The Securities and Exchange Commission said Monday it will allow companies to voluntarily file structured financial statement data in a format known as Inline XBRL. 

The initiative represents another step in the SEC’s continuing efforts to modernize and enhance its requirements to facilitate transparency of, and access to, companies’ disclosures. SEC rules require operating companies to structure financial statement data in their filings, including annual and quarterly reports, using Extensible Business Reporting Language, or XBRL, a machine-readable data-tagging format that is supposed to allow investors and analysts to more easily compare financials across different companies and industries.

Companies currently are required to provide this XBRL structured data as an exhibit to these filings. Since these requirements were first adopted, the technology has evolved to the point where filers can now integrate XBRL structured data within their HTML filings through a format known as Inline XBRL.

The SEC issued an order Monday under the Securities Exchange Act to allow companies to file structured financial statement data required in their annual and quarterly reports that is integrated within their HTML filings through March 2020. The Inline XBRL format has the potential to provide a number of benefits to companies and users of the information.  According to the SEC’s order, the format could decrease filing preparation costs, improve the quality of structured data, and, by improving data quality, increase the use of XBRL data by investors and other market participants.

The experience and feedback received from the use of this option could also facilitate the development of Inline XBRL preparation and analysis tools, provide investors and companies with opportunities to evaluate its usefulness, and help inform any future Commission rulemaking in this area, the SEC noted.

The EDGAR system has been upgraded to facilitate the use of Inline XBRL. An updated EDGAR Filer Manual provides the technical requirements needed for filers to begin using Inline XBRL.

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