Gartner Research

eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL): Not Just a Good Idea; It's the Law

Published: 15 September 2010

ID: G00206964

Analyst(s): Joe Maguire


The future of eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) is secure because many companies are required by law to use it for financial reporting. After XBRL permeates the financial-reporting landscape, companies will employ it in other areas, including reporting about non-financial data and as a data format for system integration. Although XBRL uses Extensible Markup Language (XML) as a foundation, it is more complex than XML; XML expertise does not suffice for XBRL mastery. In this assessment, Gartner Research Director Joe Maguire discusses XBRL, its building blocks, its relationship to financial reporting, its other uses, and its strengths and weaknesses.

Table Of Contents

Summary of Findings


  • Financial Reporting
    • Consistency and Transparency in Reporting
    • Reporting Jurisdictions and Other Report Consumers
    • Report Preparation
    • Report Interpretation
    • Auditing
    • The Confluence of Forces Affecting Financial Reports
  • Anatomy of an XBRL Report
    • XML File
    • XBRL Instance
    • Base Taxonomy
    • Extension Taxonomies
    • Linkbases
    • XBRL Specifications
    • How the Building Blocks of XBRL Support Financial Reporting
  • Software
    • Financial and Accounting Software
    • XBRL Tools
  • XBRL Is Not Just Financial Reporting
    • Reporting Non-Financial Data
    • System Integration
  • Setting Up an XBRL Reporting Environment
    • Seek an Existing Taxonomy
    • Map Financial Statements to the Existing Taxonomy
    • If Necessary, Create an Extension Taxonomy
    • If Necessary, Complete the Mapping
    • Create and Validate an XBRL Instance Document
    • Generate Reports in Human-Readable Formats
  • Strengths of XBRL
  • Weaknesses of XBRL
  • Hire XBRL Expertise
  • Know the Mandates
  • Get XBRL Tools
  • Use the XBRL Global Ledger Taxonomy
  • Know Which Taxonomies Apply to the Company
  • Keep the Financial Experts Involved
  • Be Able to Prove that Extension Taxonomies Are Valid

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