The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has issued an advisory notice dealing with tagging errors in digital reporting of finance lease liability, undiscounted future lease payments, and imputed interest. It provides some further interesting examples of how data quality issues emerge, what to look for and their simple fixes.

One cause of error in the data discussed by the SEC is the use of incorrect signs for facts we perceive as negative – as also discussed in the European context in our blog post here. As staff in the Division of Economic and Risk Analysis observe “most XBRL numeric elements are designed to be entered as positive values even if, in presentation, they are generally offsets to other values. For example, accumulated depreciation, depletion, and amortization for property plant and equipment should be entered as positive values.”

The announcement also highlights the inappropriate use of custom tags. As it explains, while these can accommodate unique circumstances in a filer’s disclosure, they can also reduce the ability of users to compare information across companies. The SEC’s rules – and common sense – therefore dictate that filers should only create and use a new special element where an appropriate tag does not already exist.