Our Coalition has long pointed to the potential of data standardization to consolidate and automate government reporting. By adopting a consistent data structure across multiple reporting requirements, governments can reduce compliance costs in two ways.
First, data standardization allows multiple regimes to be fulfilled simultaneously. For example, the United Kingdom’s Companies House and tax authority adopted an inline XBRL format that allows all UK companies to fulfill financial reporting requirements to both agencies in a single filing.
Second, moving from document-based to data-centric reporting allows software to automatically pull information from business systems and compile it for submission. Standardized data replaces manual compliance with lines of code.
The Dutch Standard Business Reporting (SBR) program exemplifies both benefits.
Two new Requests For Information (RFIs) show that governments in the United States are taking notice.
First, on February 19 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued an RFI seeking information about ways to consolidate farmers’ acreage and crop reporting obligations to two of its sub-agencies: the Farm Service Agency and the Risk Management Agency. By adopting “a common USDA framework for producer commodity reporting,” the Department of Agriculture hopes to reduce administrative costs through both consolidation and automation.
We told Federal Computer Week yesterday that the USDA’s project could both simplify and liberate U.S. agricultural reporting.
Second, on the same day, the Multistate Registration Filing Portal, Inc. (MRFP) - a joint project of twelve states’ attorneys general - issued an RFI seeking input on how to create a filing system for nonprofits’ reporting requirements to multiple states. Most U.S. states require nonprofit organizations to register if they intend to solicit donations within the state, which means nonprofits must comply with multiple overlapping yet distinct state-based reporting regimes.
The MRFP’s vision is for a single electronic system that allows nonprofits to automatically import the information they file with the federal Internal Revenue Service and simultaneously discharge their registration and ongoing reporting requirements with every state in which they operate. The vision is summarized in a one-page document here.