Date of Award

Spring 5-2-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Departments/Programs

Economics

First Advisor

Christine Tan

Second Advisor

Devra Golbe

Academic Program Adviser

Randall Filer

Abstract

In 2009 the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted the eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) system to improve the process by which financial statements can be used. Interactive financial data filed with the SEC using XBRL provides easily readable and comparable financial data, thereby improving transparency and efficiency in the corporate market. SEC rules permit companies to use custom tags in their financial reports in cases when an appropriate element cannot be found in the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) standard XBRL taxonomy. The inordinate use of custom tags may result in a reduction of financial report quality by diminishing the comparability and usability of filings by investors and analysts. Using XBRL-based empirical data from 2015 to 2017 fiscal years, this paper explores the inordinate use of custom tags. Do high uses of custom tags result from the complexity of a company’s operational structure or are they used deliberately by managers attempting to manipulate their financial disclosures? I find that the use of custom tags is positively related to variables indicating the lower quality of financial reports.

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