Professional accountancy bodies are appealing to the government to delay the introduction of a new online financial reporting language, to be used by HM Revenue & Customs and other organisations, because businesses are not yet ready for it.
The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, the Association of Accounting Technicians, Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, the Association of Taxation Technicians, the Chartered Institute of Taxation, and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland are jointly lobbying the government for a delay in having to file accounts using the iXBRL (inline extensible business reporting language) format.
They have written to Exchequer Secretary David Gauke appealing for an extension to the 1 April 2011 deadline for iXBRL mandatory filing.
They say the new filing requirement should be postponed "until the software needed to submit iXBRL compliant accounts is more readily available and working fully as intended".
Currently, companies that don't use iXBRL by 1 April face financial penalties levied by HMRC.
The letter from the lobbyists says "accompanying statutory accounts should be acceptable in either iXBRL or PDF format for a period to be agreed, but for a minimum of six months".
After this delay, they say, "statutory accounts should be submitted in iXBRL format, but when any penalties for late delivery are levied, HMRC should operate a light touch for a three year transitional period".
But not all accountants are on board when it comes to supporting the letter to the Treasury. One accountant commenting on the Institute of Chartered Accountants website says, "Wow, our professional bodies are lobbying on behalf of SAGE! ...EVERY other software supplier - even the smaller ones are prepared for iXBRL! So for most practioners it is not a concern."
HMRC has said it wants information in iXBRL because it can make its analysis of business data and risk assessments easier, and assist its search for non-compliant tax payers.
Financial information that is converted into iXBRL provides identifying tags for individual items of business data, such as “operating profit” or “current assets”. This allows data to be compared across businesses.