XBRL is reinventing
how we transmit and use data in
business. XBRL is not just for
SEC companies: Small businesses and
practitioners alike could soon be using
XBRL to submit information to bankers, the
IRS, and other agencies. XBRL will become
a part of every CPA’s practice.
XBRL is a language
for electronic communication of business
data. Each item is tagged with
information regarding various attributes.
XBRL-tagged data can be read by any
software that includes an XBRL processor
and thus can be easily transferred between
A draft of the new
XBRL US GAAP Taxonomies was released to
the public on Dec. 5, 2007.
Comments are due by April 4,
2008. The banking industry has
successfully used XBRL for its FDIC call
reports since the first quarter of 2005.
XBRL is already in use internationally.
This article explains
step by step how to tag a simple income
statement for a sample company.
A number of other XBRL tagging
tools are commercially available. The
authors recommend that users carefully
consider more than one tool in light of
their specific needs.
Mary E. Phillips, CPA,
Ph.D., Tammy E.
Bahmanziari, Ph.D., and
Robert G. Colvard, CPA,
Ph.D., CFP, are on the accounting faculty
of Middle Tennessee State University.
Their e-mail addresses are
XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting
Language) is reinventing how we transmit and use
data in business. A number of companies are
already submitting reports to the SEC through the
voluntary XBRL program. However, XBRL is not just
for SEC companies: Small businesses and
practitioners alike could soon be using XBRL to
submit information to bankers, the IRS, and other
agencies. In fact, XBRL will become a part of
every CPA’s practice, both large and small.
XBRL is a language for electronic communication
of business data. Each item (depreciation expense,
for example) is tagged with information about
various attributes, such as calendar year,
audited/unaudited status, currency, etc.
XBRL-tagged data can be read by any software that
includes an XBRL processor and thus can be easily
transferred between computers. To create XBRL
documents, you do not need to take an XML computer
programming course. Software is available to tag
data for clients, submit tagged data to various
recipients, and receive and analyze tagged data
from other sources.
the SEC awarded a contract to XBRL US to develop
taxonomies, which are dictionaries for tagged
data, for U.S. financial reporting. A draft of the
new XBRL US GAAP Taxonomies was released to the
public on Dec. 5, 2007. Comments are due by April
The banking industry has
successfully used XBRL for its FDIC call reports
since the first quarter of 2005. In addition, XBRL
is already in use internationally. For example,
China requires XBRL filings for its public
companies, and XBRL is being used in public
reporting in Japan, Spain, the Netherlands, the
U.K., and other countries.
The purpose of this
article is to give CPAs unfamiliar with XBRL an
opportunity to see that assigning XBRL tags to
financial statements does not require specialized
expertise, but rather is something that any CPA
can do with the help of software tools and a
little practice. The article explains step by step
how to tag a simple income statement for a sample
company. The authors selected Rivet Software’s
Dragon Tag to create their document because it is
currently the most common tool used by issuers
participating in the SEC’s voluntary filing
program (see Exhibit 1). A number of other XBRL
tagging tools are commercially available. The
authors recommend that users carefully consider
more than one tool in light of their specific
Step One: Download the taxonomies.
A taxonomy is a dictionary of tags
used in the markup process. For demonstration
purposes, go to the new US GAAP Taxonomies that
are currently undergoing public review at http://xbrl.us/usgaapreview/Pages/default.aspx and
select “Download Taxonomies.” Download the zip
file containing the taxonomies, and save it on
your hard drive, since this will be used in
setting up the entity’s profile in Step Three.
Step Two: Open Dragon Tag and the file you
wish to tag. In Dragon Tag,
choose “Start Excel with Dragon Tag Add-in.” If
the Rivet menu option is not visible in Excel, go
to Add-ins and select Rivet Software. Open the
Excel file you wish to tag. In our demonstration,
we are using Office 2007 and Dragon Tag 2006.
However, the process using Office 2003 and earlier
versions of Dragon Tag is very similar. For our
example, we have prepared a short income statement
to be tagged (see screenshot below).
Step Three: Set up the entity profile.
In this step you define the entity
for which you are reporting. Enter a unique ID for
the company, such as a tax ID or ticker symbol.
For public companies, a common identifier is the
company’s Central Index Key (CIK) code used in SEC
filings. In the “Address/URL” field, enter an
address that will help identify your unique ID
(typically www.sec.gov if the
entity is a publicly traded company), but the URL
must be an approved authoritative body or the Web
address for the entity (see screenshot below).
Select the U.S. dollar as the default
currency. Next, you must select the default
taxonomy. Choose “Browse” and locate the taxonomy
you downloaded in Step One. Click on the file and
unzip it. Next choose the “Ind” folder, the “CI”
folder, and finally
“us-gaap-ci-stm-dis-all-2007-12-31.xsd.” There are
many different industry taxonomies from which to
choose, but we chose Commercial and Industrial
(“CI”) for our demonstration. The remainder of the
fields (“Language,” “Label Role” and “View Type”)
will be completed automatically once you enter the
Step Four: Mark up the data.
To mark up data efficiently, it is
recommended that you set up a hopper to contain
all the common elements for the data items. A
hopper is a time-saving technique which applies
more than one setting to a data item at one time.
For instance, you do not want to enter the
calendar year for each item individually. To set
up a hopper for your reporting entity, choose
“Hoppers” at the bottom left side of the screen.
Then right click on “My Hoppers” and select “Add
Hopper.” Next, click the scenario (“Audited,”
“Unaudited” or “Proforma”), the calendar period
and the units in which your data is reported. The
precision factor determines the number of digits
for your data, and you may choose thousands or
millions for the scale factor. For instance, if
numbers are entered in thousands and you select
the scale as thousands, three zeroes will be added
to each number in the marked-up data (see
Notice: Other tagging
tools may handle precision and scale differently.
Creating a hopper
increases the efficiency and accuracy in marking
up data. To apply the hopper, highlight the cells
in the worksheet to which you want the hopper
applied, and then drag and drop the hopper into
the highlighted cells. Marked-up items are shaded
blue by default, but you can exercise the option
to use other colors for marked-up items and for
different validation results (Step Five).
Next select “Reporting Elements” from the
bottom left side of the screen. Choose the income
statement and expand the sections to see all line
items (see screenshot below). Identify the correct
tag from the taxonomy, and drag and drop it on the
appropriate cell in the spreadsheet. To confirm
that you have marked individual items correctly,
choose “Markup Data” and “Markup Review.”
When you have completed
marking up all the data items in the income
statement on the spreadsheet, you should create a
“Markup Report” and review it for any errors (see
screenshot below). If needed, you can use the
“Restore” option to go back to various points in
the process and redo problem areas.
Step Five: Validate.
Validation is completed in two
steps: (1) validation of the markup and (2)
validation of calculations. When validating
calculations, there are two options: Enhanced
Validation and Strict XBRL Validation. If you
choose Enhanced Validation, you will have errors
if only the summary (parent) elements are tagged
and the taxonomy’s detail (child) elements are not
present in the statement you are tagging. Strict
XBRL Validation allows you to omit some of the
child elements. Notice that for items labeled
“income/loss” in the taxonomy, you must enter a
negative for loss items (see screenshots below).
Step Six: Export. Once the
data has passed validation, you are ready to
export the data as an XBRL file. Select “Export
XBRL” from the dropdown menu. You may filter files
for export by worksheet for a particular client,
by files using a particular taxonomy, or by files
from a particular time period (see screenshot
Before saving the file,
there are two options for previewing: “XBRL
Preview” and “Web Preview.” The final screenshot
has an example of the XBRL Preview. It shows the
tagged data in XBRL format.
You have now created an
“instance document,” which is a document
containing tagged data for an individual company.
If you wish to see how the recipient of your
instance document will view your income statement,
Rivet Software offers a free viewing tool called
Dragon View. The SEC also has an XBRL viewer
(created by Rivet Software) on its Web site (
the public can view XBRL files submitted to the
SEC as part of its voluntary filing program. The
SEC is also making the source code for this viewer
available to the public.
View, you can export the instance document to
Excel, and the data is instantly ready for