Annual Report vs. 10-K: An Overview

Publicly traded companies in the U.S. are required to file a host of documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This includes revealing information about their finances and future plans.

Two of the most important for investors are the annual report and the 10-K. Similar in many ways, these documents are designed to help inform potential investors or current shareholders about the company's performance.

Key Takeaways

  • The 10-K is generally more detailed than the annual report but lacks photos and graphics.
  • Publicly traded companies will complete both an annual report and 10-K yearly.
  • Both should include information about the company and the financial performance over the last year.
  • The 10-K can be found on the SEC website, while the annual report should be readily available on the company’s website.

Annual Report

A corporation's annual report is usually a colored, professionally presented, and marketable document intended for an audience of shareholders. There is typically a letter from the chief executive officer (CEO) and chairman of the board of directors, review of the company's history, and brief overviews of major company activity.

While it can be considered a shorter version of the 10-K report, the design and the intent of the annual report are distinctly separate from the 10-K. That said, an investor or analyst will still find the details of a company’s finances in the annual report, including the balance sheet and income statement, as well as other useful financial information.

10-K

The 10-K report is submitted to the SEC in a generic format, with no pictures or charts. The SEC has very strict guidelines on what information must be included and how it must be organized. It’s not designed for easy consumption for investors. 10-Ks tend to be very lengthy and more difficult to digest than annual reports.

Ultimately, a 10-K report is a full description of the company's financial activity during a given fiscal year and a full rundown of risks, legalities, corporate agreements, and market performance. Also, 10-K reports provide a full analysis of the relevant industry, the marketplace as a whole, and individual business operations.

A 10-K should not be confused with a 10-Q, which is a quarterly filing with the SEC that includes the company’s financial information. The 10-Q does not include all the detailed information, such as background and operations detail, that a 10-K does. There is no annual report equivalent to a 10-Q.

Both documents are important when analyzing a company, although the 10-K should be preferred by analysts, given its more comprehensive nature.

Key Differences

The annual report is sent to shareholders each year ahead of the annual shareholder meeting and voting for the board of directors. The deadline for filing a 10-K is between 60 and 90 days after the end of the company’s fiscal year, depending on the size of the company.

Generally, 10-Ks are found on the SEC website, while the annual report should be available on the company’s website—usually under the investor relations section. Where an annual report may include company information, financials, and a letter from the CEO, the 10-K will include various risks and a detailed discussion of operations.