Let us take an example to assess the power that XBRL adds to conventional data. Here is a part of
balance sheet of company A Limited. Let us see how XBRL can add value to the data here.
One base fact value (reported data) of balance sheet, say “8000” powered with XBRL gets stored
along with the following information (meta data of reported data) in and XBRL instance document.
It belongs to company A Limited
It is reported in in “thousands” and in “ZAR” type of currency as per regulations
This value is for the period ending 31st March 2011
It is presented in Sub-classification under "Cash and cash equivalents"
It comprises of cash on hand plus Balances with banks
The value for Total cash cannot be less than zero.
Financial concept “Cash” used in here is defined as per IAS 7, paragraph 45.
Label assigned for this concept is “Cash” and in English language.
(meta data) which are required to interpret and understand the data are also carried along.
This entire set of information (meta data) along with fact value (reported data) of ZAR 8000 forms
part of the XBRL document. So wherever this data (reported data) moves, the additional details
Let us understand XBRL documents through an example:
In the above image, “Fixed assets” is reported in monetary value as 30, 35, 33 and 98 for
Segment A, B, C and Group respectively.
“Fixed assets” is a concept and will be made part of dictionary with attributes such as it would have
a “debit” balance, it would be reported with “monetary” value, it would be with period “instant”
(“as on” since it is an Asset). Concept such as “Segment A”, Segment B”, Segment C” and “Group”
with its attributes would also be made part of dictionary.
Inter-relationship of concept “Fixed assets”, with concept namely “Segment A”, Segment B”,
Segment C” and “Group” would be developed with “definition” (dimension) relationship.
Both dictionary and concept inter-relationship would be developed in XBRL Taxonomy. Now this
XBRL taxonomy would be used by the user (reporting entity) with a specific tool and after inputting
basic information, the aforesaid dimension relationship would be presented to the user in a
The user would report monetary values such as 30, 35, 33 and 98 for Segment A, B, C and Group
respectively against the concept “Fixed asset”. These monetary values (facts) along with their
concepts and other information (name of reporting entity, period of reporting and likewise) would
be stored in XBRL instance document.
XBRL stands for “eXtensible Business Reporting Language”. It is also known as ‘Interactive Data’
and it is the global standard for electronic communication of business and financial data.
XBRL is being developed and promoted by XBRL International Inc (XII) a non-profit consortium (of
companies, organisations and government agencies). XBRL is a non-proprietary global standard
and freely available. XBRL is based on XML (eXentsible Markup Language) and XML is designed to
carry data. XBRL data includes the context within it enabling the software to interpret and process
XBRL is a LANGUAGE namely computer understandable language wherein computers can treat
XBRL data “intelligently”. The machine can recognize the information provided in an XBRL
document (taxonomy and instance) and can select, analyze, store and can also exchange it with
other applications, to present it automatically in a variety of ways to users.
XBRL language is related to BUSINESS REPORTING covering both “financial” information
(balance sheet, profit/loss, cash flow statement and likewise) and “non-financial” information
(climate change, votes garnered in an election and likewise).
XBRL equips us with Uniquely Defined Concepts and it is a kind of electronic dictionary of
reporting concepts thereby bringing standardization and comparability.
XBRL is also eXTENSIBLE allowing customization of financial concepts namely extension of
existing taxonomy by addition of concepts that are NOT in the base taxonomy.
To sum up, XBRL is the Bar Code of Business Reporting Language. As the bar code printed on
a product carries details of the product wherever it goes any XBRL tagged data carries with it all
the information required to understand and use it most effectively.
iXBRL stands for “In-line eXtensible Business Reporting Language”.
iXBRL allows presentation of information in a computer readable format which is both human
readable and machine-readable. This is achieved by presenting the data (e.g. financial statements)
in a normal document format but with XBRL "tags" embedded in HTML documents.
XBRL is only machine readable while iXBRL is both human and machine readable (so users can SEE
what is INTENDED to display). If the focus of XBRL is on automated machine readability of data
then iXBRL focuses on rendering of such data. XBRL for rendering of data either uses presentation
relationship or table relationship while iXBRL uses HTML standard.
Essentially, both XBRL and iXBRL standards exist with the same objective – seamless exchange of
financial data but iXBRL goes a step further, to enable the rendering such data in a visually
appealing format. XBRL uses XML while iXBRL uses both XML and HTML as encoding standard
XBRL is a global standard duly accepted and adopted the world over thus reducing inconsistencies
in terminologies and data formatting. XBRL is BETTER allowing accessibility, accuracy and easy
analysis including no need for re-keying. XBRL is FASTER for it allows validation, processing and
dissemination of real time data.
XBRL is CHEAPER for its royalty free software. XBRL is EXTENSIBLE and FLEXIBLE for it can be
adapted to a wide variety of different requirements benefiting all participants in the financial
information supply chain (preparers, transmitters or users of business data).
XBRL is an OPEN standard and hence platform independent, this allows the data to be exchanged
and transferred with ease. XBRL allows the presentation and exchange of data in many different
To sum up: XBRL results in data INTEGRITY and data STANDARDISATION
Taxonomy is a dictionary of concepts along with its attributes and defines relationship amongst
Most frequent relationship used in XBRL taxonomy is:
Label relationship providing human readable to computer defined elements
Reference relationship connecting accounting standards, regulations reference to concepts
Presentation relationship defines simple hierarchy of concepts