Companies may be expected to deliver electronic tax returns in a single format by 2010, if HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) proposals are approved.
HMRC is already aiming to have all company returns delivered electronically by 2012, and now it is proposing that businesses file their reports using the XBRL (Extensible Business Reporting Language) format.
XBRL is a specification for tagging financial information which allows all financial software programs to exchange and share information.
Currently, many accounting software applications can't exchange information, but an increasing number of suppliers are now gradually building XBRL support into their products.
HMRC now wants XBRL to become mandatory by 2010, so this trend looks set to quicken.
To encourage greater take-up of XBRL, HMRC will begin increasing the amount of technical advice it is issuing to suppliers and users about the XBRL format, and XBRL products already on the market.