XBRL comes of age

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Ten years after its introduction, XBRL, eXtensible Business Reporting Language, is reaching maturity in terms of technology and acceptance according to speakers at the 17th XBRL International Conference held in Eindhoven, Netherlands on May 5-8, 2008. New projects are ready to go live in many of the 37 member countries, said Tony Fragnito, CEO of XBRL International, including two in the Netherlands and Australia that are designed to reduce the administrative burden to businesses of regulatory compliance by permitting multiple agencies to use XBRL data.

On May 15th the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is expected to rule on the use of XBRL, called Interactive Data by the Commission, in financial statements of U.S. public companies.

To coincide with the conference, JustSystems announced that it is contributing intellectual property rights for its invention of XBRL rendering technologies to XBRL International, the standards body responsible for the oversight of the XBRL specification. The company's goal is to contribute to the development of software through one standard on an open platform, according to Diane Mueller, vice president of XBRL development at JustSystems. The cost of viewing systems and the ease of access for individuals has been one stumbling block in XBRL acceptance, speakers acknowledged.

Olivier Servais, XBRL Team Leader, International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC) Foundation pointed to the rebranding of XBRL in the U.S. as "Interactive Data" and as "Standard Business Reporting" in Australia and the Netherlands as another sign of maturity, in a recent IASCF newsletter. "We are close to the time when we shall no longer talk about XBRL … because XBRL is broadly implemented."

Speaking at the conference, Servais said that XBRL has played a "crucial role in International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) adoption." Use of XBRL "eases the way that IFRS are implemented."

Emphasizing that he was unable to say anything about the SEC's decision on XBRL before next week's meeting, David Blaszkowsky, director, Office of Interactive Disclosure at the SEC, spoke to ways investors and others might use the tagged data. "From earliest accounts in cuneiform writing to the HTML filings on EDGAR, financial reporting has been locked into a page format, without structure."

The goal of the Netherlands taxonomy project, which is now live, is to reduce administrative cost of regulatory compliance by 25 percent. Harm Jan van Burg of the Netherlands Government Treasury announced that two major banks in the Netherlands, ABN-AMRO and Rabobank, have signed on to the project to evaluate credit risk using XBRL data. The project is expected to lower the cost of borrowing for small businesses in Holland. Van Burg anticipates 10,000 filings by July.

The government of Australia is supporting the Standard Business Reporting (SBR) project to ease regulatory reporting and enhance its efficiency and accuracy. Paul Madden, programme manager, Standard Business Reporting, Australian Government Treasury says that when completed, the project will bring together multiple regulators across states and territories, 12 agencies in all, that require financial based reports, on a standard language (XBRL) on an electronic channel.

Spain has led other countries in Europe in requiring XBRL use by financial institutions, which are now using XBRL reporting to identify money laundering schemes.

Fragnito announced the formation of a new organization for Europe, XBRL Europe, headed by Conor O'Kelly, first vice chairman of XBRL International. The mission of the new organization is to seek cohesion, the development of coherent technology across regions and support the alignment of culture and business.

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