The metadata pledge


December 31, 1999 I took the metadata pledge, and I urge all CPAs and accountants to consider it as well.

I will do no more numbers, forever. 

I will only work with metadata. I only work with systems that are capable of dealing with *types* of business data. If the systems have potential to process *types* of information, or to be configured or integrated to process business dealings automatically, I'll do the work. Yes. I gladly put myself out of business on each engagement. If you have recurring work, you are not faithful to the metadata pledge.

SMEs (small/med enterprises) should not continue printing and mailing checks and invoices. They should either conduct business directly with their customers and suppliers through web-hosted applications, or at least, send and receive orders, invoices and payments over the internet. 

If their software vendors, webledger provider and other BSPs (bus. service providers) are doing their jobs, then NOBODY is going to have to re-key anything, anyplace, ever again. Certainly not their CPA.  The true descriptions of transactions, as agreed by adverse parties, will be captured into both parties' accounting systems-- that is the nature of internet commerce.

This will increase accountability. The burden of precise semantics must be transferred back to the parties to the contract. The intrinsic liability exposure for CPAs arises from our recharacterization of the acts and records of clients into GAAP. 

Universally accepted semantic terminology will be provided at the user interface, such as drilldown into the ebXML attributes of commercial transactions, or drilldown into definitions of XBRL accounts. Digital signatures will make transactions binding at face value, when executed into the computer. The Millenium Digital Commerce Act, effective October 1st will perhaps, make this more real to people.

But I will never again charge a client to take a number from one place, and add it or subtract it or rekey it into another place. I will never again read a mushed-up description of a transaction, and guess what the true character might have been, and "benevolently" reclassify it or recharacterize it.

I won't reclassify transactions within a system, or read data with my eyes and retype it into another application with my keyboard.  I won't export and reimport data betweeen two systems without a wizard.  I won't do it with a wizard, either.

I don't want to see any numbers, type any numbers or read any numbers. Those are the *owners' problem.* If the owner isn't willing to read his own cash flow statement, I won't work with him. If the statement is wrong or has insufficient drilldown for him to understand, well, that's MY job, to fix.

With the emergence of XBRL taxonomies ( the process of financial reporting splits into two components: correct attributes applied to each transaction natively, and applying a reporting template from a free market of financial reporting providers. No doubt the insiders who crafted XBRL will excel at producing all kinds of boutique reporting solutions. No doubt the AICPA will deploy theirs, and the IRS and SEC will require theirs, in the usual jackboot style.

How wonderful it will be to introduce our clients to their constituent's interfaces, and vice versa, instead of having intermediaries like CPAs and attorneys insinuated into every business relationship.

* Todd F. Boyle CPA
*   Kirkland WA (425) 827-3107
* XML accounting, webledgers, BSPs, ASPs, whatever it takes
* Take the work pledge, too :-)