ESEF implementation begins in Europe, and ESAP promises easy data access
2021 has seen the initial implementation of the Inline XBRL-based European Single Electronic Format (ESEF) for financial reporting across Europe. This shared, machine-readable format aims to make European data consistent and comparable and offers potentially important insights.
Most countries chose to delay the mandate by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, although a small number did go ahead with mandatory reporting. Meanwhile, many companies have chosen to make voluntary filings to test out their processes. The experience of issuers, vendors and service providers so far is making the value of such ‘dry runs’ overwhelmingly clear. As PwC’s Jon Rowden observed, “we haven’t met a client yet that regrets doing this.”
Many useful lessons and best practices are emerging from early filings. Our own contribution at XBRL International was the launch of a repository for ESEF reports at filings.xbrl.org. This currently contains 748 filings, which can be browsed online in an Inline XBRL viewer or downloaded either as filed or as tagged data in xBRL-JSON format. This resource aimed to make it easy for users throughout the information supply chain to find, explore, compare and discuss ESEF reports, and to see the benefits of structured data. The filings repository was accompanied by a blog series on ‘ESEF Errors and Common Pitfalls,’ drawing on our analysis of hundreds of reports to identify the most widespread issues, their likely causes, and how they might be avoided.
A few other ESEF-related resources that have particularly caught our eye this year include a Dutch model and revised European guidelines for ESEF audit, and a two–part series of webinars from Accountancy Europe on ESEF in practice.
Until now, there has been no way to easily access filings from across Europe – hence the importance of making filings.xbrl.org available. However, all that is set to change, with the announcement in November of the European Single Access Point (ESAP), which will provide a free single point of access to information on EU-listed companies and investment products, something like EDGAR in the US or EDINET in Japan. The proposals extend ESAP’s remit to both financial and sustainability information and, promisingly, emphasise the need for the information to be “digitally usable.” ESAP is set to go live in 2024, making its development an important theme for the year ahead.