An online reporting tool developed at accounting firm Ernst & Young which demonstrates how companies need to prepare financial statements could be sold commercially if copyright issues can be sorted out.
LEAP+, which is in use internally at Ernst & Young and at Auckland University’s business school, was developed by E&Y’s national assurance and business advisory services group principal, Mark Hucklesby, and Dr Alan Teixeira, director of the university’s bachelor of business and information management.
LEAP+ is an online version of a set of model financial statements which Ernst & Young produces each year as a guide to how annual reports should be prepared.
There are plans to make LEAP+ available to outside parties by way of licensing, though that won’t happen until E&Y, the university and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of New Zealand (ICANZ) settle a copyright issue relating to notes in the margin of the print version. The notes point to written material to which ICANZ owns the copyright, the actual text of which isn’t in the print version but is accessible on the web. Once that’s worked out, licensing will be possible and Ernst & Young and the university are in the process of getting LEAP+ patented, Teixeira says.
ICANZ spokesman Jordy Cassin says the institute is optimistic that the copyright issue will be worked out, “but we can’t put an exact timeframe on it”. Negotations are proceeding positively, he says.
LEAP+’s advantage over the print version is that law changes and changes by ICANZ to accounting practices can be incorporated instantly, Teixeira says. “Model financial statements quickly become outdated and with LEAP+, changes to technical literature can readily be made to ensure the information on the web pages is always current.”
LEAP+ is written in eXstensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), the free specification which uses XML-based data tags to describe financial statements.