XBRL: Digital business reporting 

What is it and how will it help me?


Because business information is used by a myriad of constituents in different capacities, we have organized these introductory pages around the roles that most users play.

XBRL— the eXtensible Business Reporting Language. Funny set of initials. Simple concept.
Imagine this: Pick up a paper report or a spreadsheet and shake all the numbers off it. Got it in your mind? Lots of information piled up on the carpet all over the place? Now try to get those numbers back into the report. Does this '50,000' go against 'sales' or 'salaries? Where did this number come from? What about that footnote?


Pretty much impossible isn't it? But it’s not far off the everyday reality of moving business information around today. That's the business problem that XBRL solves. Creating agreement on how to identify reporting concepts, and allowing disparate systems and different organizations to reuse the numbers that relate to those concepts.


XBRL can change the way an organization’s performance information is defined, produced, exchanged and communicated. It’s not just a transport mechanism, its also a way to define, constrain and relate information.


KPMG has been deeply involved in the design and development of the XBRL standard since its inception. We are proud to be among the leaders working to develop a common language for a common goal: an improved future for corporate reporting.


XBRL basics
XBRL can be viewed as a system of bar codes for financial statements. It allows companies to use nationally and internationally common 'tags' to identify individual reporting concepts that exist in a corporate report. Information that is coded in this way can be instantly and accurately exchanged between systems. How does this work? XBRL allows context to be communicated along with content.


XBRL facilitates the communication of entire reports, avoiding 'template reporting', which can be misleading and inaccurate. Where aspects of a particular business demand unique tags, report owners can create them, communicating the definition of a concept as well as its relationship to other parts of a report. In other words, there is no need to force a reporting concept into an ill-fitting box. XBRL is not a standard chart of accounts. It allows the standardization of common business reporting concepts while providing flexibility to extend the vocabulary to meet individual circumstances.


Companies can use XBRL as a universal exchange format to streamline and improve internal corporate reporting as well as to communicate with external business information users. Increasingly, we are seeing XBRL adopted as the format of choice for corporate reporting.


Because XBRL is based on core internet technologies, it is possible to search across XBRL documents and extract individual concepts that might be needed for particular types of analysis. It is also possible to transform XBRL reports into any other format, including those more commonly used such as HTML and PDF.


XBRL is governed by a not-for-profit consortium made up of representatives from more than 170 companies and organizations around the world, including the major accounting firms, software vendors, information brokers, regulators and accounting standards-setters. XBRL is a freely licensed information standard. Its strength lies in its combination of XML-based reporting technology and the efforts of accountants around the world who are collaborating to achieve encapsulation of national and international accounting standards into XBRL format.


On this site, we describe how XBRL can enhance corporate reporting. We also provide detailed technical information and training materials for those wishing to use XBRL.


To learn more, click on one of the links below: