Standardizing business reporting language

In a bid to ensure greater transparency and accessibility to their financial reports, most public companies today make their financial statement information available online. It is widely acknowledged this addresses the needs of regulators and benefits investors and other financial market participants.

Yet, despite best intentions to improve financial reporting processes, many companies publish their traditional financial reports in inflexible formats, such as PDF files. As a result, users of financial information still experience difficulty locating and extracting key financial data from online statements.

To further complicate the issue, few companies adhere to standardized financial statement "taxonomies." Essentially these are dictionaries that provide a standard description and classification system for financial data. By failing to adopt common taxonomies, companies make it that much harder for analysts, investors, regulators and other interested parties to effectively compare data from disparate organizations or calculate useful trends and ratios.

The good news is there is a simple solution: Extensible Business Reporting Language, or XBRL, a royalty-free, open standard for business reporting that may be on its way to revolutionizing the way financial information is created, shared, and analyzed.

XBRL has been under development by the CICA, AICPA and other professional bodies and companies as a vehicle for electronic financial and business reporting.

The following table provides direct links to the current taxonomies and accompanying guides to prepare XBRL filings.

TaxonomiesTools and Guides

Canadian core financial statements taxonomy

Canadian financial statements disclosure taxonomy

US GAAP 2012 taxonomy

Global Reporting Initiative Taxonomy for Sustainability Taxonomy (Deloitte NL, GRI)

IFRS Taxonomy 2012

Interactive Data for Financial Reporting (SEC's guide)

IFRS Taxonomy Guide (IASCF, PDF)

IFRS taxonomy viewing tool (subscription required)