Recap – why we will all use Inline XBRL

Today we round out our review of some of the main answers to Why should you use Inline XBRL?.

Inline XBRL means a simplified review and improved control. It is probably obvious, but the review of an Inline XBRL document is considerably easier than that of a native XBRL document, simply because you can skip a step – you can be confident that the facts that have been marked up are the same as the “original” because of the single document aspects of the format. It is still necessary to determine whether the document has been prepared using the right taxonomy, whether the facts have been marked up (tagged) with the right concepts and using the correct dates and other context information such as dimensions, but users are very much more comfortable dealing with an Inline XBRL document that you can look at and “touch”, rather than the somewhat more abstract idea of an XBRL formatted rendering of a document. Naturally, Magnify (Touchstone) can deal with either format.

Let’s recap.

  • Inline XBRL is about to be an official standard of the XBRL consortium and will be in use by several major regulators shortly.
  • Inline XBRL allows you to intersperse XBRL markup instructions inside an ordinary web page.
  • Inline XBRL is more accessible, and more easily understood for reporting professionals who are generally very concerned with the formatting of their documents.
  • Inline XBRL can be easier for Accounting Software Vendors to implement. And it can be easier to review.

Securities regulators, company registrars and stock exchanges should all consider adopting Inline XBRL as part of their transparency initiatives.

Inline XBRL is easy for the preparer to understand

The other day I posed the question Why use Inline XBRL? Another key reason is that an Inline XBRL document is easy for the preparer to understand.

There is one major concern that we hear from regulators around the world as they introduce XBRL. It is that controllers, CFOs and FDs that are providing XBRL information that relates to a financial report (as opposed to a form, where this concern doesn’t exist) don’t know how to be sure that the “bag of angle brackets” that they are producing accurately represents their financial statement.

Modesty doesn’t stop me from mentioning that tools like our very own Magnify (Touchstone) help resolve this issue, but nevertheless, the use of Inline XBRL takes away almost all of those concerns. It makes this process much simpler. The information that is marked up can, almost trivially, be identified and, vitally, the marked up information is exactly the same as the information that you read, simply because it is the same information. It works for text as well as for numbers. Inline XBRL also lets you incorporate web friendly navigation. You can, for example, have a report span multiple pages of HTML but be collated on the fly at the time of consumption into a single XBRL document.

Some regulators, by the way, have been getting around this problem, with what is in effect a parallel process i.e.: by asking companies to file a PDF document with full visual fidelity at the same time as the XBRL document. After all, the PDF looks and feels the way the preparer wanted it to and the XBRL is structured and contains the same information in a format that can be easily analysed. Honestly, this is not a great idea. It adds work to already overworked finance and compliance teams and, perhaps worse, creates uncertainty – what do you do if you have inconsistencies between the documents? Inline XBRL solves these problems.

My next article will look at why Inline XBRL is easier for Accounting Software Vendors to implement.