As part of the XBRL tagging process, companies assign XBRL tags to specific line items in the financial statements. The XBRL taxonomy published by FASB offers companies choices in how to tag information. There are many standard tags for a company to apply that could be associated with one common line item. Inventory, for example, could be tagged as <InventoryNet>, <InventoryGross>, <RetailRelatedInventoryMerchandise>, and so on depending on the specific nature of the line item. When there are no tags that define the line item sufficiently, an extension tag is created by the filing company. This is reserved for cases in which the line item is truly unique, and requires a more descriptive XBRL tag. Having more descriptive tags are excellent for stakeholders because they offer a better perspective of the company’s financial statements, but it makes benchmarking much more complicated.

Calcbench accounts for variations among different tags associated with their respective line items, and narrows them down to their basic theme so that the numbers associated with the tags are reported with the correct line items in the financial statements. If Calcbench accounts for variations among the different tags, then the differences among the tags might seem unimportant and undeserving of attention to a user. However, companies assign different tags for a reason, and the decisions are not necessarily made arbitrarily and may actually convey some information.

XBRL tags can essentially function as predefined indicators. Financial investors can use the Benchmarking Tool in Calcbench to discover tag variations. After quickly locating and reading the taxonomy, a financial investor will have a deeper understanding of the differences between business operations among competing companies. XBRL is another powerful tool that benefits everyone, and the benefits transcend beyond the ability to rapidly distribute interactive financial data and display it similar to what is possible via Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML).

The following is an example of an analysis of the tags companies use to tag their inventory. The example uses Calcbench’s Benchmarking and Analysis tool and the As Reported Companies in Detail tool.

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