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投资者呼吁对电子版财务报告进行审计

近来,市场中出现了很多有关电子版财务报告的讨论。

除了一些显著优点外,这种报告形式仍然存在一些需要解决的问题。例如,如何审查或验证那些使用可扩展商业报告语言(XBRL,这是一种用于商业和财务数据电子传输的标记语言)的报告。目前,对于这些报告的审查或是审计并没有既定的标准。就目前情况来看,审查流程是基于自愿同意(AUP)程序进行的,也就是说这些程序步骤是由审计师和客户同意执行。

大约有8%的美国公司会聘请相关公司进行AUP审查。但是并不会要求执行此种类型的审查。

自2009年以来,美国证券交易委员会(SEC)就要求申报者必须同时提交纸质版和电子版的财务报表。不过SEC不要求对电子版财报进行审计。但是,从行业发展趋势来看,未来电子版财报审计也将成为主流,原因有三:

首先,投资者会利用这些电子版财报提供的信息进行投资决策。

其次,从全球监管机构的角度来看,目前美国证券交易委员会(SEC)要求提供电子化财务报表,到2020年欧洲证券和市场管理局(ESMA)也将要求提供电子化财务信息。

第三,监管机构正在强制要求申报者以联机XBRL格式提交数字化信息。这种格式将机器可读的XBRL标签嵌入到人类可读的财务报表中(即 到单个文档中)。投资者希望对该单一文档的人类可读层和机器可读层进行审计。继美国和欧盟之后,我们预计日本、中国以及其他一些亚洲司法管辖区也将效法该措施。

如果该举措被越来越多地采纳,那么我们就会需要第三方的审查。

此外,我们认为数据质量问题可以通过审计要求来解决。Merrill Corporation XBRL服务部门的Lou Rohman表示:

"审计的一个重要作用就是提醒那些正在提交标注糟糕的XBRL文件的公司开始关注这一事项,并且用正确的方式来提交数据。然而,目前来看质量低劣的XBRL提交还很常见,所以XBRL计算机可读的财务数据与HTML人类可读的财务数据并不一致。

进行审计的第二个好处是XBRL质量的提高将减轻XBRL用户在使用之前"修复"数据的痛苦。用户付出了很多努力来纠正申报者提交的标签化数据。同时,质量更好的数据还会提高欠缺经验的客户使用数据的能力,并能够依赖这些数据进行分析得出结论。"

因此,根据2016年对CFA协会成员的调查,77%知晓XBRL的受访者希望对XBRL报告提供某种程度的保证,同时50%的人同意将XBRL报告纳入标准财务报表审计。

这个结果与之前的调查结果如出一辙。因此,我们敦促监管机构和审计准则制定者们能够关注投资者的需求和利益。

Much has been written and discussed about the merits of digital financial reporting.

Some concerns still need to be addressed, however, such as reviewing or validating these reports using eXtensible business reporting language (XBRL), a markup language for the electronic transmission of business and financial data, against a set of standards. Currently, no established standards exist for review or audit of these reports. As things stand, the reviews are based on voluntary agreed-upon (AUP) procedures, which are procedures agreed upon by the auditor and the client.

Approximately 8 per cent of US companies engage firms to carry out AUP reviews. No requirements, however, mandate this type of review.

The US SEC has required filers to submit their financial statements in both paper and digital formats since 2009. The SEC does not require an audit of the digital format. We maintain that this is not in the interest of investors.

First, investors are reviewing and using this digital information to make investment decisions.

Second, regulators around the world, including the US SEC currently and the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) as of 2020, will require digitally tagged financial statements.

Third, regulators are moving toward mandating filers to submit their digital information in an inline XBRL format. This format embeds the machine-readable XBRL tags into the human-readable financial statements (i.e., into a single document). Investors would expect both the human-readable layer as well as the machine-readable layer of this single document to be audited. After the US and the EU, we expect that Japan, China, and some other jurisdictions in Asia will follow suit.

This increasing adoption translates to the consequential need for third-party review, which in the interim has been accomplished through AUPs. The significance of addressing this need sooner than later must be emphasised.

Furthermore, we believe data quality issues could be overcome by an audit requirement. As Lou Rohman, XBRL Services, Merrill Corporation, points out in his article “Should XBRL Financials Be Audited?”:

“One significant consequence of an audit is that it would motivate those companies that are currently submitting poorly tagged XBRL to start paying attention, and do it the right way. Unfortunately, poor quality XBRL is submitted too often today, whereby the XBRL computer-readable financials don’t provide the same information as the HTML human-readable financials.

A second benefit of an audit is that the improved quality of XBRL would decrease the pain and effort of consumers of the XBRL to “fix” the data prior to using it. Much effort is put forth by consumers to correct the tagged data submitted by registrants. Better data would also increase the ability of less-sophisticated consumers to use the as-submitted data and rely on the output of their analysis.”

Accordingly, per a 2016 survey of CFA Institute members, 77 per cent of respondents who are aware of XBRL want some level of assurance over the XBRL report—with 50 per cent agreeing that the XBRL report should be incorporated into standard financial statement audits.

This result is similar to what was found in prior surveys.

We urge regulators and audit standard setters to take heed of what investors want.


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