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Financial reporting - adoption of eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL)

Standard identifier: 
Standard Type: 
Guidance Documents
Approved: Recommended
Date of Standard: 
Friday, 27 March 2015
Target audience: 
Data modellers
ICT procurers
System developers or programmers

XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language) is an open international set of specifications for the electronic exchange of business reporting information. Analysis of ESCS requirements for the exchange of financial information showed the use of XBRL could meet the identified requirements.

The ISB approved the use of XBRL in the education, skills and children’s services sector as the standard for the disclosure of financial statements and it may also be used for other aggregated data exchanges. XBRL specifications have been implemented successfully in the UK public sector by Companies House and HMRC.

The business case for adoption of XBRL can be found in the ISB Board papers , which includes information about the assessment of XBRL.  Potential benefits include:

  • Improves accuracy and efficiency by cutting out human error when re-keying financial information, and frees up resources to focus on higher-value activities
  • Reduces the time from submission of data to analysis  - data is more “up-to-date” enabling better evidence-based policy decisions
  • Enables better identification of risks, but also more systematic examination of activities/providers that are traditionally viewed as low risk
  • Reduces burdens as audited financial reports can be submitted in exactly the same format to more than one regulator
  • Supports the “Digital by Default” agenda

Further information on the XBRL specifications is available here:

Implementation of XBRL requires an XBRL taxonomy which is a dictionary of data items used to tag a financial statement.  The Financial Reporting Council (FRC), which sets the accounting standards framework for the UK, has published XBRL taxonomies to align with the FRS 101, FRS 102 and IFRS accounting standards:

Implementers should use the taxonomy that conforms to the accounting standards used in the preparation of their financial statements.  The ISB will consider developing an ESCS-specific extension to a publically available taxonomy if there is sufficient stakeholder interest.