XBRL Basics - How does it work? 

    XBRL enables preparers to utilize software to tag all financial items in their business reports to the elements within a taxonomy.  This is accomplished with an Instance Document which can be electronically exchanged and validated between computers or viewed in a human readable format (this is called rendering).

    XBRL US has published a guide which is available on the XBRL US Web site to help preparers of financial statements get started in creating XBRL financial statements.  The XBRL US Preparers Guide, which the AICPA was involved in creating, provides rules and rule of thumb for using XBRL technology for financial statement reporting. 

    Below is a list of frequently used terms and explanations of how XBRL works:

    What is a Taxonomy?

    A taxonomy is a grouping of financial concepts (known as “elements”) in which each concept is defined  (similar to a dictionary).  Additionally, the taxonomy also defines the relationships between the concepts within the group.  Therefore, if we are working with a balance sheet item such as Cash, the taxonomy would include the definition of Cash and would also demonstrate how Cash may relate to other balance sheet items (within the taxonomy) such as rolling up to Current Assets and eventually Total Assets. All three of these items (Cash, Current Assets, and Total Assets) are financial concepts that are defined and presented in the taxonomy as elements.  Public taxonomies have been developed by market constituents and are maintained by XBRL.

    The US GAAP Taxonomies contain over 15,000 elements representing commonly reported financial concepts for US GAAP financial statements and are available and maintained by XBRL US.

    What is a Taxonomy Extension?

    The X in XBRL stands for eXtensible. Therefore, if a particular concept does not already exist in a public taxonomy there is the ability to add to or change the elements to meet the company’s needs; called extending the taxonomy. This extensibility is one of the most important aspects of XBRL because it allows for wide adaptation and uses of XBRL.

    What is Tagging?

    Tagging is the process of applying the entity’s unique financial data to an element within the taxonomy. The tagging process is performed during the creation of an instance document.

    What is an Instance Document?

    An instance document is the file that includes the company specific business reporting information in a structured manner that computers can intelligently recognize and exchange.  It is expected that instance documents will be created for individual financial reports (e.g., annual reports, earnings releases, submissions to creditors, etc.). The instance document is an XML file where everything comes together; here the entity specific data links (tags) to the elements in the taxonomies to form the XBRL document that can be validated and transmitted automatically for utilization by numerous consumers.

    What is Rendering?

    As we stated above, an instance document is an XML file that is computer readable.  Rendering is the process in which XBRL software will translate an instance document into a human readable format.

    XBRL Tools

    In order to work in XBRL, you will need software. There are a number of XBRL tools in the marketplace today.  Some tools enable you to work with taxonomies (i.e., creation, extension, and validation), others focus on the instance document (creation and validation). There are also tools that will specialize in rendering, analysis, and reporting.  Some tools may offer one or more of these services within the application while others may only focus on one function. You can refer to the XBRL US Web site for details on vendors that support XBRL.

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    XBRL Events

    Conference Events, presentations and webcasts related to XBRL with topics covering the Securities and Exchange Commission's Interactive Data and other educational opportunities.
    Published on February 04, 2016


    Article Complete overview of XBRL, including its background, how XBRL works, potential benefits and uses, summary of SEC Rules for Interactive Data.  There are also links to XBRL related webcasts, articles, cpe products, Q&As and comment letters.
    Published on August 11, 2015

    AICAP Comment Letter to SEC Investment Company Modernization

    Article AICPA Comment Letter to SEC on proposed rule for Investment Company Modernization
    Published on August 11, 2015

    XBRL US Center for Data Quality

    Article The XBRL US Center for Data Quality is a market driven initiative to improve the utility of XBRL data.
    Published on July 27, 2015

    Background of XBRL

    Article In 1998, Charlie Hoffman, a single CPA who worked for a small CPA firm in Washington state, had the idea of XBRL as a way of totally transforming business reporting. (Read XBRL: It’s Unstoppable – A Conversation with the Father of the Digital Langu
    Published on June 02, 2015

    XBRL Basics - How does it work

    Article XBRL enables preparers to utilize software to tag all financial items in their business reports to the elements within a taxonomy.  This is accomplished with an Instance Document which can be electronically exchanged and validated between computers or
    Published on June 02, 2015

    XBRL Costs Study

    Article Research Shows XBRL Filing Costs Lower than Expected  EXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) is a global data standard used for reporting business information in a computer-readable format. The standardization of business reporting in
    Published on January 16, 2015

    XBRL Costs for Small Companies

    Article AICPA and XBRL US conducted a joint study to understand the costs to comply with the SEC XBRL mandate for small companies.  The research shows that the costs were lower than expected.
    Published on January 16, 2015

    AICPA Response to Treasury Bureau of Fiscal Service

    Article AICPA supports the application of data standards, and the requirements of the DATA Act to bring benefits of data standards to government reporting. The AICPA believes that XBRL is the only available data standard to adequately meet the requirements of the DATA Act.
    Published on November 24, 2014

    AICPA response to Treasury Office of Inspector General

    Article AICPA response to Request for information on a comprehensive framework of audit procedures to support compliance with auditing and reporting responsibilities under the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act)
    Published on November 24, 2014

    XBRL Update

    Article GET your sign values correct in XBRL files published by XBRL Assurance Task Force
    Published on December 31, 2013

    SOP 13-2 Performing Agreed-Upon Procedures Engagements That Address the Completeness, Mapping, Consistency, or Structure...

    Professional Standards SOP 13-2 was developed by the AICPA XBRL Assurance Task Force and issued by the Auditing Standards Board to provide guidance on performing agreed-upon procedures engagements that address XBRL-Formatted Information.
    Published on September 16, 2013

    Data Tagging Recommendations by SECs Investor Advisory Committee

    Article Section 911 of the Dodd-Frank Act established the new Investor Advisory Committee to advise the SEC on regulatory priorities and on initiatives to protect investor interests and to promote investor confidence and the integrity of the securities marketplace.
    Published on August 12, 2013

    XBRL Certificate

    Article XBRL US GAAP Certificate Program Enroll now! The XBRL US GAAP Certificate, a comprehensive online training program developed by the AICPA and XBRL US, is designed to help you build the skills to create high quality XBRL-formatted financial statement
    Published on July 09, 2013

    SEC Rules for Reporting Financial Statements in XBRL Format

    Article Summary of SEC Rule related to Interactive Data (XBRL)
    Published on February 05, 2013

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