What Is a 10-K?

A 10-K is a comprehensive report filed annually by a publicly-traded company about its financial performance, and is required by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The report contains much more detail than a company's annual report, which is sent to its shareholders before an annual meeting to elect company directors.

Some of the information a company is required to document in the 10-K includes its history, organizational structure, financial statements, earnings per share, subsidiaries, executive compensation, and any other relevant data.

The SEC requires this report to keep investors aware of a company's financial condition, and to allow them to have enough information before they buy or sell shares in the corporation, or before investing in the firm’s corporate bonds. 

Understanding 10-Ks

Because of the depth and nature of the information they contain, 10-Ks are fairly long and tend to be complicated. But investors need to understand that this is one of the most comprehensive and most important documents a public company can publish on a yearly basis. The more information they can gather from the 10-K, the more they can understand about the company.

The government requires companies to publish 10-K forms so investors have fundamental information about companies so they can make informed investment decisions. This form gives a clearer picture of everything a company does and what kinds of risks it faces.

The 10-K includes five distinct sections:

  • Business: This provides an overview of the company’s main operations, including its products and services, i.e., how it makes money. 
  • Risk Factors: These outline any and all risks the company faces or may face in the future. The risks are typically listed in order of importance.
  • Selected Financial Data: This section details specific financial information about the company over the last five years. This section presents more of a near-term view of the company’s recent performance
  • Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations: Also known as MD&A, this gives the company an opportunity to explain its business results from the previous fiscal year. This section is where the company can tell its story in its own words.
  • Financial Statements and Supplementary Data: This includes the company’s audited financial statements including the income statement, balance sheets, and statement of cash flows. A letter from the company’s independent auditor certifying the scope of their review is also included in this section.

    A 10-K filing also includes signed letters from the company’s chief executive officer and chief financial officer. In it, the executives swear under oath that the information included in the 10-K is accurate. These letters became a requirement after several high-profile cases involving accounting fraud following the dot-com bust. 

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    10-K

    Where to Find a 10-K

    10-K filings are public information and readily available through a number of sources. In fact, the vast majority of companies include them in the Investor Relations section of their website. The information included in a 10-K can be difficult to move through, but the more familiar investors become with the layout and the type of information included, it will likely become easier to identify the most important details.

    [Important: 10-Ks can also be retrieved by using the company search function through the SEC's EDGAR database.]

    Key Takeaways

    • A 10-K is a comprehensive report filed annually by public companies about their financial performance.
    • The report is required by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and is far more detailed than the annual report.
    • Information in the 10-K includes corporate history, financial statements, earnings per share, and any other relevant data.
    • The 10-K is a useful tool for investors to make important decisions about their investments.

    10-K Filing Deadlines

    Filing deadlines for the 10-K vary based on the size of the company. According to the SEC, companies with a public float—shares issued to the public that are available to trade—of $700 million or more must file their 10-K within 60 days after the end of their fiscal year. Companies with a float between $75 million and $700 million have 75 days, while companies will less than $75 million in its float has 90 days.

    Forms 10-Q and 8-K

    Along with the 10-K, the SEC requires that public companies regularly file forms 10-Q and 8-K.

    Form 10-Q must be submitted to the SEC on a quarterly basis. This form is a comprehensive report of a company's performance, and includes relevant information about its financial position. Unlike the 10-K, the information in the 10-Q is usually unaudited. The company is only required to file it three times a year as the 10-K is filed in the fourth quarter.

    The form 8-K, though, is required by the SEC whenever companies announce major events of which shareholders must be made aware. These events may include—but aren't limited to—sales, acquisitions, delistings, departures and elections of executives, changes in a company's status or control, bankruptcies, information about operations and assets, and any other relevant news.