A digital future: We respond to BEIS on Companies House reforms

Posted on February 12, 2021 by Editor

XBRL International has responded to the consultation by the UK’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on a significant overhaul of the powers and role of Companies House, that country’s national business registrar.

The package of reforms include a proposal to require mandatory digital submissions, as well as (eventually) a single filing point for multiple agencies. This would be a shift up in gear from the existing voluntary arrangements that exist for submitting private company filings in Inline XBRL. We strongly support these kinds of initiatives. At the same time, collecting information without regard to data quality will not result in the improvements that policy makers seek. We were pleased to see, therefore, a significant focus on the need for enhanced data quality rules.

As we observe in our letter to BEIS: “In shifting to a mandate we would urge policymakers to pay close attention to the utility of the digital information that is republished, meaning that quality, completeness and accuracy of digital filings need to be monitored and continuously improved.” In so doing, the new approach should provide a demonstrable competitive benefit. Some of the key ways of achieving this are ensuring that the registrar is empowered to run automated, machine-executable quality checks on filings and to challenge those that fail to pass, and that any issues associated with authentication and non-repudiation – i.e. ensuring company identity – are always rapidly resolved. We also encourage Companies House to work towards public facing, web-based options for publishing Inline XBRL-formatted accounts to maximise their usefulness.

Given the advanced state of XBRL deployment in the UK this further adoption of international best practices is unlikely to significantly increase reporting burdens on firms, but has the potential to enhance and unlock the already substantial value of the data collected. We look forward to seeing the final decisions by BEIS, and to a future transition to streamlined digital reporting.

Read our full response here.

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