eXtensible Business Reporting Language is becoming mainstream as costs stabilize, data quality improves and investor analysis capabilities expand substantially.
Greater transparency, lower filing costs, reduced risks and better data quality – these long-promised benefits of XBRL are finally becoming a reality. How can issuer and investors take full advantage?
When the XBRL data reporting standard became mandatory in 2009, optimism reigned that structured data would allow for vast analytical possibilities. Businesses, regulators, and investors would be able to compare data across public companies at the push of a button.
Reality quickly set in, however. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) did not enforce high data quality. Filers created huge numbers of confusing extensions. And data providers often ignored the filings as a result.
Thankfully, in recent years, the situation has improved dramatically. “Through initiatives such as the XBRL US Data Quality Committee, the integrity of business information filed through XBRL has become significantly better. Slowly but surely, the huge potential of the reporting language is beginning to be realized,” commented Liam Power, President at Vintage, a PR Newswire division.
Perhaps the most critical development of 2016 has been the announcement by the SEC in June that it would allow companies to use Inline XBRL (or iXBRL) to file their quarterly and annual financial statements. This version allows companies to file financial information in a single document, instead of keeping the traditional and XBRL versions separate. Eventually, the hope is that this will reduce complexity for filers, as well as the risk of error.
At the same time, data aggregators are starting to make full use of XBRL data, having found ways to clean up errors and manage extensions. This has opened up a great treasure trove of information for investors and businesses.
As the XBRL landscape continues its swift evolution, we discussed the latest developments with five experts – as well as with a representative of the SEC.