Improving corporate disclosure through XBRL: An evidence-based taxonomy structure for integrated reporting

Matteo La Torre*, Diego Valentinetti, John Dumay, Michele Antonio Rea

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine the potential for eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) to go beyond static reporting. A taxonomy structure of information is developed for providing a knowledge base and insights for an XBRL taxonomy for integrated reporting (IR).

Design/methodology/approach: Design Science (DS) research, as a pragmatic exploratory research approach, is embraced to create a new “artefact” and thematic content analysis is used to analyse IR in practice. 

Findings: Using XBRL for IR allows a shift from static and periodic reporting to more relevant and dynamic corporate disclosure for stakeholders, who can navigate and retrieve customised disclosure information according to their interest by exploiting the multidimensionality of IR and overcome some of its criticisms. The bi-dimensional taxonomy structure the authors’ present allows users to navigate disclosure from two different perspectives (content elements (CE) and capitals), display specific themes of interest, and drill down to more detailed information. Because of its evidence-based nature and levels of disaggregation, it provides flexibility to preparers and users of information. Additionally, the findings demonstrate the need to codify sector-specific information for the CE, so that to direct the efforts toward the development of sector-specific taxonomy extensions in developing an XBRL taxonomy for IR.

Research limitations/implications: The limitations of DS research are, first, the artefact design and, second, its effects in practice. The first limitation stems from the social actors’ perspective taken into account to develop the taxonomy structure, which derives from the analysis of the reporting practices rather than a pluralistic approach and dialogic engagement. The second limitation relates to the XBRL taxonomy development process because, since the study is limited to the “design” phase being codification and structuring the knowledge base for an XBRL taxonomy, there is a need to develop a taxonomy in XBRL and then apply it in practice to empirically demonstrate the potential and benefits of XBRL in the IR context.

Practical implications: The taxonomy structure is targeted at entities interested in designing an XBRL taxonomy for IR. This is a call for academics and practitioners to explore the potential of technology to improve corporate disclosure and open up new projections for resurging themes on intellectual capital (IC) reporting with prospects for IC “fourth-stage” research focused on IC disclosure.

Originality/value: This is an interdisciplinary research employing the DS approach, which is rooted in information systems research. It is the first academic study providing pragmatic results for using XBRL in the context of IC and IR.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)338-366
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Intellectual Capital
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Computer-assisted content analysis
  • Corporate disclosure
  • Design Science
  • Integrated reporting
  • Intellectual capital disclosure
  • XBRL


Dive into the research topics of 'Improving corporate disclosure through XBRL: An evidence-based taxonomy structure for integrated reporting'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this