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Inline XBRL: You can have your XBRL and read it too

Lou Rohman, Vice President, XBRL Services, Merrill Corporation | June 17, 2016

Just as SEC filers are beginning to gain familiarity with the XBRL world, there’s a new data format making headlines: Inline XBRL, or iXBRL. On June 13 the SEC announced it is initiating a voluntary, time-limited program, permitting filings in Inline XBRL format. The program runs through March 2020, giving the SEC time to assess the usefulness of this new filing format.

While the announcement by the SEC is significant and shows that the SEC continues to strengthen its focus on structured data, there actually is no impact to filers today since Inline XBRL is a voluntary filing option. But there are a few things to know about Inline XBRL and what’s coming.

What is iXBRL?

Inline XBRL is a new filing format that merges the traditional HTML file with the XBRL instance document file. The result is a combined file that is submitted to the SEC which contains both the traditional financial statements and the XBRL tagging information. The XBRL tags are embedded in the traditional HTML document, thus removing the need for a separate XBRL file. In other words, filers can prepare a financial report that looks like a traditional financial statement and is appealing to the eye, but has all of the rich XBRL data embedded under the text.

You can have your XBRL and read it too.

Currently the human-readable rendering of the XBRL document isn’t very pretty. It looks something like financial statements, but is barely readable for someone unfamiliar with the XBRL rendering. This is where Inline XBRL shines. If you want to see the human-readable rendering of the iXBRL document, you will get the traditional HTML financial statements. If you only want to consume the XBRL information, you can extract just the XBRL data and perform your analysis using the tagged data. So you can have your XBRL and read it too!

Will iXBRL impact my organization’s current filing process?

The answer is no if you are currently using an integrated filing solution such as Merrill Bridge. In Merrill Bridge you already build and tag your financial statements in a single document, which is the path to providing the Inline XBRL format. This integrated process, supported by Merrill’s XBRL experts, is what guarantees that your XBRL tags are accurate, up-to-date and present your company in the truest light.

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