The XBRL standard and the xEBR taxonomy
In our opinion, XBRL may be the best answer to BRIS. It may probably be associated to other solutions, such as the e-CODEX network that brings the infrastructure but needs a BR-specific message format.
It seems that XBRL is the best candidate just because many initiatives launched by business registers are already using it in Europe. Millions of XBRL balance sheets are currently available online. It is the only common language shared by so many registers and it is therefore the best language to speak together.
One other important asset is the XBRL Europe Business Registers Working Group (xEBR WG). Created as a technical committee of XBRL Europe in 2008, to increase the coordination and interoperability for European business registrars’ XBRL efforts, the xEBR WG gathers members of the European XBRL jurisdictions, business registrars, data providers and software editors settled in the European Union.
Since 2010, it provides a common core reference taxonomy that includes main concepts for company identity and financial statements in Europe. This taxonomy has been presented previously on this blog: Interoperability Within Business Registers Using XBRL and is now available online on the XBRL Europe webpage. The xEBR members have built up a mapping of their national accountability systems and taxonomies with the xEBR core taxonomy. The latest use case set up by the working group proves the feasibility of a cross border analysis and rendering of local documents based on local taxonomies linked via the xEBR model and mappings.
Based on the xEBR taxonomy, the xEBR WG has more recently built up an electronic model for interconnection messages, which meets the directive requirements regarding the information that the registers will pass from one to another. The model relies on data defining the issuer as well as the addressee amongst the European registers, the nature of the occurred events (cross-border mergers, head-branch relationship, crossing off…), and the profile (identity) and financial information of the concerned companies.
The xEBR taxonomy has the advantage to cover all the required data and to structure them through a common logical architecture. As the registers already dispose of files in the XBRL format (especially for financial data), they can benefit from the existing direct mappings to link their data with the xEBR elementnames in the xEBR taxonomy. Moreover, the proposed model has the essential advantage to incorporate links which leads to the original and verified data registered in the official register data base instead of copying them in the message. This methodology meets the fundamental requirement that each register will always keep the control on data that it stores locally.
Some registers acting on behalf of the working group presented this model to the European Commission representatives on February 28th 2013 in Brussels. And confirmed their hope to develop this initiative with the global community of registers, to meet the directive requirements and offer additional exchanges.
Going further than the directive’s requirements
Indeed, the use of XBRL and of the xEBR taxonomy also offers the opportunity to go further than the directive requirements. Business registers such as Infogreffe (France) and Infocamere (Italy) decided to capitalize on the work undertaken by the xEBR working group in order to set up a regular data exchange between them. It uses the same message model as those that were presented to the EC. Web Services (some of them are presently under development) provide the technical infrastructure to send and receive the messages.
In this example, XBRL is used to connect two registers in an extended use of the taxonomy, which covers a large perimeter of concepts, wider than the data required by the draft implementing acts or wider than the existing dataset which are currently exchanged on EBR or forecasted by UBL.
Even if not foreseen by the directive, XBRL also allows including electronically signed PDF documents. This is quite useful to attach the legal acts to the interconnection messages. This benefit is to facilitate the agreement between registers on the transmitted information; even if the related companies do not transmit it by themselves (as some national laws require the reception of the official act before doing any change in the registered data).
In addition, XBRL provides consistency checks that ensure the quality of exchanged data and provide multilingual labels (the xEBR taxonomy is translated into nine languages). For all these reasons, we consider that XBRL represents today the most advanced solution to fulfill the European Commission Interconnection Directive requirements. Eventually, as it is extensible by nature, it also appears to be the best option to offer extended services.