XML Variant to Ease Financial Reporting

The XBRL 2.1 spec should ease financial reporting.

Proposed changes and additions to an XML variant targeted for use in financial reporting will make information more accessible and easier to audit, say supporters of the technology.

Extensible Business Reporting Language, known as XBRL, is used to tag financial information and aims to provide a standard way for banks, stock markets and corporations to report and share tax and other financial data.

The XBRL standards group last week unveiled an updated Candidate Recommendation for its XBRL 2.1 specification that clarifies and enhances the way in which business reporting software can produce and consume XBRL-tagged data. Version 2.1 will ease implementation of XBRL-enabled software and will aid developers in creating platform-independent XBRL applications and tools, said officials of the group attending the XBRL International Conference in Seattle.

Official adoption of XBRL 2.1 is expected by years end.

In a further effort to fill out the specification, the U.S. chapter of the XBRL organization released two new taxonomies for the specification. One is a commercial version slated for use with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles reporting; the other is a banking and savings institutions taxonomy to be used in financial statements.

Edgar Online Inc., which has translated corporate financials from the entire Securities and Exchange Commission database into XBRL format, is working with Microsoft Corp. to make this XBRL-tagged data available to Microsoft Office 2003 applications.

The XBRL timeline

  • 1999-2000 Standards organization created
  • 2001-2004 Basic taxonomies, data dictionaries and tags developed; major vendors XBRL-enable their financial software
  • 2004 FDIC will require banks to submit quarterly financial reports in XBRL

Specifically, Edgar Online, of Norwalk, Conn., and Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., announced at the conference that they are developing Microsoft Office Solution Accelerator for XBRL, which will help Microsoft Word or Excel users more easily author and analyze financial documents, officials said.

Microsoft Office Solution Accelerator for XBRL will be available in January.

"We are hoping XBRL becomes the vocabulary that everyone uses to communicate financial information in the future," said a Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. official in Washington, who could not be named. "Now everyone speaks different languages. We all think we are saying the same things, but there are nuances that can result in communication errors. ... XBRL will move data from entity to entity without having to be touched by a human hand."