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CPA Exam Business Environment And Concepts

By Eric Anderson

The X Factor: What Is the Difference between XML and XRBL?

While the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) has included pre-test questions on XBRL for several testing windows of the Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) section of the Uniform CPA Exam, XBRL still seems to confuse people.

First, this is a very, very short Information Technology (IT) Glossary:

Hypertext Markup Language is HTML. It is a very standard way of marking up a Word document so that it can be translated onto the World Wide Web, allowing the document to be viewed in a browser. HTML provides a pre-defined set of tags which can describe how content appears in a browser window, such as specifying the color, size, and font of the text.

HTML is the platform independent and can complement any format because it makes XML data viewable on any computer, cell phone, tablet, or PDA device. HTML allows the delivery of structured, rich data in a consistent way.

Extensible Markup Language is XML, which allows you to store information in a file. An XML document is a text file which has tags defined by the XML conventions. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) created and maintains this standard language so that everyone posting to the web abides by the same protocols.

XML will not define or limit tags because it is a framework in which tags are defined and the relationships between them. Within the rules, you can create tags for anything you wish and define what they mean to you. You and your group can get together, create your own tags and set the definitions so that you are all using the tags in a consistent manner.

You might think of XML as the rules which govern electronic data information. It does not replace HTML. XML can store the information which is held in an XBRL document.

The eXtensible Business Reporting Language (EBRL) is designed to facilitate and accelerate the business reporting of financial and business data via electronic communication. The benefits to those who share or supply financial data are the ability to prepare, analyze, and communicate business information with greater cost savings, improved accuracy and reliability while increasing efficiency.

The goal is that XBRL becomes the consistent way of producing, storing and transmitting business financial information throughout the world since it not dependent upon a spoken language such as English, Swahili, or Chinese to function.

XBRL has very broad applications to financial and business data. This is a short list of what it can:

* Create business reports from a company to central banks and any government regulator (e.g., in taxation). * Facilitate the exchange of information between central banks, institutions, and government departments. * File loan reports, applications, and credit risk assessments. * Create a company’s internal and external financial reports. * Provide a consistent framework to describe accounting documents and authoritative accounting literature created by the authorities. * Create a safe environment in which financial and statistical data can be analyzed, stored or exchanged with another entity.

A non-profit, international consortium created this open standard language with no license fees. EBRL is part of XML but XML is much larger than EBRL.

Here is an analogy: all of Shakespeare’s sonnets are poems but not all his poems are sonnets. A poem is a composition displayed in verse. A sonnet is a poem that has only 14 lines and follows other rules I won’t bore you with here.

In the same way, XBRL is an application of XML. All XBRL is part of XML but not all XML is part of XBRL.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Anderson, Eric "CPA Exam Business Environment And Concepts." CPA Exam Business Environment And Concepts. 24 Jul. 2010. 22 Feb 2016 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Anderson, E (2010, July 24). CPA Exam Business Environment And Concepts. Retrieved February 22, 2016, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Anderson, Eric "CPA Exam Business Environment And Concepts"

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