In a recent post, the SEC Data Guy pointed out:
“The number of unique extension tags, tags companies create when they can’t find a good fit in the current US GAAP dictionary, had been running around 8,000 ….This quarter the number exploded to about 48,500. The main cause of the increase is probably the set of companies that had to move into “detailed” tagging. That means placing every number in the Notes section of their 10-Q into this format.
This number is way north of any expectations I had heard.“
And this is just the beginning as companies are just now tagging data in the Financial Footnotes. As experts in Footnote analysis, we have know for some time that fitting the Financial Footnotes into XBRL was a real stretch. Data in the Notes is simply too subjective and dynamic for a machine to track. In addition, companies’ disclosure interests are not aligned with those of investors. The Footnotes is where companies often like to HIDE data, not make it easier to find.
We expect the number of tags to continue to explode because companies, as they have for most of history, change the names and description of their financial data from one period to the next in addition to creating new data points every period. Analyzing the Financial Footnotes takes years of training and experience. To do it with any scale, you need specialized information processing technology in addition to deep expertise and experience in accounting and finance.
We have always known that finding data is the Footnotes is, for most investors who are without our patented Research Platform, like searching for needles in a haystack. With XBRL, the only difference is now investors can search for digital needles in a digital haystack. Funny how little things change.