Extensible business reporting language (XBRL): Overview

XBRL: What it is, how it started and where to learn more about it.

What is XBRL?

XBRL is a globally recognized standard for electronic reporting of business and financial information. It involves tagging data with information that helps to define the data and therefore make it useful to consumers of data. For example, financial statements expressed in XBRL contain, with each data item, information about the accounting standards that were used in the preparation of that item.

The history of XBRL

Based on Extensible Markup Language (XML), XBRL was developed in the early 21st century and formalized under the direction of XBRL International, a global consortium of major companies and organizations that saw the benefit of transparent electronic reporting.

Since then, XBRL has been adopted in a number of countries around the world. One major adopter close to home is the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) in the U.S., which requires all companies filing with it and using US GAAP to file in XBRL.

XBRL in Canada

Canadian Foreign Private Issuers – SEC XBRL filing requirement

In March 2017, the SEC announced the availability of the IFRS Taxonomy for foreign private issuers that prepare financial statements under International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Consequently, Canadian companies listed with the SEC as a foreign private issuer (FPI) using IFRS will be required to begin filing their financial statements electronically using XBRL. There are over 300 such companies in Canada. FPIs that report under IFRS are subject to the SEC's XBRL filing requirements. Refer to the resources below for further information on the definition and determination of FPI status.

An FPI using IFRS will be required to submit its initial XBRL-tagged interactive data file with their first annual report on Form 20-F or Form 40-F for the fiscal year ending on or after December 15, 2017. These filers may voluntarily provide XBRL in advance of this date. Note there are also some specific additional filings that will require an XBRL filing – refer to the resources below for more details.

We have compiled the following list of resources to help you understand the new requirements:

More information

Additional information is available on the XBRL Canada website. XBRL Canada also holds periodic events such as webinars, workshops, and seminars that may be pertinent.