How Much Does XBRL Compliance Cost?

May 11, 2010

– by Michael Becker, Senior Vice President, Financial Product Strategy

Recently, I had the chance to address a question that’s becoming more common, and wanted to share the answer with readers of this blog: What does XBRL conversion cost? While I cannot tell you what other vendors and software companies charge, I can share that costs (time and money) are in line with or less than the SEC prediction on pp. 132 – 142 of its final rule (http://www.sec.gov/rules/final/2009/33-9002.pdf).

This is very positive news for the U.S. SEC XBRL initiative. Remember the SEC’s prediction that SOX compliance would average roughly $34,000? We know how that turned out.

A June 2010 article in the Journal of Corporate Finance entitled, “How costly is the Sarbanes Oxley Act? Evidence on the effects of the Act on corporate profitability,” states that the SEC initially estimated that the direct cost of SOX compliance would amount to about $91,000 for the average firm; however, subsequent estimates from a survey by Financial Executives International place the costs of SOX closer to $2.9 million per firm for 2006 (FEI, 2007). A Charles River Associates International (CRA, 2005) survey pegs 2004 SOX costs for firms with a market capitalization greater than $700 million at about $8.5 million; and at about $1.24 million for firms with a market capitalization between $75 and $700 million (CRA, 2005). These costs are substantial, averaging roughly 0.10% of revenues (Asthana et al., 2009; Eldridge and Kealey, 2005; Hartman, 2005, 2006; U.S. GAO, 2006).

As for IFRS, according to a recent CFO Magazine article, the SEC predicts that the largest U.S. registrants that adopt IFRS early would incur about $32 million in additional costs for their first IFRS-prepared annual reports. Smaller companies likely will have a disproportionately higher cost to begin the conversion process, if regulators mandate that they, as well as their larger counterparts, move to IFRS.

Therefore, it is imperative to keep the cost of XBRL conversion in perspective. XBRL conversion costs a fraction of other current and proposed SEC initiatives and the benefit, when all issuer financials are mapped and tagged, should be immense.


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