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XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language)

XBRL, or eXtensible Business Reporting Language, is a standard for communicating and processing business information electronically. It was originally invented and promoted within the accountancy profession, in the USA. It is an open standard, free of licence fees.

XBRL, or eXtensible Business Reporting Language, is a standard for communicating and processing business information electronically. It was originally invented and promoted within the accountancy profession, in the USA. It is an open standard, free of licence fees.

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The IT Faculty is heavily involved with the development and take-up of XBRL, working on behalf of members and in the public interest. The ICAEW, through the IT Faculty, is a member of the XBRL UK consortium.

Chartech magazine article

Exploring what lies behind the rise in global popularity of reporting format XBRL.

What is XBRL?

XBRL works by adding 'tags', computer-readable labels, to financial reports. Information is tagged by choosing the appropriate 'electronic labels' from a hierarchical, structured dictionary of financial reporting terms called a 'taxonomy'.

Different taxonomies exist for IFRS and UK GAAP (and other countries' GAAPs), as well as for particular industry sectors, such as banking. A helpful explanation can be found at the XBRL website.

Inline XBRL (iXBRL)

Inline XBRL (or iXBRL) is a newer variant of XBRL which combines computer-readable data (the XBRL-tagged data) together with human-readable information in one and the same document. This is the variant that is being mandated by HMRC: see below.

Specific XBRL-related issues

1: HMRC and Corporate Tax Filings

Currently the biggest XBRL-related issue impacting accountants in the UK is HMRC's requirement that from April 2011 corporation tax returns must be filed electronically and must include accounts in iXBRL format.

2: Audit issues

The Auditing Practices Board, part of the FRC, has issued guidance to auditors on XBRL tagging of information in audited financial statements.

This guidance provides background information on that requirement and on the application of APB's Ethical Standards for Auditors to non-audit services relating to XBRL tagging.