U.S. businesses could be required to file financial reports formatted
in XBRL, top Securities and Exchange Commission officials said November
13, 2007. John White, head of the SEC's division of corporate finance,
and Conrad Hewitt, the SEC's chief accountant, told the Financial
Executives International Conference in New York that the SEC is in the
process of shaping an XBRL (Extensible Business Reporting Language)
proposal to make it mandatory in required filings. The SEC currently
has a voluntary program for tagging financial documents with XBRL.
Microsoft, General Electric and United Technologies are already
participating in the program. A member of the XML family, XBRL is a
machine-readable language for business and financial data. Instead of
treating financial information as a block of text -- as in a standard
Internet page or a printed document -- it provides an identifying tag
for each individual item of data. The open-source, royalty-free language
is being developed by an international non-profit consortium of
approximately 450 major companies, organizations and government agencies.
Of the countries attending the conference, China is moving fastest on
XBRL, already requiring interactive data filing for the full financial
statements of all listed companies in quarterly, half-year and annual
reports. Japan has mandated XBRL for all public companies by the end
of the second quarter of next year. Korea has instituted a voluntary
XBRL program that began last month. Almost 30 companies are already
filing their full financial information using XBRL.