XBRL stands for eXtensible Business Reporting Language. It is a language for the electronic communication of business and financial data which is revolutionising the business reporting around the world. It offers major benefits to all those who have to create, transmit, use or analyse such business information. Some of the benefits of using XBRL include cost savings, greater efficiency, improved accuracy and reliability to all those involved in supplying or using financial data.

The basic idea behind XBRL is that instead of treating financial information as a block of text or numeric items, a unique electronically readable tag is attached to each individual financial term. It is not just the data or text that floats around, these individual items move along with an electronic tag. Thus, it is not just the 'content' but also the ‘context’ is being transmitted. It is one of a family of ‘XML’ languages which is becoming a standard means of communicating information between businesses and on the Internet.

Within Reserve Bank of India, XBRL has been viewed as a natural evolution of the existing Online Returns Filing System (ORFS). While ORFS does the job of data capturing and transmission of returns from banks to the Reserve Bank, it incorporates no in-built standardization. XBRL enables standardization and rationalization of elements of different returns using the internationally recognized best practices available in electronic transmission. In the process, XBRL also facilitates the rationalization of a number of returns to be submitted by the banks, thus reducing the reporting burden of banks.

Standardization of data elements is achieved in XBRL by defining a set of 'taxonomies'./Taxonomy. Taxonomies have to be in sync with the global taxonomies recognized by the XBRL International Inc. (XII), which is a consortium of regulators, financial standard bodies and technology providers. XBRL is an open standard.

The responsibilities of forming a XBRL national jurisdiction and the implementation of the standards for financial reporting in India have been entrusted to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI). Reserve Bank of India is responsible for implementing the XBRL standard for banks' reporting. Within RBI, XBRL implementation is being regularly monitored by a High Level Steering Committee appointed by the Governor.

In the XBRL system, the returns are being taken up in phases. Seven returns were implemented in the phase I. These returns include Section 42(2) Form A of RBI Act, 1934, daily return on Gap, Positions and Balances (GPB), Returns on Capital Adequacy (RCA2 - a set of regulatory returns designed as per Basel II guidelines), monthly returns like Form VIII, Form X, annual returns like Financial Statement and Form IX.

The implementation of Phase II returns started in year 2012. A list of returns submitted / taken up for development, using XBRL is available here.