Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

Demystifying the XBRL Financial Reporting Standard


What is it?
XBRL is short for eXtensible Business Reporting Language, a technical standard for exchanging business Information — more specifically standard financial reports. Technically, XBRL is XML and some people call XML the digital duct tape of the future; it is and will be everywhere. XML is data surrounded by descriptive elements (tags) that define the context of the data and what it means. Since XML is based on standards, many computer programs can read and interpret XML in a standard way. Business users utilize XML every day. All modern day spreadsheets, presentations, and Word documents are technically XML data surrounded by tags. Even the internet is based on a tagged-based standard called HTML.

Why Do It?
It’s the law, at least according to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Large companies had to start producing their financial statements with XBRL in mid-2009. All public companies — and all companies that want to be public — will be producing XBRL financial statements by the end of 2011. During 2011, mutual fund companies will need to produce their prospectus as an XBRL file.

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