XBRL is the global standard that powers digital reporting. By making business reporting computer-readable, it helps make business data easy to find, access and analyse.

Why do we need it? Because just publishing corporate data in any format is not enough. To meet the needs of users, today’s disclosures must be available in a consistent, comparable and computer-readable form.

Business reports prepared in XBRL are fully digital, so they can be understood and analysed by computer software. This makes analysis easier, faster, and more accurate, helping users draw meaningful comparisons about business performance. XBRL makes it easy to compare information in multiple languages and from different countries, can enable automated analyses across many thousands of reports, and provides high-quality input for AI models.

XBRL can connect companies directly with data users, providing verified information for precise analysis. It also increases the speed and accuracy with which intermediaries such as data providers can consume information and offer insights. It makes the reporting process more efficient, and ultimately ensures that the information reaching end users is decision-useful.

Where does the XBRL standard come from? The XBRL specifications are developed and maintained by XBRL International, bringing together expert volunteers from around the world. XBRL International is a global-not-for-profit member consortium, committed to improving reporting in the public interest. Read more about the consortium and join our global community here.

A universal standard for unique reports

XBRL is a freely licensed, open standard available to all. XBRL works like a single, universal alphabet and grammar for digital reporting. It makes it possible to capture business concepts in a standard, digital form.

Standards-setters and regulators use this alphabet and grammar to create words and build dictionaries (or ‘taxonomies’), defining exactly the information they need. Each set of reporting rules has its own dictionary, reflecting a specific reporting ‘vocabulary’. These standardised dictionaries empower organisations to craft corporate reports that both tell a unique story and speak a common digital language, ensuring consistency and comparability across the business landscape. Read more about how the standard works here.

XBRL offers almost limitless possibilities. It is a flexible framework that can be applied to any type of business data, including financial statements, sustainability disclosures, prudential reporting, tax returns, and a wide range of other innovative applications.

Using XBRL, business data can be exchanged easily and accurately across different software tools. XBRL is designed to be independent of platform: there is a thriving ecosystem of software that supports XBRL and meets the needs of different users. All XBRL Certified Software is fully interoperable.

XBRL is currently in use in 65 countries worldwide, in almost 220 diverse reporting implementations – a number that is growing all the time. With millions of XBRL reports published every year, users worldwide rely on XBRL for high-value data, across different languages and in many different types of reports.

What does XBRL do?

The key to an XBRL report is that each fact is digitally “tagged” so that it can be recognised by computer software, and efficiently extracted and analysed by users anywhere. It is easy to add multilingual labels to each fact, allowing automatic language switching by software users and helping data cross language barriers. The XBRL standard also incorporates data validation capabilities, helping ensure the high quality of reports.

Digital reporting works a bit like barcodes. The barcode on a can of tomatoes means it can be accurately identified in seconds, from factory to warehouse to supermarket. A quick scan tells any worker not only that the can contains tomatoes rather than beans, but also its brand, price and other important details. In the same way, XBRL tags travel with each fact wherever it goes. Business information travels through reporting chains, between multiple organisations, with perfect accuracy.

XBRL plays a huge role in increasing corporate transparency, reducing information asymmetries, and improving the efficiency of capital markets. When digital reporting – supplying clear, consistent digital meanings – is combined with rigorous management oversight and assurance processes, users can have a high degree of confidence in business data and in the insights they draw from it.

  • For investors, finding information, comparing corporate performance and uncovering new opportunities all becomes easier, cheaper, faster and more accurate. XBRL data can open up wider possibilities for investment, less limited by language and location.
  • Regulators too benefit from streamlined data collection, improved understanding of market, sustainability or other risks, and ultimately more efficient and effective oversight.
  • Corporates, meanwhile, are able to tell their own stories. Digital reporting can open up increased access to capital, potentially at a reduced cost. For companies with an eye on the future, getting to grips with XBRL offers the opportunity to go beyond compliance, for example in monitoring and benchmarking performance.

XBRL brings reporting into the digital age, and offers powerful capabilities across the reporting chain. Market demand for reliable digital data is high: for users from investors to regulators, XBRL is the gold standard for decision-useful analysis.


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