Project Pages

Electronic Financial Reporting

Project Description: The objective of this activity is to monitor the effect of the electronic media on information delivery and user needs. Monitoring electronic financial reporting by state and local governments will provide the Board with a basis for evaluating the impact on financial reports that could result from this medium.

Status: Added to Research Agenda: April 2008

Electronic Financial Reporting—Project Plan

Background: During the development of the Board’s initial strategic plan in 1997, and the succeeding plans in 2004 and 2007, the Board recognized the importance of staying current on the increasing use of electronic media in financial reporting applications. In the strategic plan, the Board acknowledged that it has the responsibility to ensure that its standards provide current and potential users with relevant information. It is that responsibility that led the Board to initiate a long-range project to monitor practice and determine how new media will be used by governments to provide electronic alternatives to traditional reports.

The staff continues to monitor developments in the reporting of governmental financial statement information via electronic media. The staff has concentrated on two specific issues:

  • The use of Extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), a standardized digital language for business financial reporting.
  • The growth in governments’ use of diverse electronic media to report their financial results.

The application of XBRL to governmental financial reporting is still is the early development phase; however, some individuals, some states, and national organizations have expressed an interest and are engaged in projects to develop a taxonomy framework for state and local governments.

Project History:

Since the project inception, the staff has conducted multiple monitoring and research activities. Those activities include monitoring state websites and review of CAFRS presented in PDF formats. The GASB staff developed a PDF prototype in the early 2000s and collaborated on the development of an electronic report prototype.  An XBRL pilot project was initiated in June 2007 by the state of Oregon. The GASB staff played an advisory role in the pilot project providing comments and suggestions to the other project team members as the experiment progressed.

In July, 2012, the Association of Government Accountants (AGA) published a report focusing on electronic reporting (Report No. 32 in the AGA research series). References to the GASB and the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board (FASAB), their financial reporting objectives, and the roles that standards setters have played and can play in the advancement of electronic financial reporting were included in the report.

The research gauged respondents interest at that time in a host of different capabilities that government websites could have. Among the most popular features identified by respondents were search capabilities by agency, department or program, providing prospective and fiscal sustainability data, providing performance data, and hypertexted data with drill-down capabilities. Checkbook level detail generated the least interest. The respondents preferred level of detail is “somewhat detailed and somewhat aggregated.”

The report suggested that standards-setters should be interested in establishing standards or publishing best practices even if they do not ultimately have the force of GAAP. Among the report’s recommendations are that “Standard setters, preparers and citizen-users all have a stake in the success, and all should have a stake in the process,” and that “Standardization of data definitions, report content and report format is paramount.”

The staff also monitors academic research pertaining to electronic reporting issues and use the results of those external studies, as appropriate.

The staff will continue to monitor and participate in, as appropriate, the development of a governmental taxonomy framework with any groups, task forces, or committees that initiate such an effort.

Current Developments: The project staff continues to monitor the progress of XBRL reporting in both the private sector and in governments. There has been recent publicity about state and local governmental interest in XBRL development to make the process of federal grant reporting more efficient and timely.