The SEC announced last week that the development of “data tags” for U.S. generally accepted accounting principals will soon allow investors and analysts to download financial reports filed with the SEC directly into spreadsheets in Excel. This will allow for instant financial comparisons across entire industries.

Financial reports of public companies are housed in a publicly-accessible SEC database called EDGAR (Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system), but the data is not interactive. The newly created data tags correspond to each unique accounting concept. Now that each accounting concept has been tagged, companies can more easily tag their financials and use the tagged information.

The SEC has allowed for the filing of financial reports in interactive data format for over two years. It seems likely that some day such interactive filings will be required to allow for investors and analysts to make sophisticated comparisons.