Assurance on XBRL Instance Document: A Conceptual Framework of Assertions
27 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2008 Last revised: 26 Jul 2014
Date Written: September 9, 2009
XBRL stands for extensible business reporting language. It is an XML based computer language for reporting business information. Starting December 2008, the United States Security and Exchange Commission (US SEC) has a proposal requiring top 500 public companies to file their financial statements with the SEC not only in the text format (i.e., in ASCII or HTML) but also in the XBRL format. The file created using XRBL language is called an XBRL instance document. Under this requirement, the filers are not required to obtain a third party assurance on the XBRL instance document. The main reason for not requiring a third party independent assurance of XBRL instance documents is to encourage filers to comply with the SEC requirement without incurring much added costs. In addition, to encourage the filers to comply with this requirement, the SEC is not holding filers legally liable of any errors in the filed XBRL instance documents so long as they look similar to the standard reports when viewed using the SEC viewer. Even though the SEC is not currently requiring a third party assurance of the XBRL instance documents of the SEC filings, it is in the best interest of the public that these documents be assured. Although there have been efforts by both the practitioners and academics to investigate issues involved in providing assurance on XBRL documents, these efforts have been focused on the specifics of the assurance process and the difficulties involved in it; but no efforts have been devoted to developing a framework of assertions similar to the management assertions in the financial audit. Without a conceptual framework, the assurance process for XBRL instance document would be incoherent and inconsistent. This paper develops a set of assertions for providing assurance on XBRL instance documents similar to the management assertions for financial audits. Further, we discuss how such a framework would assist auditors in planning and evaluating such an engagement by collecting appropriate items of evidence pertaining to specific assertions to form an opinion whether the instance document is a true representation of the text document. We also discuss how the use of a technology would make the assurance process more effective and efficient.
Keywords: Assurance, Assertions, XBRL, Instance Document, Framework
JEL Classification: M49
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation