Based on XML, the internet programming language, XBRL will allow investors and other users of company information to view financial data tailored specifically to their needs at the click of a mouse.
It does this by tagging key elements of a company’s accounts so users can pull up the elements they want displayed in a manner of their choice.
An investor, for example, would be able to pull up fixed assets information on pharmaceutical companies formatted in the way that he wants, provided all the accounts are tagged with XBRL.
The new ‘taxonomy’, which sets out standard tags for commercial and industrial companies, offers a universal internet language for financial information for the first time.
It was released at the first global meeting of the XBRL.org committee in London last week by the International Accounting Standards Committee, one of the group’s backers.
They are seeking comments before publishing a final version in the next few months.
The ICAEW is also backing the initiative, and has developed the language further to cope with the specific needs of UK financial requirements. It is planning a campaign to make UK finance professionals and the investment community aware of its benefits.
The institute’s Anthony Carey, project director of UK XBRL, said: ‘This has the potential to change the face of financial reporting. XBRL financial statements are to the 21st century what paper-based annual reports are to the 20th century. The potential cost savings are likely to be considerable for banks, credit agencies and others who regularly analyse thousands of accounts.’
More about XBRL can be found at www.xbrl.org
The powerful backers of XBRL
Members of the XBRL.org committee comprise more than 85 organisations from around the world including major accountancy institutes such as the ICAEW, Big Five firms and the International Accounting Standards Committee. Member companies include Great Plains Software, Reuters and Sage. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter in the US is the first company to adopt and utilise XBRL in its financial statements.
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