Preface and contents


The Accountant's Guide to XBRL (9th Edition)

Clinton E. White, Jr., DBA, MBA
Professor of Accounting & MIS
Univesity of Delaware



In 2014, XBRL reporting reached several significant milestones. First, all companies reporting to the SEC using U.S. GAAP are now required to include financial statements with footnote disclosures tagged in detail in XBRL format. As a result, the SEC’s EDGAR database is becoming a massive repository of detailed interactive financial information. Second, all companies reporting to the SEC no longer have limited liability for the accuracy of their XBRL filings. One result is that a significant number of companies are reaching out to their accountants to provide assurance services related to XBRL financials and the Big 4 and others are providing them. Third, companies are beginning to include XBRL tagging in their financial statement preparation business processes; as opposed to an “add-on” event. A new class of software, referred to as “disclosure management” is now available in large ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) packages that adds XBRL mapping to the financial statement preparation process. Fourth, iXBRL (inline XBRL) is now required for reporting financials and tax information in Ireland and the UK and the SEC is beginning to investigate its appropriateness for U.S. reporting. Fifth, the AICPA has published the Statement of Position 13-2 (SOP 13-2) titled “Performing Agreed-Upon Procedures Engagements That Address the Completeness, Mapping, Consistency or Structure of XBRL-Formatted Information.” Sixth, the AICPA has issued an initial set of Audit Data Standards (ADSs) designed to “standardize the format of data fields and files commonly requested for audit and related purposes” implemented in XBRL GL (Global Ledger). The ADS and the Corporate Actions Taxonomy, for the standardization of terms and communication about corporate actions/events relevant to shareholders (released in 2012), are examples of XBRL taxonomies being develop for uses beyond financial reporting.

Outside of the U.S., the European Parliament, part of the legislative branch of the European Union (EU), is moving forward with implementing XBRL for financial and tax reporting. The China Ministry of Finance has mandated the use of a national General Purpose XBRL taxonomy for banking, insurance, capital markets, taxation, and audit. Along with XBRL standardized business reporting initiatives in Australia and the Netherlands and tax reporting mandates in Ireland, the U.K., Germany, and Denmark, among others, XBRL is the standard upon which computerized financial and performance reporting is being built. In addition, the Interoperable Taxonomy Architecture Project, which has been working to achieve the convergence of the IFRS, EDINET (Japan), and U.S. GAAP XBRL taxonomies, has published a new edition of the XBRL Global Filing Manual. The GFM is meant to provide guidance that applies globally to the preparation, filing, and validation of XBRL financial documents.

The current version of the U.S. GAAP XBRL taxonomy was released at the end of January 2014. The 2015 version is expected to be released in January 2015. The 2009 U.S. GAAP XBRL taxonomy contained about 14,000 elements each representing an accounting or financial reporting concept while the 2014 taxonomy contains over 16,000. Many of the changes and additions are a result of the SEC and FASB working closely together to monitor SEC XBRL filings and business reporting processes with the goal of improving the robustness of the U.S. GAAP taxonomy and the effectiveness of corporate financial reporting. This process will continue with XBRL taxonomies and financial reporting business processes improving and evolving over time. In addition, auditors and accountants will play an increasingly important role in assuring the quality and reliability of XBRL-formatted financial information.

The eight edition of The Accountant’s Guide to XBRL reflects the current state of XBRL reporting. As you will see, my approach is that a person needs to understand the basics of the XML foundation in order to understand XBRL. A major new XML vocabulary for e-business documents is UBL (the Universal Business Language). I use it to introduce XML in Chapters 2 and 3. I came to understand that XML is not simply another “language” with which to write code but instead a computing paradigm on which to build vocabularies for other purposes, such as, business documents and financial and business operations reporting. I have researched, published articles, taught professional workshops and seminars, and built XBRL into a capstone course for accounting majors at the University of Delaware. Along the way, I have been fortunate to have the input of a number of academics using my books in various ways in various college courses. I would like to thank them for their invaluable feedback and suggestions: Professor Brad Tuttle, University of South Carolina, Professor Uday Murthy, University of South Florida, Professor Andy Luzi, California State University at Fullerton, Professor Graham Gal, University of Massachusetts, Professor Steven Hornik, University of Central Florida, Professor Lois Mahoney, Eastern Michigan University, Professor Terry Glandon, University of Texas, El Paso, and Professors Rick Elam and Mitch Wenger, University of Mississippi.

What's new in the ninth edition

  • More coverage of policy, footnote disclosure, and dimensional tagging
  • A tutorial and exercise on creating iXBRL instance documents
  • An introduction to the AICPA Audit Data Standards
  • A tutorial on the Corporate Actions Taxonomy and creating instance documents
  • New exercises and examples
Who Should Read This Book
This book is for accounting and MIS academics and their students, practicing accountants, and anyone else involved with computerized financial and business operations reporting. If you fit into one of these categories, you will get the following from this book:
  • A basic understanding of XML documents and the XML language foundation
  • A basic understanding of UBL (the Universal Business Language)
  • A basic understanding of XBRL and how to use XBRL taxonomies to build XBRL instance documents
  • A basic understanding of the XSLT processing language to transform UBL and XBRL documents into Web pages
  • A basic understanding of SEC filing packages and the use of the SEC interactive data tools
  • A basic understanding of the use of XSLT for analyzing SEC XBRL filings
  • A basic understanding of the use of the 2013 U.S. GAAP and IFRS XBRL taxonomies
  • A basic understanding of iXBRL and instance documents
  • A basic understanding of the AICPA’s Audit Data Standards
  • A basic understanding of the Corporate Actions Taxonomy and instance documents



  1. Organization of This Book
  2. This book is organized according to the scheme that the author uses to teach XBRL to senior accounting majors at the University of Delaware and to accounting academics and practitioners in workshops and seminars. The chapters are designed to be read sequentially but several teaching schemes are discussed at the end of Chapter 1 in the section titled Notes on Teaching.
    • Chapter 1 - The Accountant’s Guide to XBRL: This chapter gives a non-technical introduction to XBRL, the role of markup in computerized information processing, and the business reasons for XBRL
    • Chapter 2 - The XML Document Foundation: UBL (the Universal Business Language) is a new XML vocabulary that defines a library of business documents to be used in e-business relationships. This chapter introduces the rules that all XML documents must follow and the basic XML foundation by way of UBL. Like UBL, XBRL is an XML vocabulary for a special purpose – financial and business operations reporting
    • Chapter 3 - The XML Language Foundation: Both the UBL and XBRL specifications were created using the tools provided in the XML family of languages. As such, this chapter introduces three members of the XML language foundation necessary for understanding XML vocabularies (e.g. XBRL): the XML Schema language, XML Namespaces, and XLink
    • Chapter 4 - XBRL Instance Documents: All XBRL documents are referred to as “instance documents.” This chapter introduces the rules that XBRL documents must follow to be valid “instance documents,” creating XBRL financial statements, and extension taxonomies
    • Chapter 5 - Transforming XBRL Documents with XSLT: XBRL instance documents are meant to be read by software applications. As such, they are likely to be “transformed” for many different purposes including Web pages for human consumption. This chapter introduces a simple scripting language to transform XML documents into human-readable form as Web pages and its use for the analysis of the contents of XBRL documents
    • Chapter 6 - IFRS, iXBRL, the Audit Data Standards, Corporate Actions & SEC Analytics: This chapter covers SEC reporting packages, XBRL validation, analysis with XSLT, the IFRS, iXBRL, the AICPA’s Audit Data Standards, and the Corporate Actions taxonomy.