Considerations for linking between documents (preparer)

The purpose of corporate reporting is to provide information to users which is material to their understanding. However, reporting also involves judgements about the distinction between material and useful. Often companies produce information that is useful to those wishing to understand a topic but might be in more detail or from a different lens than is required by the reporting standard.

In paper and first generation digital documents (PDF) linking to useful (or supplementary information) is often accomplished by way of a link or a cross reference but as we begin to digitise the corporate reporting system new options become viable and these options can increase the usability and discoverability of the linked information. Some of these new options include:

  • Cross referencing to a whole non structured digital document or a paper document
  • Linking to a specific page on a website or non structured digital document on a website
  • Linking to a non structured digital document within an official mechanism (e.g. a digital file within a business register or securities register)
  • Linking to a structured digital document or information set on a website
  • Linking to a structured digital document within an official mechanism

Which option is best for you as a preparer will depend on the answer to a number of questions, questions include:

  • Are we comfortable that the information is not material (ie should it really be included within this document to meet the requirement)?
  • Are we sure that the information is really useful (ie is it worth linking to)?
  • What are the regulatory requirements and restrictions on linking?
  • What are the audit/assurance and governance implications of linking?
  • What format is the linked material in, is it usable or would usability be enhanced by incorporating into the current document?
  • Will it be clear to a user what is within the linked document and therefore do they understand when it is important to also consume that document (do you need to add extra disclosure to explain)?
  • Is the linked material of a consistent timeframe and quality as the document being linked from and if not does this need context?
  • Is the linked material available to the same audience as the document linked from (ie is it behind a paywall, require registration or on a different timetable)?
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XBRL International is a global not for profit operating in the public interest. Our purpose is to improve the accountability and transparency of business performance globally, by providing the open data exchange standard for business reporting.