Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority of Singapore – XBRL

The Accounting & Corporate Regulatory Authority of Singapore is a statutory board under the Ministry of Finance of Singapore. ACRA was established in April 2004 with the merger between the Public Accountants Board and the Registry of Companies and Businesses.

ACRA’s mission is to provide a responsive and trusted regulatory environment for businesses and public accountants that is conducive to enterprise and growth in Singapore. In this regard, ACRA is continuously looking for innovative ways to achieve greater transparency in financial information reporting and exchange.

Singapore-incorporated companies are required by law to prepare their financial statements in accordance with the Financial Reporting Standards and to file them annually with ACRA.

There were existing challenges encountered in this process. Firstly, there was no common standard for companies when they publish and submit their financial statements online. All financial information submitted was primarily by way of Portable Document Format or PDF attachment via ACRA’s BizFile online business filing service.

Secondly, the process was tedious and costly involving immense time and manual effort to retrieve salient financial data for effective analysis which further increased the risks of human error and data inaccuracy.

Thirdly, data captured could not be readily disseminated to the public, government agencies or to the larger international business community for timely use and analysis.

To meet these challenges, ACRA evaluated the use of XBRL or eXtensible Business Reporting Language, a globally recognised business reporting language based on open standards that allows financial reports to be filed using interactive data. XBRL promises major benefits in the preparation, analysis and communication of business information.

Ecquaria was selected as ACRA’s partner of choice to develop the world’s first free online tool called ACRA FS Manager, an XBRL electronic filing system for ACRA that enables companies to prepare and manage their financial statements in XBRL.

Business Challenges

  1. There was no common standard for companies to publish and submit their financial statements online.
  2. The primary solutions to submit forms were through PDF via ACRA’s online BizFile.
  3. Data captured could not be readily disseminated.

Solution

ACRA evaluated the use of XBRL or eXtensible Business Reporting Language, a globally recognised business reporting language based on open standards that allows financial reports to be filed using interactive data.


Results

Ecquaria successfully develop the world’s first free online tool called ACRA FS Manager, an XBRL electronic filing system for ACRA that enables companies to prepare and manage their financial statements in XBRL. The FS Manager solution is designed to align with ACRA’s XBRL implementation strategy based on a holistic and phased approach that is logical, sensible and friendly to ACRA’s ecosystem of users.

The introduction of XBRL as a common financial reporting standard not only helps increase the speed of handling financial data, reduce the chance of error and permits automatic validation, extraction, classification and dissemination of information, it also helps ACRA save costs and streamline their processes for collecting and distributing financial information.

The project called for a user-friendly and cost-effective solution which will help ease the transition for filers from the old way to using XBRL to prepare and file their financial statements.Ecquaria and its consortium of taxonomy and certification consultants provided the design and implementation of a holistic Singapore XBRL taxonomy and roadmap. To ensure a smooth transition and effective deployment, Ecquaria provided consultancy and training services as well as testing and support.The FS Manager solution is designed to align with ACRA’s XBRL implementation strategy based on a holistic and phased approach that is logical, sensible and friendly to ACRA’s ecosystem of users. It takes into consideration key factors critical to ACRA’s strategic goals such as time and cost of implementation, ease of adoption by companies and building a strong financial and accounting ecosystem.After extensive months of preparing the ground and ACRA’s key stakeholders such as the accounting and other relevant professional bodies through public awareness seminars, workshops and training sessions on XBRL, FS Manager and the ACRA Taxonomy, FS Manager was officially released in May 2007.FS Manager enables users to file their financial statements without the need for any IT or XBRL knowledge – or any 3rd party software. Freely available on the ACRA website, the online tool is backed by helpdesk support, a step-by-step user guide and a list of frequently asked questions to assist users.

The successful implementation of FS Manager puts ACRA in the vanguard of XBRL adoption as the first corporate registry that globally mandates XBRL filings. With effect from 1 November 2007, Singapore incorporated companies which are either unlimited or limited by shares will be required to file their financial statements in XBRL.The introduction of XBRL as a common financial reporting standard not only helps increase the speed of handling financial data, reduce the chance of error and permits automatic validation, extraction, classification and dissemination of information, it also helps ACRA save costs and streamline their processes for collecting and distributing financial information.Overall, the initiative will help ACRA to unlock new value from financial information filed with ACRA, to facilitate a one-stop portal for businesses and to strengthen regulatory vigilance. Ahead of many advanced countries today, ACRA leads Singapore in its efforts to promote the country as a trusted hub that facilitates a pro-enterprise environment for businesses in Singapore and internationally.The project won ACRA a citation in the CIO 2009 Index in recognition of ACRA’s creative leverage of IT to gain a competitive edge in Asia Pacific.