Publishing Annual Reports

Different Formats for Different Readers

HTML, PDF, XHTML and iXBRL format – you can publish your financial reports in many
ways, but which format should you submit to regulators, and which should you forward
to your investors?

For most companies, the ESEF preparation process has focused on how to create annual financial reports in the new iXBRL format, and the rules for submitting a report to regulators, but what about making your financial report available to investors and key stakeholders?

The easiest way to make your annual results available is to host a version on your website, but in which format? iXBRL, HTML, PDF, XHTML, and ZIP. Each format has its own benefits and drawbacks.

In this article, we’ll explain what you gain from making your financial report available in the different formats.

What Is Required When Publishing in iXBRL Format?

When it comes to publishing format, the ESEF mandate simply requires you to submit your financial report in the iXBRL format to the appropriate regulators. This means you need to submit a zip-folder containing your ESEF package.

But if that is all you do, not everyone will have the ability to easily access your figures.  So, instead of just focusing on what is required, let’s look at the options you have when making your annual financial report available to investors and other stakeholders.

Which Reporting Format Should You Host on Your Website?

When it comes to publishing your financial report on your website, you have at least four different options:

  • You can publish the zip-folder containing your financial report in the iXBRL format,
  • You can publish a plain XHTML version of your annual financial report,
  • You can publish a viewer file (an XHTML file with a viewer embedded),
  • And lastly, you can publish a plain old PDF version of your annual financial report.

If you include the zip-folder, you can choose any combination of what is mentioned above. Each format has different benefits, which means you should consider each format before dismissing it.

Publishing the Zip-Folder on Your Website

The zip-folder containing the iXBRL version of your financial report will let advanced readers consume the disclosed information by using dedicated iXBRL readers. When you submit your financial report to your local regulator, they will make it available in their database.  But we suggest that you also make the zip-folder available for download on your own website. This will make it easier for investors and other stakeholders to get the information they need.

The Benefits of a Publishing a Viewer File

A viewer file is an XHTML version of your mapped annual report, but with a viewer embedded. The embedded viewer gives your readers the ability to access the XBRL layer of your annual financial report without the need for advanced software.

A viewer file can be opened by any standard browser.

If you want to give as many people as possible the ability to access your financial data, you should consider hosting a viewer file on your website.

Publishing a PDF File or an Ordinary XHTML File

Chances are that you’ve had a PDF version of your annual financial report on your website for the past 10 years. It’s probably located on the part of your website dedicated to investor relations, and you can of course continue to do so.  There is no harm in having a PDF version of your annual financial report on your website, but the same information would also be available in an XHTML version of your report.

The benefit to offering an XHTML file or an ordinary PDF version of your financial report, is that it loads faster than a viewer file would. You will rarely need to have both an ordinary XHTML file as well as a PDF file at the same time, though, simply because the two files fill the same need.

Which Format Should You Choose?

In the end, it depends on the people you expect to read your annual financial report. Auditors and advanced readers may only need the zip-folder while less advanced readers may be satisfied with just a PDF or an XHTML file.

With that said, we always recommend that you publish the viewer file on your website along with the zip-folder containing your financial report in iXBRL format. This way you can provide ordinary readers with the ability to access the information in the XBRL layer of your report while you also provide advanced consumers with the ability to dive into every single detail of your financial report.

Reading a Financial Report in iXBRL Format

No matter how you put it, the primary purpose of any annual report is to be read, but if you’ve ever seen a file in iXBRL format, you know that that’s easier said than done. An iXBRL file isn’t a single file. It’s a zip-folder containing multiple files in both human- and machine-readable format.

However, without dedicated software, such as the ParsePort XBRL Inspector, it’s impossible to make heads or tails of the information within. Which is why you either need to refer your readers to a free ESEF consumption tool, or provide them with an alternative version of your financial report in a more accessible format.

Kim Eriksen

Kim Eriksen

Kim Eriksen is the co-founder and CEO of ParsePort

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