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Now that regulators have set the clock for a timetable by which all U.S. public companies will eventually report financial results in eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), many questions remain. At the top of the list are how much the effort to create such interactive corporate documents will cost and what happens should smaller companies miss their deadlines. The deadlines vary according to company size. Once the 60-day comment period ends, the Securities and Exchange Commission, which endorsed the rule unanimously on May 14, wants the largest 500 accelerated filers (those with a worldwide float of more than $5 billion) to begin using XBRL tags on their key SEC filings and on documents on their Web sites for all fiscal periods ending on or after Dec. 15, 2008. Some 76 companies are already doing this on a voluntary basis. The remaining public companies would be required to follow suit over the next two years, with the smallest ones having until 2011. In their first year, companies would be expected to use only block tags.

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