Corporate Finance & Governance | Leadership / Management | Technology & Social Media | XBRL

MACPA and XBRL: A small biz case study

XBRL When folks talk about XBRL, it's usually from a public company perspective -- as if public companies are the only ones that can benefit from efficiency, transparency, speed and cost-effectiveness.

Everyone wants those things -- public companies, sure, but private companies, non-profits and governments as well.

The MACPA wants them too, so it embraced the promise of XBRL and set off to find them.

In an effort to demonstrate XBRL’s scope and versatility, the MACPA is using the data tagging language to populate its financial information and key performance indicator reports. The project could become a blueprint of sorts for how private companies and non-for-profit organizations can take advantage of XBRL’s power.

I had an opportunity to talk to the principals involved with the MACPA's project recently, and to a person, they all agreed: XBRL goes way beyond the public company arena.

Here's MACPA Finance Director Skip Falatko: "XBRL would be an excellent application for the non-profit community. There are about a million and a half non-profits in the U.S., and probably hundreds of thousands of them file Form 990 (the annual non-profit tax return) every year. If the IRS required non-profits to file Form 990 via XBRL, that would greatly increase and improve accountability, transparency and comparability in the non-profit world."

Here's Salisbury University accounting student and MACPA intern Thomas Hood, who volunteered his technical wizardry: "Our ability to take (XBRL) in-house, implement it and see benefits fairly quickly at a pretty low cost made us realize that XBRL Global Ledger is real and can really help."

Here's Beth O'Brien from Altova, which provided the software the MACPA used in its XBRL project: "The MACPA has showed that not only can the benefits of XBRL extend to smaller companies, but they brought the project in-house, did the project very cost-effectively and were able to show some tangible results. ... It's a model case study, really."

Here's XBRL co-founder Eric Cohen, who smoothed out the rough edges with sage guidance and advice: "People think XBRL is all about big companies doing public company filings with the SEC. What's being proven here is that it's an awful lot more than that. There is value to not-for-profits and government entities."

Skip, Thomas, Beth and Eric joined forces to bring the MACPA's XBRL project to life. Listen to my interviews with them in their entirety:

Altova has produced a white paper that examines the MACPA’s project in detail. Read the report in its entirety.

Now tell us: How are you going to harness the power of XBRL?


Bill Sheridan