A consortium has been set up to create an XML-based standard for exchanging financial data over the internet.
The eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) specification is being backed by a number of accounting, financial and software industry groups, and is out for review and comment by the accounting profession. It is due to be published by July.
Members of the consortium include industry heavyweights Microsoft, Oracle, IBM and SAP, but also the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, Deloitte & Touche, Ernst & Young, the International Accounting Standards Committee and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).
Barry Melancon, AICPA's president and chief executive, said: "XBRL allows companies, analysts and investors to make better informed financial and management decisions, and to leverage the capabilities of the internet to facilitate the exchange of financial information."
But he said the specification would not change existing accounting standards or require companies to disclose any more information than they do now.
The XBRL specification, which is based on XML and was formerly codenamed XFRML, is intended to be a freely available electronic language for financial reporting. It will provide the financial community with a framework to prepare, publish, exchange and analyse financial reports and the information they contain.
The language will initially be used to publish digital versions of companies' financial statements that are given out to external users. These include the balance sheet, income statement, statement of equity, statement of cash flows, notes to the financial statements and the accountant's report.
Software vendors will attach XBRL type tags to their accounting applications to enable users to cross reference their accounts. Potential XBRL applications include XBRL for taxes, XBRL for regulatory filings and XBRL for accounting and business reports.
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