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Because XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language) is so important across the industry, we have put together this glossary. The XBRL Glossary defines terms that pertain to XBRL standard. The following definitions are designed to give you an understanding of technical terms regarding the XBRL standard.

  • XBRL

    An XML-based technology standard that improves the way information is created, processed, distributed and analyzed by using "tags" that package information such as definitions, labels, references and time period around individual numbers or text. 

  • Linkbase

    XBRL linkbases and XBRL Schemas define together an XBRL taxonomy. Taxonomies with only the core elements (concepts) defined in an XBRL Schema would be useless. The purpose of XBRL linkbases is to combine labels and references to the concepts as well as define relationships between those concepts. There are five different kinds of linkbases. Each has a special purpose: 

    The label linkbase: 
    The goal of the XBRL Consortium is to create and develop a world-wide standard for electronic business reporting. This requires the taxonomies to represent business data in multiple language. Therefore it is possible to create an element (concept) in the taxonomy with labels in different languages and or for different purposes e.g. a short label PPE compared to its long label Property, plant and equipment. Those labels are stored and linked to their respective elements in a label linkbase. 

    The reference linkbase: 
    Most of the elements appearing in taxonomies refer to particular concepts defined by authoritative literature. The reference linkbase stores the relationships between elements and the references e.g. IAS, para 68. The layer does not store the regulations themselves but the source identification names and paragraphs. 

    The presentation linkbase: 
    Business reports are in general organized into identifiable data structures e.g. a Balance Sheet. The presentation linkbase stores information about relationships between elements in order to properly organize the taxonomy content. This enables a taxonomy user to view a one dimensional representation of the elements. 

    The calculation linkbase: 
    The idea of a calculation linkbase is to improve quality of an XBRL report (XBRL instance). The calculation linkbase defines basic calculation validation rules (addition/subtraction), which must apply for all instances of the taxonomy. 

    The definition linkbase: 
    The definition linkbase stores other pre-defined or self-defined relationships between elements. For example a relationship can be defined that the occurrence of one concept within an XBRL instance mandates the occurrence of other concepts. 

  • Taxonomy

    A dictionary of terms used to describe a particular reporting situation such as the XBRL US GAAP line items which include terms such as net income, EPS, cash, etc. Each term has specific attributes that help define it including label and definition and potentially references. 

    An XBRL taxonomy can also be defined as an electronic description and classification system for the contents of financial statements and other business reporting documents. Taxonomies may represent hundreds or even thousands of individual business reporting concepts, mathematical and definitional relationships among them, along with text labels in multiple languages, references to authoritative literature, and information about how to display each concept to a user. 

  • Dimension

    A tool in the XBRL standard that allows preparers to leverage XBRL tags to create simple tables and more complex pivot-style tables within financial statements. 

  • Extension

    A company-defined line item that is not available in the current taxonomy. Preparers have the ability to create new custom terms if they have a very unique reporting situation that is not available in the taxonomy terms. An XBRL extension is a taxonomy that extends an existing base taxonomy. The extension taxonomy may include, exclude or change information from the base taxonomy. The extension can be regarded as an overlay which modifies the structure of the taxonomy, adds and prohibits elements, their labels, linking, order of appearance and other characteristics. The main idea behind an extension is to encourage business users to tailor the taxonomy to their specific needs, while using the elements of the base taxonomy to ensure comparability. 

  • Instance Document

    An XBRL-enabled document. XBRL Instances contain the reported data with their values and "contexts". Instances must be linked to at least one taxonomy which define their contexts, labels or references. 

  • Tags

    Individual elements within a taxonomy, e.g., net income. 

  • Labels
    If an element already exists within the standard taxonomy that can be used to represent your information but you do not like the standard label, do not add an additional element, just change the label.
  • Schema
    XBRL Schemas together with linkbases define an XBRL taxonomy. The purpose of XBRL schemas is to define taxonomy elements (concepts) and give each concept a name and define its characteristics. It can be regarded as a container where elements and references to “linkbase” files are defined.


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