XBRL is an open technology standard that enables the electronic communication of business and financial data. It is a free, nonproprietary standard and there are no licensing fees associated with its use. The XBRL standard has been implemented worldwide for the reporting of public company financials, government expenditures and corporate actions, among other reporting domains. XBRL is not a product or software. It is an agreed-upon, industry-driven mechanism that makes data computer-readable so it can be more efficiently conveyed. Data standards allow automation and scale. They reduce cost, fraud and delays. Data standards do not change what is reported, only how it’s reported.

XBRL-formatted documents create computer-readable data. They enable greater efficiency, improved accuracy and reliability and costs savings to those involved in supplying and using financial and business data.

How XBRL works

XBRL is based on Extensible Markup Language (XML) which gives it the ability to “tag” each value on a financial or business report with detailed information such as description, name of reporting entity and currency so that data reported is easy to understand for users. XBRL builds on XML with additional structure to allow for consistent reporting of financial data features such as tables, time period and units.

Two components are required to create XBRL data:

  • Taxonomy: a collection of financial and business reporting terms, agreed upon by the reporting supply chain, for example, the XBRL US GAAP Taxonomy used for public company reporting to the SEC; and the FDIC taxonomy used to report bank institution financial data. The taxonomy provides the list of reported concepts such as NetIncome or Revenue, with associated definition, unit type, period type and name.
  • Instance document: a specific reporting situation, for example ABC Company’s 10-K for the period ending December 31, 2014, which contains the facts reported with associated time period, units and labels.

Learn more about XBRL in this section by reviewing the links on the right hand navigation which provide information for Developers getting started, Filers/Issuers who report information for SEC filings, corporate actions or government; or Analysts/Data Consumers for those interested in actively using the data. If you are a developer or data provider, click on the Developer link to find out how to get started using XBRL data.

Watch these short (3 minute) videos, “What are data standards?

And “What is structured data (versus unstructured data)?


Read more about the XBRL standard and how to get started by visiting the XBRL International web site.