UPDATE: President Obama has signed the DATA Act into law.

“It’s no secret that political rhetoric too often diverges from reality, but there’s no truer testament to a government’s priorities than how it spends money,” said Hudson Hollister, the Executive Director of the Data Transparency Coalition. “The DATA Act will unlock a new public resource that innovators, watchdogs, and citizens can mine for valuable and unprecedented insight into federal spending. America’s tech sector already has the tools to deliver reliable, standardized, open data. Today’s historic victory will put our nation’s open data pioneers to work for the common good.”

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Data transparency is one small step from being the law of the land.

The full House of Representatives has followed the Senate’s lead and passed the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, or DATA Act, via unanimous vote. The bill now heads to the Oval Office for President Obama’s signature.

The bill is backed by a number of transparency-focused organizations, including the American Institute of CPAs and the Data Transparency Coalition, of which the Maryland Association of CPAs is an active member.

“After three years of debate and negotiation over the DATA Act, Congress has issued a clear and unified mandate for open, reliable federal spending data,” said Hudson Hollister, executive director of the Data Transparency Coalition. “Our coalition now calls on President Obama to put his open data policies into action by signing the DATA Act and committing his Office of Management and Budget to pursue robust data standards throughout federal financial, budget, grant, and contract reporting.”

The DATA Act will standardize the ways in which federal spending information is reported and call for the creation of a searchable online database that would let all Americans see how the government is spending their money.

And though the bill doesn’t mention it by name, extensible Business Reporting Language, or XBRL, will likely play a key role in the standardization of government data, and with good reason: XBRL works, it saves money, and it lets finance folks spend less time on data management and more time on data interpretation.

Simply put, CPAs, it’s time to learn more about XBRL. This YouTube playlist is a good place to start:

 

There’s a ton of further details embedded in our XBRL-related blog posts.

Study hard. XBRL will definitely be on the profession’s final exam.

Want to know more?
The MACPA will host a half-day event on Sept. 8 to examine issues related to XBRL and the DATA Act. The event will be held at the BWI Hilton. Details are still being ironed out, so keep an eye on the MACPA website for developments. 

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