The XBRL tag “Research and Development” expense is utilized by nearly all XBRL reporting technology companies. Certainly one would expect to see some level of development expense for any Internet-related company with billions of dollars in annual revenue.
But when the question is asked of XBRL-enabled web sites, “What is AMZN 2nd Quarter 2013 Research and Development (R&D) expenses?”; the answer returned is a surprising “$0 Dollars”.
Yet if the same question were asked of a data vendor who has not yet embraced XBRL, the answer is “$1,586 Billion Dollars”.
Don’t blame this failure to communicate on a flawed XBRL tagging system or on the SEC itself.
AMZN’s XBRL preparers and the company’s CFO are the ones who have made the decision not to use the Plain Jane XBRL tag “Research and Development” and instead elected to create the new extension “payroll and related expense for development, content, merchandising selection, and systems support and costs associated with computer storage…”
The SEC’s new Robocop, Craig Lewis, recently said that the SEC intends to look more closely at the tendency of companies to be managing earnings. He also said the SEC will be diligently looking for obvious anomalies.
Here is a chart from 9W Search that shows this obvious anomaly.
Is it worth considering why Amazon took this path?