What is XBRL?

XBRL stands for eXtensible Business Reporting Language. It is a global framework (XML based language) mainly used for communicating and exchanging business information globally on the internet. XBRL is currently the international standard used by most companies worldwide for digital business information and is commonly used in lieu of physical paper documents. It can be used to manage many financial statements such as business registrars, financial statements, revenue reports, and other accounting related documents. 

In Singapore, the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) requires business owners and or companies to file their financial statements in such format to meet the requirements of XBRL filing. All incorporated companies in Singapore have to follow ACRA’s guidelines and comply with them in order to avoid penalisation.

The XBRL ACRA filing requirements and template usage are different for different types of companies, so companies will need to check carefully for any changes they might need to correct. In general, all companies need to adhere to the new XBRL ACRA filing requirements from 1 January 2021 onwards. If you’re unsure if your company needs to adhere to XBRL ACRA guidelines, check this guide for more information. 

What is ACRA?

The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) is the statutory board which is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance (MOF) in Singapore. They are the main regulators of business entities, and are the organisation in charge of registering businesses in Singapore. For more information on registering a business with ACRA, this article explains clearly how the process of business registration works.

In addition, ACRA also oversees the financial reporting of companies annually. In 2020 it has revised the XBRL filing requirements for all companies, in order to improve the productivity of filing financial statements.

Introduced in 2007, XBRL ACRA serves to promote effective business communication among companies, business owners and the government authorities. Singapore is one of the countries increasingly using XBRL filing for their financial systems, amongst other major finance hubs in the world such as Japan, China, and the United States. 

ACRA Singapore

How does XBRL work?

XBRL uses the XML language to create distinctive identifying tags which provide all the necessary information related to the item tagged. All these tags are known as ‘Taxonomy’, which are accepted and used across a region. In Singapore, all financial statements in XBRL follow the ACRA Taxonomy.

The ACRA taxonomy is closed, which means it does not allow others unauthorized by ACRA to create their own specific definition for a tag and establish relationships between tags. There is still a level of flexibility as ACRA allows some customizations, such as creating a unique label for your company.

In addition, data analysis tools or any other analysis software can process the company’s data efficiently and retrieve all the necessary financial information about them for further usage. One example will be ACRA’s free data analysis tool, which requires financial reports filed in XBRL ACRA format to analyse your company’s performance.

There are many helpful tools out there in the market that uses the company’s financial statements in XBRL format and translates them into efficient and practical data. 

Benefits of XBRL ACRA

There are many benefits to filing the company’s financial statements in XBRL ACRA format, such as:

Higher accuracy and reliability

These are pre-defined by ACRA, hence it allows for accurate reporting of financial statements with key fixed definitions that are exactly the same for different companies. All of the company’s data can also be assembled quickly in order to generate further reports such as credit reports, and the company data will be accurate as they are already input into the database.

The data can also be easily checked for accuracy, whether against company regulations or Singapore’s laws. They are automatically updated to reflect any changes, such as currency appreciation and depreciation. 

It also links all the tags present in the financial statement to one another, so that a clear relationship between them can be established. This allows for easy comparison between different companies, and makes data processing and analysis much more reliable since all companies will follow the XBRL ACRA format.


While it may seem costly to fit the company’s financial statements to XBRL ACRA format, it will actually save costs in terms of higher efficiency. Once the company’s financial statements are filed accordingly and uploaded, this data set can be easily retrieved by the company for a variety of usages, saving costs on separate data retrieval and analysis.

ACRA even offers a free data analysis tool for your company to use your XBRL compliant financial statement effectively, and it provides vital information such as company performance against peers. This information will require additional cost to attain otherwise and will be useful in improving your company’s business performance.  

Greater efficiency

People working on data collection and compilation within the companies will find this automated process much faster as compared to manual collection of data from physical documents. The data can then easily be processed and converted into usable information, as mentioned above.


Which Companies are Required to file in XBRL ACRA Format?

  • All Public/ Private Companies limited or unlimited by shares unless exempted. (Refer below for exceptions.)
  • Solvent exempt private limited company whose revenue is less than S$5 million.
  • Companies limited by guarantee.
  • Companies such as Commercial Banks, Merchant Banks, Registered Insurers and Finance Companies regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
  • Foreign companies.
  • Insolvent Exempted Private Companies.

In general, most companies will need to do XBRL filing, unless stated otherwise. All solvent and dormant exempt private companies will continue to be exempted from filing their accounts to ACRA during the filing of Annual Returns.

Guide to filing financial statements in XBRL ACRA format

There are 4 XBRL ACRA templates that are used to fulfill all the requirements for financial statement reporting. They are namely the full XBRL template, simplified XBRL template, XBRL FSH (banks) template and XBRL FSH (Insurance) template. Check ACRA’s official table for which suitable template to use for your company. This would be the main format your XBRL ACRA financial statement will need to be filed in.

All companies will then need to upload their financial statements which are XBRL ACRA compliant to BizFin server via a BizFin preparation tool or BizFin online portal first.  First, the company will need to have the BizFin preparation tool ready.

After that, the company can access their financial statement, which is in Microsoft Excel or word, and fill in all the necessary items in the statements to the applicable tags in the ACRA taxonomy. All tags need to be completed unless the information requested by XBRL is not present in the financial statement.

After completing XBRL filing, companies need to approve the XBRL ACRA compliant financial statement offline. They can then check and change any issues highlighted, and upload it onto BizFin preparation tool. Then, they can file their annual returns under the BizFile+ online. 

This process can be difficult for those who are unfamiliar with the new XBRL ACRA format, or companies do not have the capabilities to process their financial statements into the XBRL ACRA format on their own. WLP group offers effective preparation of your financial statements into XBRL ACRA format and ensures that all regulations are duly followed. Contact us for more information on how we can help you today.