What Is XBRL?

XBRL is an acronym for “eXtensible Business Reporting Language,” a standard for communicating financial data in a machine-readable format. In technical terms, XBRL is a form of XML (eXtensible Markup Language) that allows financial data to be tagged, providing more efficient consumption of the data. Since 2009 the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has required that, as part of the Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval (EDGAR) program, periodic financial reporting be submitted using the XBRL format.

Many companies submit financial statement data in XBRL-tagged interactive data files to comply with SEC regulations. This is convenient for investors, who can now more quickly analyze a company’s financial statements using the standardized computer-readable tagged data, instead of reading through the paper-based financials and finding data by searching manually.

Increasing reliance on interactive data makes the accuracy of XBRL tagging extremely important—one mistake can introduce validation errors that delay an SEC filing, or mislead an investor that is consuming the XBRL financial statement data.

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