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Assessing the 07/31/2000 XBRL Taxonomy for Digital Financial Reports of Commercial and Industrial Firms

Bovee, Matthew, Ettredge, Michael L., Srivastava, Rajendra P. and Vasarhelyi, Miklos A., "Assessing the 07/31/2000 XBRL Taxonomy for Digital Financial Reports of Commercial and Industrial Firms" (July 23, 2001). Available at SSRN:


    Extensible business reporting language (XBRL) is an application of XML (extensible markup language) for digital business information. Observers predict that XBRL soon will give many firms the technological capability for providing near-continuous financial reporting through the Web, among many other uses. This study evaluates the 07/31/2000 release of the XBRL taxonomy for the digital reporting of company financial data by commercial and industrial (C&I) firms. We attempt to match each line item in the annual financial statements of 67 companies with an XBRL 'tag' from the hierarchical C╠taxonomy. Our interest centers on 'special attention' (difficult-to-match) items. Results for such items are broken out by type of statement, by industry, and by quintile of score on a proxy for propensity to adopt XBRL.

    Special attention items fall into two general classes. 'Grouped' items occur when two or more taxonomy tags are collectively listed as a single item in a financial statement, and cannot be identified with a higher-level tag in the taxonomy. Remaining special attention items include those believed to be specific to an industry or firm, and items for which new tags arguably should be created. Results suggest that the taxonomy captures a large portion (> 90-95%) of the financial statement data from a variety of industries, but that industry-specific taxonomies still are warranted. Suggested new tags, possible fixes for generic problems in matching line-items to tags, and policy implications of the need for stability in the taxonomy and comparability through its use are discussed. The potential effects of the taxonomy on the quality of financial information in XBRL-generated reports also are discussed, using quality dimensions found in the Financial Accounting Standard Board's Statement of Financial Accounting Concepts No. 2.

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