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XBRL Format

XBRL Format

Best of 09 WinnerJust had a leaflet from HMRC stating XBRL format will eventually replace PDF. Wondering How I will be able to convert my excel files to XBRL format. Currently I use CutePDF Printer for PDF. Phoned Online Services and They did not know much about it. Anyone know?


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By Anonymous
20th Aug 2009 18:47
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21st Aug 2009 11:01

We need a campaign to stop this
It is the maddest, most stupid thing that HMRC has ever contemplated. Luckily, it is some way off due to technical problems, but then of course Lord Carter probably did not understand tags.

What this means is that you are going to have to convert your documents, and probably, definitely double up your time just so that HMRC can get data onto its computers.

If you run a small company can get away with accounts on excel or word, and file your own returns. Not once XBRL comes in...

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By GaryMc
21st Aug 2009 11:25

Depends on the complexity
If the accounts and return are very simple then you can use the HMRC product which will do the XBRL work for you.

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21st Aug 2009 11:58

Another HMRC Blunder
Well I think that once representations are made, this will only apply to larger companies and there is bound to be an exemption limit. As a sole practicioner working from home I could not manage with this. Why are HMRC constantly throwing their weight about and making life harder when the system works fine as it is.

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By Anonymous
21st Aug 2009 13:37

Not only is this one of the stupidest things
that HMRC has done (it has been well known about for some time, by the way), it is not remotely "justified" by technology grounds at all (I will leave the learned technology experts on AWEB staff and participants to may be have a separate blog - and blows - on this.

I agree totally with Nichola that a campaign against this is well overdue.
Perhaps the fact that HMRC has issued "formal" notification to all and sundry will now give the necessary kick-start to such a campaign on grounds of mass unrest. HMRC's justification for this is completely misleading (other of course than their stroy that it will save them money. As usual, they fail to explain that it wil cost other people money. I had huge row with PwC over all this two years ago - PwC were pushing XBRL as "the" solution - well, it may be, but can we please have a wider debate.

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By Anonymous
21st Aug 2009 15:21

I've already
written to my MP.

Perhaps someone else would care to start a petition (if there isn't one already)

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27th Aug 2009 12:26

As much as I agree with the postings I think that this will be the format for the future.

HMRC are consolidationg and closing corporation tax offices and are working along the lines that analyse of the data will be one way for compliance.

Some software suppliers (Forbes is one) have already put in place XBRL software and David Forbes is too astute to waste money and time on something that might happen

Others are planning to introduce it over the next 12 months. So perhaps we should all plan to embrace it. As I see it after April 2011 all Company Accounts will have to be in this format and I see it as a opportunity to get new corporate clients.

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27th Aug 2009 12:55

Who will XBRL affect?
The whingers are like King Canute - trying to hold back the tide of technology.

All the suppliers of accounts production software will incorporate XBRL - if not, they will go out of business.

The introduction of XBRL accounts will only affect those die-hard DIY accountants who insist on preparing accounts using their own Excel templates (they probably also raise all their sales invoices using Excel). Their accounts templates may well fail to keep up with the disclosure requirements or require a considerable investment by them in unremunerative time to keep the templates up to date. These people will probably save money and improve quality by investing in accounts production software, which will of course be XBRL-enabled.

Or are we talking about client companies which prepare their own statutory accounts using Excel, based on whatever knowledge they have of the accounting and statutory disclosure requirements? It is time they handed over the preparation of their statutory accounts to professional accountants like us.

The vast majority of companies who get their statutory accounts prepared by professionals with accounts production software will not be affected by the introduction of XBRL.

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27th Aug 2009 13:17

Have they not learned from Companies House?
I was involved in correspondence about this some time ago.

When Companies House introduced on-line filing of unaudited abbreviated accounts they did it using a version of adobe acrobat with - I think - XBRL built in. First year I used it, it was a doddle, no problem.
The following year however, I had upgraded to a newer version of acrobat which was no longer compatible with the CH version. Result - I've been filing printed copies of my accounts ever since.

This really looks like a disaster in the making. Pdf files have been acceptable to HMRC and e-filing for a simple business like mine has been comparatively straighforward. Unless someone - and it almost certainly has to be either microsoft or adobe - can come up with a simple solution so that excel spreadsheets or word tables can be output in XBRL format as easily as pdf files can be created, the burden on the taxpayer is going to be horrendous.

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By GaryMc
27th Aug 2009 14:10

It isn't as simple as pdf output
PDF is effectively like a photocopy of the data

XBRL is a different kettle of fish so there is not going to be a 'Save as XBRL' option from Word as it would not know which pieces of data to tag and the tags to use on that data.

As Euan says, software providers will incorporate XBRL in their products and this will be the easiest way to tag your data for filing purposes.

XBRL is akin to a barcode for figures. It holds a lot of contextual information about a figure that can be extracted using the right tools - which is why HMRC like it. They will be able to cross reference certain pieces of information between the accounts and computation, for example.

One of the main problems with XBRL is that it has been started using the end product i.e. statutory filing. It really should have been pushed from the start of the process so that a figure that is entered from an invoice, for example, can be tracked all the way through the system up to and including statutory filing. Then the real benefits could have been exploited more.

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27th Aug 2009 15:11

Thank you Gary

The trouble is that up to now Quickbooks, which I use, doesn't produce accounts in statutory format, so once a year I dump the figures into excel to produce my annual accounts (Quickbooks does produce perfectly acceptable invoices!).
If quickbooks or the sage equivalent had a statutory format rear end (as it were) all would be fine - but it might have interesting implications for Iris, Viztopia and practice offices everywhere.

Under the new HMRC regime it looks as though I'll be keying figures in to HMRC's own software. This will probably not be a vast amount of work, but it will inevitably leave me with the impression that the system has got worse rather than better, however technically more advanced it may be.

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27th Aug 2009 17:05

Excel will find a way
Personally I think Excel will come up with an answer for this, or there will be a utilty like Cute PDF printer that will convert to XBRL format. Otherwise a lot of small operators like me will be totally up the creek. I note that it will not apply to self employed accounts, only statutory accounts?

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01st Sep 2009 17:05

Companies House - Credit where it's due

For what it's worth filing abbreviated accounts on line worked well this year.

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01st Sep 2009 20:18

XBRL, excel and pdf

"something like cute PDF" but only much much cleverer - it would have to spot which item in your excel spreadsheet was the turnover, what was cost of sales etc. It is a bit like asking for a handy little utility that could take your accounts in excel and produce a correctly completed CT600. Unless the spreadsheet is marked up in some way it is going to push the limits of current software technology.

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02nd Sep 2009 16:39

CT600 Online filing fine, but XBRL in time - not yet

I don't have any objection in principle to compulsory online filing. I currently use HMRC's own product and so far I've not been unable to file any client's return. I don't object, in the longer term, to XBRL filing, but this move is too far too fast. SME's just aren't ready, neither is the accounting profession, and nor, it seems, are software suppliers. I very much doubt if many SME's would otherwise use XBRL in the forseeable future, so there is a definite compliance cost.

The decision seems to have been made to force this through without consideration of the costs to companies and their advisers. It seems to be assumed that "it will be alright on the night" without any reasonable period for anyone - not least HMRC - to see if everything works, get used to new software(which I certainly will need), train staff, etc.

Ultimately, it will be brought in and it will work, but it should, however, take at least a year or two longer than the current schedule to do it properly and allow taxpayers/agent to properly prepare. This is, for me, one compulsion too far at the moment - and I have embraced many aspects of computerisation over the last 20 years.


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03rd Sep 2009 14:22



I wouldn't hold your  breath with Excel, Microsoft use another companies products to do its own filing with the SEC.

There are a few products out there that act as add-ins to Excel to allow you to tag your data but they all have USA origins so are not, as yet, setup for iXBRL. They are also not cheap at £400-£500 a seat. 

Rivet Software (Dragon Tag) was selected by Microsoft to do thier submission in the US and having spoken to them I am informed that they will be developing a solution to include iXBRL, but I did think they were having to play catch up with the revenue. I think the revenue has surprised most of the software houses with this so we will probably end up with poorly written code that we will have to work with in order to get things in in time.  

I think I'm in the camp that agrees that this is the way forward but I think the revenue are trying to go too fast and at the cutting edge of technology. It could all go horribly wrong and the revenue has not got a very good record on this!   At least the SEC gave years of notice, phased the approach and allowed companies to thoroughly test out thier filings even if they still were full of errors when the system went live.

I think we are going to have a very interesting 18 months ahead of us. 


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By 3569787
03rd May 2016 19:28

Don't wait for Excel or your accounting package!

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By GaryMc
03rd Sep 2009 16:03

Just to clarify

The CT600 short can be used where a company makes a trading loss so the HMRC product can be used by a company that makes a loss in the year.

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07th Sep 2009 11:02

Bank borrowings

re. '...reduces the cost of bank borrowings...'!

When you apply for a loan you have to send in your accounts. From a risk analysis standpoint having these in a computer format makes huge sense.... and it would certainly fit in with the current lending policy ... no XBRL accounts, sorry but we can't lend to you.



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By difdif
15th Dec 2009 12:29

Dragon Tag XBRL for Excel


I've just tried the Dragon Tag open source (free) XBRL add-in for Excel. It seems to work well, and allows you to mark-up the fields in an existing Excel sheet, then export to XBRL format. It can work in GB Pounds, and use the Companies House Accounts Taxonomy.

It's available here: SourceForge software site

Installation is a bit unusual (more complicated than just clicking Setup) but it is working fine now in Excel 2003.


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By GaryMc
15th Dec 2009 12:42

Open Source?

I can't see any mention of Dragon Tag being open source on the Rivet website.  Dragon Viewer was made open source but I can't see any announcement for the tagging side of things.

Edit - I have now found this so yes it is open source.

Also, I doubt that it deals with iXBRL as it is aimed primarily at the US SEC filing market so while you would be able to tag, you may not be able to convert to the correct format.

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By metcalr
31st May 2010 18:53

Careful with US products...

Great products for U.S market, do not produce iXBRL but XBRL, we have second time buyers who have had to look for alternatives after buying US products...on another thought, wonder how long it is before U.S gets iXBRL?



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30th Aug 2011 10:47

Excel input files - Outsource
You could always outsource your iXBRL work. At DataTracks (, we can handle files in multiple formats of word, excel and pdf. DataTracks will help you convert your financial statements and tax computations to the iXBRL format.

You could use our website pay-as-you-go service to send us your files.


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30th Aug 2011 18:03

divided opinion


The divide in this forum seems to be between Sme's who cannot afford the overhead of additional administrative effort or cost in preparing their accounts in what they consider to be some new arcane format, and the providers of accounting services who benefit from any increased complexity in the requirements of HMRC or Companies House because it brings them more business.

The Government, of course, benefits in taxation revenue by the advancing tide of increased accreditation without which a person or a business can no longer do the things it used to do. Everything has to be outsourced and with any payment to the outsourcee tax is extracted. The same applies by increasing the complexity of something we used to do ourselves.

Given that it has been often quoted that the major export of the UK is Financial Services one might expect a priority given to accreditation legislation or increased complexity in the tax system and the financial services industry such that nobody can do their tax returns any more or make investments of their own but has to hire an expert to do it for them.

If we all join the ranks of the Financial Services industry instead of making things or being entrepreneurial in the marketplace then perhaps we could improve the UK export trade balance and the taxation revenue at a single stroke.

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By alerce
03rd Nov 2011 16:12

iXBRL: Lord, spare me!

I used the HMRC software: ONCE. It's the worst application I have ever used in my life. I told them so, but what do they care?

I have more recently used a commercial package: respectable accounts/tax software company, not cheap. Having to prepare the accounts in iXBRL format has roughly quadrupled the time it takes to submit CT600 and accounts. How can I truly charge that extra to my small clients? MADNESS!


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