1. What is XBRL?
XBRL is a language for the electronic communication of business and financial data which is revolutionizing business reporting around the world. It provides major benefits in the preparation, analysis and communication of business information. It offers cost savings, greater efficiency and improved accuracy and reliability to all those involved in supplying or using financial data. XBRL stands for extensible Business Reporting Language. It is already being put to practical use in a number of countries and implementations of XBRL are growing rapidly around the world.
2. Who developed XBRL?
XBRL is an open, royalty-free software specification developed through a process of collaboration between accountants and technologists from all over the world. Together, they formed XBRL International which is now made up of over 650 members, which includes global companies, accounting, technology, government and financial services bodies. XBRL is and will remain an open specification based on XML that is being incorporated into many accounting and analytical software tools and applications.
3. What are the advantages of XBRL?
XBRL offers major benefits at all stages of business reporting and analysis. The benefits are seen in automation, cost saving, faster, more reliable and more accurate handling of data, improved analysis and in better quality of information and decision making. XBRL enables producers and consumers of financial data to switch resources away from costly manual processes, typically involving time-consuming comparison, assembly and re-entry of data. They are able to concentrate effort on analysis, aided by software which can validate and process XBRL information. XBRL is a flexible language, which is intended to support all current aspects of reporting in different countries and industries. Its extensible nature means that it can be adjusted to meet particular business requirements, even at the individual organization level.
4. Who can benefit from using XBRL?
All types of organizations can use XBRL to save costs and improve efficiency in handling business and financial information. Because XBRL is extensible and flexible, it can be adapted to a wide variety of different requirements. All participants in the financial information supply chain can benefit, whether they are preparers, transmitters or users of business data.
5. What is the future of XBRL?
XBRL is set to become the standard way of recording, storing and transmitting business financial information. It is capable of use throughout the world, whatever the language of the country concerned, for a wide variety of business purposes. It will deliver major cost savings and gains in efficiency, improving processes in companies, governments and other organisations.
6. Does XBRL benefit the comparability of financial statements?
XBRL benefits comparability by helping to identify data which is genuinely alike and distinguishing information which is not comparable. Computers can process this information and populate both pre defined and customised reports.
7. Does XBRL cause a change in accounting standards?
No. XBRL is simply a language for information. It must accurately reflect data reported under different standards – it does not change them.
8. What are the benefits to a company from putting its financial statements into XBRL?
XBRL increases the usability of financial statement information. The need to re-key financial data for analytical and other purposes can be eliminated. By presenting its statements in XBRL, a company can benefit investors and other stakeholders and enhance its profile. It will also meet the requirements of regulators, lenders and others consumers of financial information, who are increasingly demanding reporting in XBRL. This will improve business relations and lead to a range of benefits. With full adoption of XBRL, companies can automate data collection. For example, data from different company divisions with different accounting systems can be assembled quickly, cheaply and efficiently. Once data is gathered in XBRL, different types of reports using varying subsets of the data can be produced with minimum effort. A company finance division, for example, could quickly and reliably generate internal management reports, financial statements for publication, tax and other regulatory filings, as well as credit reports for lenders. Not only can data handling be automated, removing time-consuming, error-prone processes, but the data can be checked by software for accuracy.
9. How does XBRL work?
XBRL makes the data readable, with the help of two documents – Taxonomy and instance document. Taxonomy defines the elements and their relationships based on the regulatory requirements. Using the taxonomy prescribed by the regulators, companies need to map their reports, and generate a valid XBRL instance document. The process of mapping means matching the concepts as reported by the company to the corresponding element in the taxonomy. In addition to assigning XBRL tag from taxonomy, information like unit of measurement, period of data, scale of reporting etc., needs to be included in the instance document.
10. How do companies create statements in XBRL?
There are a number of ways to create financial statements in XBRL:
a. XBRL-aware accounting software products are becoming available which will support the export of data in XBRL form. These tools allow users to map charts of accounts and other structures to XBRL tags.
b. Statements can be mapped into XBRL using XBRL software tools designed for this purpose
c. Data from accounting databases can be extracted in XBRL format. It is not strictly necessary for an accounting software vendor to use XBRL; third party products can achieve the transformation of the data to XBRL.
d. Applications can transform data in particular formats into XBRL. The route which an individual company may take will depend on its requirements and the accounting software and systems it currently uses, among other factors.