Twenty years of XBRL: what we know and where we are going

Francesca Bartolacci (Department of Economics and Law, University of Macerata, Macerata, Italy)
Andrea Caputo (University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK and University of Trento, Trento, Italy)
Andrea Fradeani (Department of Economics and Law, University of Macerata, Macerata, Italy)
Michela Soverchia (Department of Economics and Law, University of Macerata, Macerata, Italy)

Meditari Accountancy Research

ISSN: 2049-372X

Publication date: 28 September 2020



This paper aims to extend the knowledge of eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) to synthesize what 20 years of accounting and business literature on XBRL suggests about the effective improvement from its implementation in financial reporting.


A systematic literature review and bibliometric analysis of 142 articles resulted in the identification of 5 primary research streams: adoption issues; financial reporting; decision-making processes, market efficiency and corporate governance; audit and assurance issues; and non-financial reporting.


The results reveal a scarcity of studies devoted to explicating the consequences of XBRL implementation on financial reporting outside the SEC’s XBRL mandate and listed companies’ contexts. Also, some papers’ results question the usefulness of the language on the decision-making process. The overall lack of literature concerning the impact of XBRL on financial statement preparers, especially with reference to SMEs, is evident. Moreover, the consequences on corporate governance choices and the relevant internal decision-making processes are rarely debated.

Research limitations/implications

The findings are useful for users of companies’ financial disclosure policies, particularly for regulators who manage XBRL implementation in countries where XBRL has not yet been adopted as well as for others working in specific areas of financial disclosure, such as non-financial reporting and public sector financial reporting.


This study differs from previous literature on XBRL as it focuses on a wider period of analysis and offers a unique methodology – combination of bibliometric and systematic review – as well as a business perspective for deepening XBRL.



Bartolacci, F., Caputo, A., Fradeani, A. and Soverchia, M. (2020), "Twenty years of XBRL: what we know and where we are going", Meditari Accountancy Research, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

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