lending—from commercial sources and from other government statistical agencies. Once acquired, these data sets should be integrated with existing business-level data sources at the Census Bureau and BLS to produce new public-release statistics on business activity by source and type of financing and to provide new tools for statistical analysis by qualified researchers.
Statistical agencies may be able to improve the accuracy and timeliness of existing data fields as well. Given that businesses must continually update their own employment, payroll, capital expenditure, and other records, it makes sense to develop conduits that allow internal reporting systems to feed into government data collections. By recognizing that companies maintain accounting systems associated with day-to-day operations on a high-frequency basis, they may, in the process, even be able to mitigate business respondent burden, particularly for large firms. There are obvious advantages when businesses can avoid having to repackage information for government surveys. New technologies (e.g., web-based reporting) will continue to enhance these kinds of opportunities to improve the timeliness and accuracy of collection efforts. For example:
Recommendation 9: The Office of Management and Budget should investigate the possibility of developing a common taxonomy, based on the extensible business reporting language, or XBRL (an industry-specific extensible markup language, XML), to allow common definitions to be used in surveys and administrative sources that can be automatically extracted from accounting and other business management software. In so doing, they should work with the statistical agencies, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), accountancy organizations, and software providers. This will help meet the goals of paperwork reduction and may have applications for similar purposes beyond the statistical system.
XBRL, which has been described as the “digital language of business,” provides the structure to reuse information in business reports. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has already stated that it sees XBRL as “likely to succeed as the industry accepted ‘business reporting language.’”4
In terms of exploiting new and cost-effective data sources, options for integrating payroll data seem especially promising.