What is iXBRL and why should SEC introduce a standardized reporting language?

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in US, had mandated financial report filings in two formats – XBRL and HTML.  This presents a few challenges when compared to an iXBRL standard:



Readability with two output files The XBRL is machine readable but not human readable.  The HTML file is best suited for human readability but not machine readability.
Multiple Versions The same information is required to be filed in two formats, adding to compliance burden and costs.
Cumbersome Change Management Changes to financial facts need to be updated in both XBRL and HTML documents.  This increases the time required to make changes, and also makes the review process prone to errors.
Custom labels Companies at times implement custom extensions to the XBRL standard labels to facilitate a desired manner of rendering labels.  Such extensions have the effect of reducing the usability of data.There is no provision to customize labels in iXBRL.


iXBRL (Inline XBRL) is a development over XBRL.  An iXBRL file is created using a well-formed XBRL document, with rendering information added to the same file as an additional layer.  Hence, an iXBRL file brings financial facts as well as rendering data, into a single file.  One of the main advantages of iXBRL is that a single (iXBRL) file can meet the requirements of data usability and rendering.

Many regulators across the globe have mandated iXBRL for their regulatory filings.

According to the highlights of the joint meeting held between Center for Audit Quality and SEC Regulations Committee, dated 27 March 2012, SEC Staff are exploring whether to recommend to the Commission to give filing corporations the option to file interactive data in iXBRL mode.  The table below captures the key benefits of iXBRL.

Perceived Benefit


Seamless Readability A single iXBRL file meets the dual requirements of human readability as well as machine readability.
 Simplification of the Filing Process Since a single file is sufficient to meet compliance requirements, the filing process is simplified.
Easy Change Management Review of changes to financial data is needed for only one file.
Fine-grained Control of Rendering Since the iXBRL file also contains embedded rendering information, companies will have a higher degree of control on the final rendering of the document.  In iXBRL, “what you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG).  Hence, companies need not worry about rendering issues.


Preparation of iXBRL involves an additional effort compared to preparation of XBRL files.  However, this additional effort is insignificant when compared to the effort involved in maintaining two versions of the same report as outlined earlier.

At DataTracks, we help over 800 companies in the US for their SEC iXBRL and EDGAR reporting requirements and qualified utilities for their FERC XBRL filings. We also provide typesetting services for the financial statements. Our team prepares your regulatory reports with our own software, Rainbow. It is capable of processing large datasets and for preparing error-free reports.