Financial Report Ontology (Working Prototype)

Welcome to the home page of the Financial Report Ontology (FRO). This human-readable and machine-readable information about financial reports is an open-source working prototype. For more information please contact To keep informed about work on this ontology, please subscribe to or follow me on Twitter.

Frequently Asked Questions

The following is a set of frequently asked questions which will help you understand and make use of this ontology:

  1. List of Files: This is a list of files that contain the machine readable information.
  2. Why: The first obvious question is: Why is the Financial Report Ontology important? The document Knowledge Engineering Basics for Professional Accountants helps you understand why you need to understand this ontology.
  3. At a Glance: This set of HTML pages lets you take a quick glance at the Financial Report Ontology, it gets you grounded.
  4. Start Here: If you are a big picture person, start by reading through the Financial Report Semantics and Dynamics Theory. If you like to mess around with the details to learn, read the highlights in the Understanding the Entities and Relations of a Financial Report and then here are a bunch of files you can play with. If you learn visually, then this PDF which shows the relations between things is the best place to start. That will get you up and running.
  5. Working Prototype: This is a working prototype. This is work-in-progress. There are generally three categories of machine-readable information provided: (a) All available information so that you can get a sense for the ontology; (b) Test information which are basically incremental leaps toward completion. (c) Completed information. Basically, this information will evolve over time. This can be made use of now.
  6. Objective/Goal: The intension of this information is to help professional accountants understand digital financial reporting. If you are a profesional accountant, you understand financial reporting but you problaby don't realize what computers can be made to do if they are provided the correct metadata. If you are a professional software developer, you understand how to build software, but you really have no idea what professional acccountants need from that software. If you are rare and have both strong accounting knowledge and an ability to make computers do things, you can help bridge this gap. The intension is to help professional accountants and software engineers communicate effectively, to bridge the communications gap. This is important because professional accountants need to create digital financial reporting in ways that work best for them. This is a challenging proposition. It is better to have knowledge rather than to be ignorant of the moving pieces. Working prototypes are the best way to acquire knowledge. Working prototypes are excellent communications tools.
  7. Open Source, Freely Available: The resources made available here are completely free for anyone to make use of, steal any good ideas that you find. It is hoped that others will improve upon this base. This metadata serves as a 'starter kit'. Following the open source model, additional support is available for a fee. For more information about these premium services, please contact
  8. Financial Report Semantics and Dynamics Theory: This human-readable and machine-readable information is grounded in the Financial Report Semantics and Dynamics Theory. That theory was created by observing the XBRL-based financial filings of public companies to the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
  9. US GAAP: The human-readable and machine-readable information is created for US GAAP. However, these same ideas would work for IFRS.
  10. Syntax Matters to Software Developers, Syntax Should be Hidden from Accounting Professionals (Who Care About Semantics): The syntax prescribed by the US SEC for public companies to report to the SEC is the global standard XBRL. These days it is easy to get the XBRL syntax of those reports 100% correct. There are two reasons for that. First, conformance suites exist which can be used to test software to make sure that software application is using the XBRL technical syntax correctly. Second, software vendors use that conformance suite. It really is that simple, there is a direct correlation. Proof of this is that the XBRL technical syntax is 99.99% consistent with the XBRL technical specification for XBRL-based digital financial reports submitted to the SEC. The semantics likewise must be consistent. That is what this ontology is about, achieving semantic consistency. The semantics of financial reporting are found within US GAAP. To the extent that machine-readable rules can be articulated, computer software applications can be created to leverage those rules and achieve two things: (1) Semantic consistency and (2) leverage which can be used by software developers to create more helpful software. Inconsistency with US GAAP semantics are easily identifiable, easy to articulate into machine-readable rules; these rules provide vast amounts of potential leverage in software applications.

Elements of Financial Statements

SFAC 6 defines 10 elements of financial statements. These elements are 'the building blocks' with which financial statements are constructed - the classes of items that financial statements comprise. (Elements of Financial Statements. Statement of Financial Accounting Concepts No. 6 (Stamford, Conn.: FASB, 1985, par. 5.). Every intermediate accounting text book starts with the conceptual framework of financial reporting, the elements of a financial statement are part of that conceptual framework. These are those elements:

However, to represent financial reports digitally more details are necessary. This additional detail are 'classes' of concepts which are expressed in the US GAAP XBRL Taxonomy. Just because the US GAAP XBRL Taxonomy does not provide this information does not mean that the information does not exist. This financial report ontology basically supplements and helps one better organize the information expressed within the US GAAP XBRL Taxonomy.

Graphical View of Entities and Relations between Entities

The following are documents which provide a graphical view of the entities (things) and relations between entities within the financial report ontology in various forms:

Other Resources

The following are documents which provide a graphical view of the entities (things) and relations between entities within the financial report ontology in various forms:



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