Ongoing Changes to the US GAAP Taxonomy

Understanding the game of XBRL business validations
January 4, 2011

The US GAAP Taxonomy is a work in progress. Since the first public release of the taxonomy, over 340 concepts have been deprecated, that is, designated as no longer appropriate for use. Deprecation occurs for several reasons, but ultimately the decision to deprecate is based on a determination by the SEC that a concept in the taxonomy is not consistent with the intent or needs of US GAAP reporting standards and objectives.

When a concept is deprecated, the taxonomy authors add a special deprecation label which is used to describe the reason for the concept being deprecated and, more importantly, to identify, when appropriate, an alternate concept(s) that should be used instead. The crux of the question is if you find yourself having used a now-deprecated concept, how do you balance the desire to provide reporting consistency across subsequent quarterly filings with the goal to use the most current and correct concept for reporting?

In most cases, a deprecated concept and the new alternate concept identified for its replacement will have the same underlying meaning. The new concept is simply a minor correction, clarification or improvement to the original concept. (This improvement will most often be made in terms of the concept’s name, label, documentation or attribute values.) In this circumstance, when there is no question of the correctness of the mapping choice of the original or the replacement concept, then use the new concept immediately.

This maximizes the accuracy of your report and its consistency and comparability with other companies’ filings. In very rare circumstances you might find that the replacement concept now seems to be inconsistent with the accounting meaning that you were trying to report with your previously used, and now deprecated concept. This circumstance would indicate a need to re-evaluate your mapping choice altogether. This might happen in cases where your original choice was partially based on the very deficiencies that the SEC discovered that led them to the conclusion to deprecate the concept you had selected. Obviously, in this case, selecting a more correct concept should happen immediately.

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Dean Ritz

About the author

Dean Ritz is a Senior Director of IP Strategy at Workiva. He has more than 25 years of experience in the software industry with a focus on XBRL the last 7 years.