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As the workloads of finance departments mount, a new programming language has emerged that could provide a helping hand. EXtensible Business Reporting Language, or XBRL, will simplify the work involved in presenting corporate financial data and filing reports on that data with regulators.

XBRL, which is based on another programming language, XML, allows companies to use the same financial data in different formats and software platforms. Once a company determines the appropriate XBRL tag for each line in its financial statements, the data can flow electronically, without rekeying, into different types of presentations, including regulatory filings and tax forms. “The whole goal of XBRL is to put financial information in a format one time and then use it many times,” says Rob Blake, a group program manager at Microsoft Corp., which has been reporting its financials using XBRL since March 2002 and now posts the XBRL version of its financials on its Web site.

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