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SEC Allows New Feature for XBRL: Typed Dimensions

Lou Rohman, Vice President, XBRL Services, Merrill Corporation | December 14, 2016

A new feature is coming to SEC XBRL. It’s called “typed dimensions”. The SEC updated its EDGAR Filer Manual on December 12, 2016, to allow for this new feature, stating that “filers will be able to provide typed dimensions defined in standard taxonomies in all XBRL submissions.”

SEC Allows New Feature for XBRL Typed Dimensions blog

What does that mean and what is a typed dimension?

It means that the upcoming 2017 U.S. GAAP Taxonomy will have one or more disclosures for which the standard way to tag the disclosure uses typed dimensions in the taxonomy. Consequently, any company with the disclosure should tag it using this new way, which hasn’t been available until now for any SEC filing.

So, what’s a typed dimension? It consists of a clever, controlled and consistent way to give more meaning to an item being tagged so that data can be more accurately reported and more easily consumed. It’s controlled since there is a required format, or type, for providing the information (such as the date type format YYYY-MM-DD; hence the name “typed” dimensions). And it’s consistent since the same tags will be used by companies, even if the data is somewhat different.  

An example is worth a thousand words

Here’s an example where a typed dimension is applicable. Let’s say that under the new revenue recognition standard, in accordance with FASB Accounting Standards Codification 606-10-50-13-(b)(1), a company discloses the transaction price allocated to the remaining performance obligations in its December 31, 20X1, financial statements as follows: “The amount that has not been recognized as revenue at December 31, 20X1 is $10,000, of which $7,000 is expected to be recognized during the year ending 20X2 and $3,000 is expected to be recognized during the year ending 20X3.”

Without typed dimensions, the way to add meaning to the amount of $7,000 to describe that it is expected to be recognized in the year 20X2 would have been done differently by different companies. Various ways (using dimension members) to describe the period would have been “20X2”, “Year ending 20X2”, “Year 1”, “12 months ending December 31, 20X2” or “Year beginning January 1, 20X2”. All are correct but, unfortunately, all are different which makes XBRL consumption difficult.

On the other hand, with typed dimensions, the way to describe the period for the $7,000 must be done by entering the beginning date of the period (by using the typed dimension taxonomy element “Revenue, Remaining Performance Obligation, Expected Timing of Satisfaction, Start Date [Axis]”). It is controlled so that everyone must do it the same way. Fortunately the taxonomy element also requires that the date must be entered using the YYYY-MM-DD format type for uniformity. And the length of the time band is entered into a separate, but associated, taxonomy element “Revenue, Remaining Performance Obligation, Expected Timing of Satisfaction, Period” in a uniform format (in this case P1Y, which means a Period of 1 Year).

The result is that, even if the time bands are different from company to company, there is consistent XBRL reporting across companies since the tagging method and format for reporting are the same.

Introduction in the 2017 US GAAP Taxonomy

The typed dimensions feature has existed for several years and is used by various taxonomies in various countries. It will be introduced to U.S. SEC reporting via the 2017 US GAAP Taxonomy and I expect this will only be the beginning. It’s likely that this feature will expand to other disclosure areas in future taxonomies – well beyond 2017.

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