XBRL Unpacked

“It would be a mistake to see XBRL simply as an additional regulatory burden.”


As SA’s journey towards implementing the XBRL standard begins, it’s critical that companies look beyond compliance to understand how the effort to adopt XBRL can benefit them.

Currently, 120 companies have embarked on a six-week pilot to help the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) develop an XBRL taxonomy for SA. If everything goes as planned, the standard will be finalised by 1 July, and companies that meet the minimum criteria as mandated by the CIPC will have to produce their annual financial statements using XBRL, beginning with the latest signed-off set of financial accounts.

Clearly, the CIPC’s ostensible motive for mandating XBRL is to build efficiencies in companies in order to speed up the process of reviewing financials, improve on accuracy and build capacity for humans to focus on tasks that require insights and analytical review.

This move will also ensure SA remains aligned to global reporting trends. However, it would be a mistake to see XBRL simply as an additional regulatory burden; it has gained worldwide traction because it offers many benefits to numerous stakeholders across the whole financial sector.

What is XBRL?

XBRL, or Extensible Business Reporting Language, is a global standard for exchanging business information, based on XML (Extensible Mark-up Language) that is used to encode financial documents. iXBRL (Inline XBRL) is a development of XBRL that both humans and computers are able to read and analyse. Many countries are putting XBRL to practical use, with the number of implementations growing rapidly around the world.

At present, most companies transmit their financial information in one or other digital format; for example, PDF, which facilitates easy distribution and storage. However, anyone wanting to analyse data or to aggregate it with financial, or non-financial, data from their own or other companies, would have to transfer the data manually into their own or third-party systems. This process is laborious, technically challenging and introduces the possibility of error.

XBRL tags can be read by any XBRL-enabled software and the tagged information (financial and non-financial) extracted automatically. This means the data can be passed between computer systems, with human intervention needed only in the case of exceptions. This process reduces the cost of communicating and maintaining data, while improving its usability, integrity and compliance. In addition, if XBRL is used as the standard, data can be retransmitted without specially transforming it to other formats or languages required by further recipients.

It’s all about big data

Perhaps these benefits could best be summed up under the heading of big data. XBRL for companies’ financial data can be compared to an older retail technology, namely bar codes. There is so much more to be learned from viewing a bar code than just price – companies are able to discern consumer buying habits and identify products that sell well together.

XBRL tagging will create a standardised financial view of companies’ financial data. Investors, regulators, revenue services and companies themselves will be able to pick up on revenue trends, plus identify gaps and strategies to exploit in the future.

As data volumes multiply, so the ability to create high quality, accurate analysis requires the data input be standardised. XBRL tagging provides a format that can be used in analytical programmes easily. XBRL enables standardised line items to be tagged, allowing the comparison of company data quickly, regardless of industry, country or even the language of the company report.

Now, imagine how a company could use this data. Firstly, it could identify financial trends in its own accounts over the years; it could also compare its own figures with those of its peers, locally and internationally. This could be of huge value in pinpointing both risks and opportunities.

In the European Union, the first wave of XBRL was implemented 15 years ago.

Currently, it is using XBRL to develop an array of cross-border applications, including the creation of the European Financial Transparency Gateway (EFTG). Using blockchain technology, the EFTG will provide a way to publicly share standardised financial information for companies across the European Union.

Another application of XBRL by the Single Resolution Board, in Europe, is to use XBRL data to identify banks at risk of defaulting, in advance.

The use of big data will enable companies to reflect a standardised view of their data, which will highlight companies whose financials are out of sync with their peers. This kind of information could help boards, investors and regulators identify potential problems early on.

Ensuring the right data is used

The move to XBRL will also have benefits in the social media age. Activists of various persuasions are starting to use social media to comment on companies’ financial performances. While there is little businesses can do to control this, at least if companies apply a common data standard in the format they publish and share data externally, it will create a level of transparency, ensuring comparisons being made are using the right data, with less scope for data interpretation.

The significance of implementing XBRL in SA in 2018 is that the country could begin to lead fellow members of the Southern African Development Community on the same path of digitising financial data. This will enable African countries to apply learnings from other XBRL regions, and adopt best practices relating to taxonomies and application benefits of big data to drive better policies, build stronger companies and encourage global investment in the region.

So, when it comes to XBRL, look beyond mere compliance to see the value in the future analytical power coming from standardising financial reports across industries and within a company’s own financial reporting.

At CaseWare, we provide a full range of professional services and “best of breed” software solutions to thousands of customers. Our solutions automate financial statements and assurance engagements, streamline tax management processes, enable simplified times and billing, and also takes care of secretarial duties. To find out more about how we can help you on your XBRL reporting journey, get in touch.

Does XBRL affect me?

If you had read our recent post about XBRL, you will know that it stands for eXtensible Business Reporting Language and is a global standard that was developed to improve how financial data is communicated and that it also enables digital financial reporting. You can take a look at it here.

Wondering if your company is affected by XBRL?

XBRL has many different uses and is used by a variety of people across different roles. All companies required to submit Annual Financial Statements (AFSs) as part of the Companies Act should be taking note of XBRL.

Similarly, any company that needs to provide information to financial regulators, securities regulators, stock exchanges, business registrars, tax authorities and statistical and monetary policy authorities is affected by XBRL. Enterprises that regularly move information around in a complex grouping or supply chains that exchange information to manage risk and measure activity will be impacted by XBRL.



Where is XBRL applicable?

According to the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), XBRL can be applied to a wide range of business and financial data. Below are a few examples of the data XBRL can handle:

    • Internal and external financial and business reporting;
    • Reporting and exchange of information in all types of regulators such as tax and financial authorities, central banks and even government;
    • Filing of loan reports and applications;
    • Credit risk assessments; and
    • Authoritative accounting literature, providing a standard way of describing accounting documents provided by authoritative bodies.

Who will benefit most from XBRL?

    • Regulators, analysts and investors: XBRL allows for enhanced distribution and usability of existing financial statement information. It enables automated analysis and less rekeying of information from one form to another.
    • Data aggregators and financial publishers: More efficient data collection lowers operating costs, boosts traction capacity and adds value to data to minimise errors.
    • Independent financial software developers: Any software that handles financial information can use XBRL for importing and exporting data. This increases the potential for full interoperability for other applications.
    • Companies that prepare financial statements: The value of XBRL is that companies can create financial statements more efficiently because they only need to do so once.

At CaseWare, we provide a full range of professional services and “best of breed” software solutions to thousands of customers. Our solutions automate financial statements and assurance engagements, streamline tax management processes, enable simplified times and billing, and also takes care of secretarial duties. To find out more about how we can help you on your XBRL reporting journey, get in touch.

What is XBRL?

XBRL stands for eXtensible Business Reporting Language. Put simply, it is a standard that was developed to improve how financial data is communicated. A family member of “XML” languages, it is becoming a standard means of communicating information between businesses and of sharing data online.



Managed by a global, non-profit consortium, XBRL International, one can think about the transition from paper, PDF- and HTML-based reports to XBRL ones as being similar to the change from film to digital photography, or from printed maps to digital versions. In the same way that digital maps feature new layers of information and functionality, a digital business report in XBRL format simplifies how people use, share, analyse and add value to data. The Companies and Intellectual Property Commission will mandate the digital reporting system for all qualifying entities from 1 July 2018.



Here are a few of the main benefits of XBRL:

    • Automate routine tasks, which reduces costs and boosts efficiency.
    • Enter data into systems without reformatting or translating it.
    • Speedily and automatically identify problems with filings.
    • Quickly, efficiently and reliably analyse and compare data.
    • Monitor data and activities and reach judgements with greater speed and confidence.
    • Focus on analysis, decision-making and dealing with counterparties rather than on data manipulation.
    • Provide faster and focused responses to counterparties.
    • Eliminate duplications and differences in reporting.

Why is it important and what does it do?

The aim of XBRL is to reduce the amount of admin that businesses must endure when they report financial information to government for regulatory compliance. To get this right, the duplication and inconsistency of business information reported to various government agencies is dramatically reduced.



At this point, you may be wondering what relevance XBRL holds for you and your business. XBRL is used in many different ways, and for various purposes, by people in separate roles. Some examples are:

    • Regulators: This includes financial regulators, securities regulators and stock exchanges, business registrars, tax authorities and statistical and monetary policy authorities.
    • Companies: Any company that needs to provide information to one or more of the regulators mentioned above. Enterprises that frequently move information around in a complex group and supply chains that exchange information to manage risk and measure activity.
    • Governments: XBRL is relevant for government agencies looking to harmonise data definitions or consolidate reporting obligations. In addition, this standard helps agencies to standardise how consolidated or transactional reports are prepared and used in government agencies and/or shared in the public domain.
    • Data providers: For specialist data providers, XBRL makes it easier to create comparisons, ratings and other useful information products for different market participants.
    • Analysts and investors: XBRL can be an asset if understanding relative risk and performance is part of your role, or if you need to compare potential investments and understand the underlying performance of existing investments.
    • Accountants: Accountants are usually involved in XBRL reporting. They prepare XBRL reports and use it to support the reporting requirements of clients.

As a leading global provider of auditing and financial software, and relied on by more than 20 000 users in Africa, we have the experience and expertise to help launch you on your XBRL journey. Get in touch with us to find out more.

Leveraging the machine

CaseWare Africa reveals five ways for finance professionals to seize the technology opportunity.



African finance professionals must not miss the golden opportunity technology offers to enhance their ability to compete successfully in the continent’s growing business sector, says Theuns Holtshousen, Divisional Business Leader, CaseWare Africa.

“As Africans we are using technology freely in our private lives, but as finance professionals, we are not yet capitalising on the opportunities it offers to streamline our businesses, improve profit margins and compete with big firms,” he says. “If we do not begin to make the move now, we risk falling behind even the smallest tech-savvy competitors.”

Holtshousen says that while technology offers a significant upside for finance professionals wanting to enhance their service offerings, they should take a strategic approach when digitising.

“Five crucial issues must be considered, starting with the key concept driving the use of technology within the finance industry and that is – automation. It will reduce duplication and enhance accuracy and speed. Automating their own processes will also free up staff to perform higher margin consulting work.”

Next he says legacy systems and data must be taken into account. “The technology-adoption road map must incorporate existing technology investments and, crucially, data stores.”

Thirdly Holtshousen urges finance professionals to give cloud careful consideration. “Cloud can help reduce capital costs and provide a platform for collaboration and automation, among many other benefits. But for most finance professionals, a phased approach using the hybrid cloud makes good sense.”

“Hooking up an existing desktop application to the cloud can add great value by enabling better collaboration and the creation of a single data store. The latter will immediately eliminate the problems that come with re-entering information, and set the stage for further automation initiatives,” says Holtshousen. “It also immediately enables a practice to collaborate with other firms to service clients across a much wider geographical area. Indeed, this ability to compete on equal terms with competitors, big or small, is a general technology benefit,” he adds.

Fourth on the list is the importance of not automating sub-standard processes. “It is surprising that so many companies simply automate their existing manual processes, failing to seize the opportunity to improve procedures during automation. When automating – finance professionals must look at where they want to be in the future, and design their processes with the end goal in mind. That way, they will begin to build a company that is future-proof.”

The fifth key issue is – integration. “It is the key to successful technology adoption. It is implicit in all these points, but because it is so important it needs highlighting. The aim must be a single file across the full life cycle of any client. Thus, for example, the data in clients’ accounting packages must automatically populate the software used to produce the annual financial statements, thereby avoiding the errors and time required to transfer them manually. Cloud-based storage can be used to hold the supporting documents, and for collaboration with multiple branches. The task of consolidating the financials can therefore, also be automated.

“All of these considerations will help ensure that financial professionals ‘leverage the machine’ effectively, and get the biggest return on their technology investment. Also, never forget that adopting technology is only valuable if it is done in such a way as to leverage humans as well. In the end, people do business with people, so the trick is using machines to maximise the benefits of that contact for both parties,” he concludes.

CIPC mandates digital reporting XBRL standard from 2018

CaseWare Africa, a division of Adapt IT, is exceptionally well positioned to guide the South African market towards the move to the XBRL digital reporting standard, set to come into force in 2018.



Not only has CaseWare been part of the XBRL SA working group for over a decade, but it has been highly involved in the Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission (CIPC) XBRL project since its inception. Most importantly, XBRL has been embedded in CaseWare’s working papers for over 10 years already.

As XBRL adoption rate accelerates among regulators, analysts and enterprises worldwide, South African businesses are joining the discussion about what it is, what it will mean to them and what they need to do about it right now.

The CIPC has mandated XBRL digital reporting for all qualifying entities for 1 July 2018.

XBRL stands for eXtensible Business Reporting Language. It is a global standard for exchanging business information, based on XML (eXtensible Mark-Up Language), which is used to encode financial documents in a format that both humans and computers are able to read and analyse. Many countries are putting XBRL to practical use, with the numbers of implementations growing rapidly around the world.

Ross Hampton, MD of CaseWare Africa, explains that companies traditionally transmit their financial information in a printed or electronic format (such as PDF). “The recipients either read the information or, if wanting to use computer assisted analysis or electronic storage, manually transfer the data from the document into their systems. Of course, this process is laborious, prone to error and technically challenging. When processing information from hundreds of companies, the task becomes highly impractical. Often, information might be discarded in favour of expediency.

Hampton highlights the benefits of the automation of the production and submission of XBRL compliant annual financial statements (AFSes). “XBRL removes the need for manual input, as XBRL-enabled software can read XBRL-tagged data and import the information directly. So data can be passed between disparate computer systems, with human intervention needed only in the case of exceptions. The resulting efficiency reduces the cost of communicating and maintaining financial data, while improving its usability, integrity and compliance. In addition, if XBRL is used as the standard, data can be re-transmitted without specially transforming it to other formats required by further recipients,” notes Hampton.

He adds that because XBRL-tagged financial reports can be read by computers, software can be used to validate them for accuracy. “This is an enormous advantage as it makes them more reliable, compliant and auditable. Companies can tag their data at the click of a button. This can be done with little effort by both the issuer and recipients. Being XML-based, XBRL inherits various methods for searching, querying and analysing data, meaning that companies and their stakeholders will be able to analyse financials more effectively. A fundamental feature of XBRL is that it is fully internationalised, which means documents created in one country can be viewed in another language by recipients at a different geographic location,” he says.

He highlights the fact that CaseWare’s unique insight has evolved from its involvement in the XBRL SA working group for so many years. “This is augmented by the fact that we have been immersed in the CIPC XBRL project since its inception.”

Hampton says CaseWare puts its clients ahead of the game and is the preferred solution of choice for the South African market due to its matchless experience and the fact that CaseWare has been used by thousands of companies around world to produce XBRL AFSes for a long number of years. “Now that’s a set of credentials for trust that is unparalleled in this market,” concludes Hampton.

CaseWare Africa launches CloudTax: powerful new solution for tax practitioners

CaseWare Africa, a division of Adapt IT, has launched CloudTax, a powerful new product aimed at small, medium and large tax practices.


CloudTax provides tax practitioners with a central place to manage their entire practice which integrates seamlessly with SARS eFiling, says Katharine Janisch, Head of Sales and Marketing at CaseWare Africa.

“Initially, we have focused on provisional tax returns, but corporate and individual return capabilities are being developed in time for clients with December year ends and the opening of the 2018 individual tax season in July 2018. This powerful product enables companies to gain complete control through full visibility of their tax practice. It facilitates tracking the status of every return for every client at the right time and from one central dashboard. Practitioners can view correspondence from SARS and clients from a single platform without logging into eFiling,” says Janisch.

She highlights CloudTax’s delivery of improved productivity and profitability yields. “The product essentially eliminates as many previously manual processes as possible and in doing so, saves time and enables practitioners to focus on giving their clients advice rather than just number crunching for them. Moreover, CloudTax seamlessly integrates with the financial reporting solution CaseWare Working Papers, meaning that practitioners will never again have to recapture financial data to populate a return, nor will they have to search for information relating to any client, it is right at their fingertips. Automatically triggered workflows display where you are with every client at any time,” she notes.

CloudTax also enables practitioners to track all client and SARS correspondence giving them the ability to respond timeously. Janisch says, simply put – CloudTax enables tax practitioners to improve their client services and position themselves in a consulting/advisory capacity through the automation of processes that would otherwise detract from their time and focus. “One of the most exciting prospects for practitioners using CloudTax is that they will never again worry about missing a deadline – now that is a major benefit for this business sector. Even more exciting is that this solution is affordably priced for even the smallest tax practice, while providing the scalability and depth required by some of the largest tax practices in the industry,” concludes Janisch

CQS Holdings set to rename to Caseware Africa

The acquisition of CQS Technology Holdings, which was announced at the end of 2015 by Adapt IT, will move into its final phase on 1 July, when the CQS name will be replaced by CaseWare Africa, a division of Adapt IT.

Ross Hampton, MD of the division, and long standing Director of CQS, is enthusiastic about the move.


“The acquisition has been carefully planned to cause minimum disruption to our clients. The leadership and team remain the same, and the way we engage with our clients will stay unchanged but with the added benefit of having the resources of a much larger, JSE listed, entity behind us,” he says. “CaseWare is the world leader in financial reporting and audit software, and has achieved dominance in South Africa because of the local team’s passion for what they do and their obsession with delivering the highest level of customer service to all clients, regardless of size. All of that remains in place, as it has done since the acquisition was announced.”

Hampton confirms that the move into a larger group will yield substantial benefits to the company’s current customers. “Being part of a large group is a significant advantage as the cloud era dawns. Technology is disrupting the accounting and audit profession by driving automation and supporting the creation of an ecosystem across the reporting value chain.

“Cloud enables seamless collaboration irrespective of geography, common stores of big data and powerful analytics to derive deeper insight and so add value to customers. The role of the finance professional is transforming,” Hampton says. “All of this requires considerable infrastructure and, as part of a bigger group, CaseWare Africa is even better placed to partner with its clients as they face the challenges and seize the opportunities new technologies present.”

CaseWare Africa has an existing team of local developers as well as audit and accounting specialists devoted to localising the software in line with relevant government and other regulations and standards.

This localisation effort will be strengthened further via access to the resources of the Adapt IT group, particularly as CaseWare’s drive into other African companies gains momentum, and the software needs to be localised for each country.

“Africa has been a growth focus for some time, and Adapt IT’s existing footprint in Mauritius and Botswana, with Kenya soon to come, will allow us to offer in-country support and service more rapidly,” says Hampton. “This acquisition adds a considerable upside for enhancing what we already offer our clients

Cloud and automation: CaseWare Africa bringing opportunity to accounting firms across the African continent

Technology is bringing immense changes to the auditing profession which are predominantly being driven by automation and cloud.



CaseWare Africa business leader Theuns Holtshousen, says it is predicted that robotics and artificial intelligence will replace up to 5% of all jobs globally by 2020. “Even though we think that the African continent will be lagging a few years behind the developed world, we have to acknowledge that technology is already impacting nearly all areas of our lives in one or another way. When it comes to accountants and auditors, technology offers a platform on which small and medium practices can compete on the same level as their network firm counterparts.

CaseWare’s Working Papers and add on modules delivers these capabilities.

“CaseWare’s solutions provides more growth opportunities than ever before for financial professionals of any size firm. It not only automates, but ultimately reduces complexities, creating a simple, transparent process, one that allows financial professionals to spend less time compiling, and more time interpreting information,” says Holtshousen.

He adds that some financial professionals develop their own solutions. “These home-grown solutions are difficult to keep updated in line with legislative changes, while managing the change in formulas with multiple contributors making it challenging to deliver a set of financial statements on time. It makes more sense to tap into the benefits of existing global solutions that can be localised, for: small, medium and large practices; medium to large corporate organisations, and even public entities across the continent.”

Ultimately, financial professionals want to save time and increase profitability. Automation offers just that. “It provides new ways of working that boosts the performance of the firm, business or public entity and drives prosperity through efficient and compliant reporting and auditing tools.”

According to Holtshousen, businesses often look at automating their manual processes by replicating them digitally. “There is no true value in doing this. It’s tantamount to digitising a broken process, better to re-engineer it whilst investing in automation.”

“Drafting solutions in the market today should facilitate the importation of trial balance from any accounting system out there, or even from Excel. Once the trial balance has been allocated to compliance reporting categories, via a pre-defined set of accounts, CaseWare can instantaneously produce a set of financial statements—something that used to take days, even weeks. Should there be a requirement for consolidation between multiple company data into a single set of financial statements, CaseWare allows for hierarchy set-ups that can produce consolidation structures with true aggregation and elimination capabilities.” He adds this is all available at the click of a button.

“These financial statements become the starting point of informed decisions in business today and directly impact the business in the future. Whereas an audit report proves the health of the organization for investors, institutes recognition for the organisation’s efforts and promotes market trust. Once submitted to the auditors, the electronic file will live in that part of the ecosystem, allowing them to apply an automated audit methodology that facilitates collaboration from anywhere, at any time, through the power of the cloud.

“Cloud technology is a model that is driving behaviour globally. The increasing trend in online shopping is one of many examples. The concerns around cloud security have been addressed by a broad set of policies, technologies, and controls deployed to protect data, applications, and the associated infrastructure of cloud computing.”

Holtshousen says that by using the cloud companies can collaborate and store data in a secure environment, thus significantly reducing risk. “Technology suppliers normally offer hosting as part of the cloud solution. This means no more shared folders, local server costs and multiple versions of one file – just one central data repository with version control in a secure cloud environment which is access-controlled.”

“These changes are driving a significant shift in the roles of accountants and auditors. This shift may even accelerate as more businesses adopt the cloud. The beauty about cloud computing is that ever-evolving organizations are supported by developing tools, as updates are pushed out as and when they happen, giving end users access to new features and functionality almost immediately,” he concludes.