies that need to comply with SEC filing requirements need to get ready. Various resources are available, particularly on the SEC website. Iris has posted this advice on its blog

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

REMINDER: XBRL Canada Webinar - Analyzing the First Wave of IFRS filings using XBRL

Toronto, Ontario--(Newsfile Corp. - May 14, 2018) - XBRL Canada is pleased to announce it will be hosting a webinar on May 30, 2018 at 1:00 PM ET addressing the lessons learned from the first round of filings by Foreign Private Issuers (FPIs).

On March 1, 2017, the SEC announced the acceptance of the IFRS taxonomy which triggered a requirement for most FPIs in Canada to begin reporting using XBRL for reports with periods ending December 15, 2017 and later.

As Canada is home to the largest number of FPIs reporting to the SEC, over 300 companies were required to begin filing using XBRL.

By May 30, 2018, most of these companies will have filed their first XBRL filing to the SEC. In this webinar, we will share the experience that has been gained by companies, regulators and analysts during this first wave of filings.

Presenters include Mike Willis, a retired PwC partner with public company reporting and audit experience. He is the Assistant Director of the Office of Structured Disclosure at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Joining him will be Wasim Thaha, Co-founder & Director of Newsfile Corp, and Past Chair of XBRL Canada.

Mr. Willis will present on the perspective of the SEC on the more common issues experienced in the filing program to date. Mr. Thaha will present some findings from the Canadian filer perspective. The webinar will last for approximately forty five minutes.

The webinar is free but registration is required. Please register by emailing

About XBRL Canada

XBRL Canada ( is the Canadian jurisdiction of XBRL International and largely funded and administered by CPA Canada. The purpose of XBRL Canada is to provide support and encouragement for the adoption of eXtensible Business Reporting Language in Canada. XBRL is widely used around the world and recognized as the leader in advanced electronic business and financial reporting.

To strive towards its goals, XBRL Canada holds seminars and webinars and issues various publications, including its bi-monthly Newsletter. It also leads projects to test and explore XBRL usage in various settings.

For further information, please contact: XBRL Canada, Gerald Trites, Director, (416) 602-3931, Email:

Sponsored by XBRL Canada, with the support of CPA Canada.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

XBRL Canada Webinar held on Digital Transformation and Standardization

On May 8, 2018, XBRL Canada held a webinar on the topic of Digital Transformation and the need for Standardization. It was presented by John McAlister, a globally known expert in digital transformation.

John is well known within business and financial sectors, in Australia and Internationally, as having led transformation programs that have changed the way that Australian Individuals or Businesses deal with each other and with government.

He is former Commissioner and National Director of the Australian Taxation Office. In that position, he:
•Initiated and led the Electronic Invoicing initiative, estimated to deliver savings of $10 Billion through an open digital framework.
•Managed Standard Business Reporting (SBR) which led to savings estimated at more than $1.4 billion. 
•Influenced the adoption of data and message standards for SuperStream, delivering benefits of $3.2Billion.
•Led the development of the ATO’s e-tax system
•Created and delivered the pre-fill initiatives, and piloted the foundations of the online Tax return.

John was effective in bringing that twenty years of experience into play in explaining why standards are necessary in digital transformation projects. It’s worth noting that the savings he outlined from adopting standards represent opportunity costs for those who do not adopt standards.

The webinar has been recorded and is available on the XBRL Canada website.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Feedback for FASB

FASB Seeks Feedback In a recent update by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) to their Implementation Guide Series for the U.S GAAP Taxonomy, FASB staff have now issued a new proposed taxonomy guide for revenue from contracts with customers.

The implementation guide provides examples to help users of the taxonomy understand how  modeling, revenues and costs are structured within the taxonomy. Interested parties are welcome to submit comments to the FASB team. The comment period for the Guide related to Revenue ends on May 30, 2018 and comments can be sent to

Here you can find FASB Proposed Taxonomy Implementation Guide