The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has gone ahead with plans to make public companies submit financial data in a standard interactive data format.

The SEC today has issued a final rule requiring use of the XBRL data tagging standard in public companies’ financial data submissions.

The final rule takes effect April 13.

The biggest companies must comply with the XBRL requirement starting with quarterly reports or other reports for the first fiscal period ending on or after June 15.

Most other public companies must comply with the XBRL reporting rules starting with reports for the first fiscal period ending on or after June 15, 2010.

The smallest public companies must comply when filing reports for the first fiscal period ending on or after June 15, 2011.

The XBRL requirement will not apply to variable annuity and variable life registration statements filed using forms N-3, N-4 or N-6, but it will apply to VA and variable life registration statements filed on forms S-1 and S-3, SEC officials write in a preamble to the final rule, which appears today in the Federal Register.

The SEC published a draft of the rule in May 2008.

The SEC says it is requiring the change so that investors and others will have an easier time viewing and analyzing public company financial data using off-the-shelf software.

“Most commenters generally supported the required submission of interactive data, but a significant number did not,” officials write in the preamble.

Organizations writing in support of the XBRL requirement included the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, Sacramento, Calif., while organizations raising concerns included the Committee of Annuity Insurers, Washington, and Wellpoint Inc., Indianapolis, officials write.

A copy of the final rule is available here. http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/pdf/E9-2334.pdf