The XBRL standard provides two different formats of electronic reports: XBRL
and Inline XBRL (iXBRL). This guidance document explains which report format is
best suited to different reporting scenarios. This document is targeted at
and solution architects to help them identify the appropriate
2 XBRL and iXBRL
XBRL and iXBRL are two different formats for structured, electronic
that meet different business requirements. Both types of
report provide tagged data in the form of a set of facts. Each fact provides a
value for a concept defined in a taxonomy. For example, a report might provide
the value $1m for the concept “Profit”. In addition, the fact includes some
contextual information such as the period to which the fact applies and the
units it is reported in.
Whereas an XBRL report provides only the tagged data, an iXBRL report is a
human-readable report with tagged data embedded in it. The tagged data in an
iXBRL report can be extracted and converted into an XBRL report by an iXBRL
processor. At a technical level, an XBRL report is an XML document that can
only be read with XBRL software. An iXBRL report is an HTML document that can
be viewed directly in a web browser, as well as using XBRL software.
3 Open and closed reporting
Business reporting requirements fall broadly into two categories, "open
reporting" and "closed reporting". Closed reports are analogous to a paper
form: the receiver of the report prescribes the information that must be
reported as a set of boxes on the form, and the preparer
files the data
by filling in the boxes. The report may allow certain flexibility, such as
repeating a row in a table as many times as needed, but there is no scope for
the preparer providing information that is not covered by the form.
By contrast, in an open report, the preparer has control over both the
information that is reported, and how it is presented. Open reports are most
commonly encountered as company financial reports, where a company must adhere
to accounting standards that prescribe rules or principles for what must be
reported, but which do not define a reporting “form” or “template”. Such
reports may require the preparer to disclose information that is specific to
the reporting entity (an entity-specific disclosure
It should be noted that the distinction between “open reporting” and “closed
reporting” is a feature of the reporting requirements themselves, and does not
depend on how those requirements are implemented in an XBRL report collection
3.1 Presentation requirements
In almost all reporting environments, there is a need to be able to display the
report in a human-readable format, but this is a very different process for a
closed report compared to an open report.
In a closed reporting environment, the collector of the report will often
prescribe a standard layout used to describe the data to be reported. The same
layout is often also used to display reported data. Even where this is not
done, because the data contained in a closed report is constrained, it is
straightforward to take just the reported data and present it in whatever
format is most useful to the consumer.
In an open reporting environment, the preparer typically has significant
control over the layout and formatting of the report, and if a consumer
receives only the data, it is impossible to reconstruct the human-readable
version of the report that the preparer originally envisaged. Further, the
report may contain entity-specific disclosures that can be very difficult to
present meaningfully in a human-readable report if only the data is received.
Therefore, open reporting environments typically have a requirement for
preparers to provide a human-readable version of the report, as well as tagged,
3.2 Open and closed reporting: key characteristics
Table 1 summarises the characteristics of open and closed reporting.
Table 1: Open and closed reporting
data is determined by the preparer, in accordance with rules or principles.
This may include entity-specific disclosures.
||Data to be reported is prescribed by the collector.
|Flexibility in reporting
||Data reported will vary according to entity’s specific situation and
may include judgements based on materiality.
Data must be reported in accordance with the prescribed
|Layout of report
|| Preparer defined and flexible.
||Generally proposed by the collector.
|Report rendering requirement
||Preparer-defined report layout required for comprehensive
||Can be viewed using standardised
report format. This is typically provided by the collector.
4 XBRL for closed reporting environments
In closed reporting, the data set being reported is well-defined and there is
no need for a preparer to provide their own presentation of the report. It is
sufficient to collect just the data, and it can be visualised in whatever way
the collector prefers, which typically takes the form of a standard template.
As such, an XBRL, rather than iXBRL, report is suitable.
XBRL provides a standard way for taxonomy authors to define business-user
friendly table structures, known as XBRL reporting templates (Table
. These table structures can be used by preparers to prepare
data for XBRL reports or for rendering the data in an XBRL report.
Figure 1 shows an extract from a business template created using the
Table Linkbase. This example is taken from the European Banking Authority’s
taxonomy for credit risk reporting.
Figure 1: XBRL reporting template
The Table Linkbase provides a powerful mechanism for defining reporting
templates, supporting highly dimensional data, and dynamic tables where
additional rows and columns can be added as required. To find out more about
Table Linkbase read this separate piece of guidance which explains features of Table Linkbase
5 iXBRL for open reporting environments
Where structured data is collected in an open reporting environment, preparers
generally create both a human-readable report, and structured (e.g. XBRL) data.
The preparer-formatted human-readable report is typically created to publish on
a website, for investor relations communications or for regulatory submission.
The risk of inconsistencies and/or confusion between the two versions of the
report cannot be ruled out.
iXBRL avoids the need for preparing two separate reports. Since iXBRL embeds
tagged data in a human readable report, a single filing serves both the
purposes of human and machine consumption and creates a direct link between the
structured data and the presentation.
Figure 2 shows a sample iXBRL report as it appears when viewed in a
normal web browser. As can be seen, no special software is required in order to
view the human-readable version of the report.
Figure 2: iXBRL report viewed in a web browser
Figure 3 shows the same iXBRL document using iXBRL viewing
software. The tagged items are highlighted, and can be clicked on to show
details of how they have been tagged.
Figure 3: iXBRL report viewed in iXBRL software
iXBRL software can provide many features to make the report more interactive.
For example, existing software products enable:
- Easy navigation between the different places the same fact is presented within the report.
- Searching for facts based on information in the taxonomy, such as references to accounting standards.
- Highlighting of any facts in the report that fail automated quality or consistency checks.
- Display of taxonomy concepts and taxonomy-defined dimensions in
different languages (if multi-lingual labels are available).
6 iXBRL and entity-specific disclosures
As noted above, open reports will often include entity-specific disclosures
The requirement for entity-specific disclosures is often
addressed using entity-specific extension taxonomies
taxonomies can be used by both XBRL and iXBRL reports. iXBRL reports have the
advantage of including a human-readable presentation of the extension data,
which can otherwise be challenging for application to render.
In some environments, the use of iXBRL can reduce the need for extensions in
the first place. If the consumer of the reports is only intending to perform
automated analysis on data tagged against the base taxonomy, then it may be
sufficient for any entity-specific disclosures to be left untagged, and
available only in human-readable form. By combining the human-readable report
and tagged data into a single document, such partial tagging is viable, as all
information is included in the human-readable form. The linking of the data
that is tagged provides the ability to interactively navigate quickly from data
that has been reported and analysed against the base taxonomy to viewing the
data in context, alongside untagged facts in the human-readable view.
This approach is primarily applicable where the collector
of the report
is the only consumer of the data, and can say for certain what analysis will be
performed on the data. This would typically be the case for a tax authority
that does not publish the reports that it collects.
By contrast, where a collector publishes the reports that it receives, it is
not possible to know how the data will be consumed and analysed by third
parties, and the inclusion of entity-specific disclosures tagged against an
extension taxonomy may be beneficial. An example of this would be securities
regulator collecting company financial reports and publishing them for the
benefit of investors and analysts.
7 Summary and recommendations
In general, iXBRL is the recommended solution for open reporting requirements.
It enables a single document to provide both tagged data and a human-readable
report, and allows preparers to retain fine-grained control over the
presentation of their report. iXBRL’s approach of embedding tags into the
human-readable report enables a greater degree of interactivity when viewing
reports, and simplifies the task of ensuring that human-readable and
machine-readable data is consistent. The use of iXBRL avoids the need for
preparation of separate human readable and structured reports, and reduces the
associated risk of inconsistency between the two.
In a closed reporting environment, XBRL reports are the recommended choice. In
such environments, there is no need for preparers to provide their own
presentation of the data. Human-readable reports can be generated from the
reported data, using mechanisms such as XBRL reporting templates (Table
Table 2 summarises the comparison between XBRL and iXBRL report formats.
Table 2:XBRL and iXBRL report formats
|Primarily suitable for
|Supports tagging of data
||Defined by the taxonomy, including any extension taxonomies (where applicable).
|Preparer has control over presentation of report
||No (extension taxonomies may provide limited control over rendering, where permitted)
|Report can be viewed without XBRL software
||Yes, although XBRL-enabled software can provide a more interactive user interface
|Submission of human readable report and tagged data
||One report serves both functions
|| Not supported (must be submitted separately, if required)
- iXBRL is the recommended solution for open reporting requirements, where the preparer has control over both the information that is reported, and how it is presented.
- XBRL reports are the recommended solution for closed reporting requirements, where data to be reported is prescribed by the collector.
This document was produced by the Implementation Guidance Task Force.
Published on 2019-10-10.