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What is XBRL?

XBRL stands for eXtensible Business Reporting Language. It is an XML based computer language that enables the main components of financial reports to have standard tags attached to them which describe and identify them. This allows reports to be analysed and compared quickly and easily and provides a single, consistent format for the storage of financial information across different regulatory bodies, taxation authorities and countries, even if the text in the reports is written in different languages. XBRL greatly increases the speed at which data can be processed and stored, reduces the level of error when recording data and also allows automatic data comparison and checking.

The specific version of XBRL which HMRC in the UK have decided to require the usage of is iXBRL which stands for in-line XBRL. This means that not only are the tags applied to the data in exactly the same way as regular XBRL, but the resulting file is capable of being viewed by the human eye using a web browser. It retains an element which is more user-friendly compared with the standard XBRL format.

From HMRC’s website:

Legislation, which came into force on 1 January 2010, means that it is compulsory for companies to send their Company Tax Returns online using iXBRL for accounts and computations. It will no longer be acceptable for most companies to send either the accounts or computations on paper or as a PDF attachment to an online return. Unincorporated charities, clubs and societies may use either iXBRL or PDF for their accounts, but any computations must be in iXBRL format. The new requirements are effective for returns delivered on or after 1 April 2011, for any accounting periods ending after 31 March 2010.

As a transitional measure – until the accounts template forming part of the HMRC filing software can accommodate the format of a charity’s accounts – small charities will be able to file accounts in either PDF or iXBRL. Any computations must be in iXBRL format.