Jargon buster 

A short guide to the language used in this section.

C&I (commercial and industrial):

These are the first accounting taxonomies to be produced in most jurisdictions.



The complete definition of a business fact inside a taxonomy.



The XBRL International consortium. A not-for-profit group of more than 200 leading accounting firms, software vendors, information intermediaries, regulators, standards-setters, professional bodies, analyst firms, academicians, and companies that work together to develop and promote the XBRL standard. The consortium is organized into national jurisdictions and operates via electronic collaboration tools as well as regular conferences and meetings.



The information that allows a fact or set of facts to be understood in relation to other information. Context needs to be identified inside XBRL documents and typically includes time, organizational unit, reporting segment, and whether the report is budget, actual, interim, or final. Context also can include information on currency and accuracy as well as other issues.



A generic term used to refer to the legal and accounting requirements imposed on companies and government agencies to report their financial condition.


Digital business reporting:

Business reporting using Internet technologies. It encompasses XBRL and relevant security and encryption standards as well as style sheets and other technologies used for rendering XBRL in human-readable form or proprietary machine-readable formats.


Domain Working Group (Domain):

This is one of the main activities of XBRL International. Its role is to develop rules for recognizing taxonomies as recommended. Typically, there would be only one taxonomy in an individual jurisdiction that meets the reporting needs for a particular domain. For instance, there would only be one “commercial and industrial” taxonomy in the United States. The Domain Working Group also determines new requirements for implementation into the XBRL specification.



See Taxonomy



The base definition of a single business fact inside a taxonomy.



A reporting organizational unit, such as a company, a government department, a division, or a team. This term is used to identify the context of an XBRL document. ("This business report relates to the entity known as Microsoft® Corporation.")


GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles):

Most countries have their own GAAPs, although in Europe and many other parts of the world, countries are adopting the international financial reporting standards (see IFRS).


IFRS (international financial reporting standards):

The international accounting standards produced by the International Accounting Standards Board.


Instance document:

A business report in XBRL form that provides information in context, complying with the definitions set down in a taxonomy and one or more extension taxonomies. For example, a company's financial statements might be published as an instance document in compliance with the U.S. GAAP commercial and industrial taxonomy. Quarterly, half yearly, weekly, or hourly business reports also take the form of an instance document.



A single fact inside an instance document.



A national grouping of the XBRL International consortium. Jurisdictions provide representatives to the XBRL International Steering Committee and work to develop taxonomies to standardize national and international reporting requirements, especially accounting standards. The International Accounting Standards Committee Foundation, governed by the trustees of the International Accounting Standards Board, is a jurisdiction in its own right.



A referencing component of an XBRL taxonomy. Linkbases are used to define various relationships between elements.



The date or time to which a fact in an XBRL document relates. It can be a point in time (e.g., December 31, 2002) or a reporting period (e.g., year ended December 31, 2002). The period is also part of the context.



The base component of an XBRL taxonomy, which contains the elements.


Specification or "spec":

The technical document that defines the way XBRL works. The latest version can be found on the XBRL Web site at It is produced by the Specification Working Group and is the main intellectual property of the not-for-profit XBRL International consortium. The specification is freely licensed by anyone who wants to use it.


Specification Working Group (SWG):

This is the main technical body of the XBRL International consortium. It is made up of leading XML technologists whose role is to design and support the way XBRL technology works. Members of XBRL International are able to seek the guidance and assistance of the SWG through one of the XBRL International private mailing lists.






Another (less precise) term for an element. "Tagging" means to associate appropriate XBRL elements with the concepts in a business report.


Taxonomy (also "extension taxonomy"):

A taxonomy is the set of technical definition files that allows business reporting concepts to be defined. It allows each concept to be described or an authoritative reference (such as an accounting or statistical standard) to be invoked. It allows the relationships between concepts to be defined. It also allows labels to be defined, in multiple languages if necessary. Users of taxonomies can extend them to meet their own needs. For instance, if the generic element “sales” were too general for specific needs, a user could extend the taxonomy with two new items “equipment sales” and “consumables sales.” Both would roll up to the “sales” element. This allows users of XBRL to target their reporting messaging and avoids “template reporting.”



A set of elements that need to be grouped together to make sense, such as related items appearing in the same row but different columns of a spreadsheet.


XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language):

The language for defining, producing, exchanging, and disseminating business reports.



The XML linking standard used heavily in XBRL.


XML (eXtensible Markup Language):

The core Internet standard for exchanging information over the Internet, developed by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium).


XSLT (Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations):

One of the most prevalent technologies used to format and reformat XML documents, including XBRL. Also called stylesheets.