How to Read a 10-K

Although learning how to read a report sounds daunting, you might be surprised at how much valuable information they offer.


If you want to follow or invest in a U.S. public company, you can find a wealth of information in the company's annual report on Form 10-K. Among other things, the 10-K offers a detailed picture of a company's business, the risks it faces, and the operating and financial results for the fiscal year. Company management also discusses its perspective on the business results and what is driving them.

Most U.S. public companies are required to produce a 10-K each year and file it with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). (Non-U.S. public companies usually file their annual reports with the SEC on different forms). SEC rules require that 10-Ks follow a set order of topics.

SEC rules also require companies to send an annual report to their shareholders when they are holding annual meetings to elect members of their boards of directors. There is a lot of overlap in the requirements for the 10-K and the annual report to shareholders, but there are also important differences. The 10-K typically includes more detailed information than the annual report to shareholders. The annual report to shareholders, unlike the 10-K, sometimes appears as a colorful, glossy publication. A number of companies, however, simply take their 10-K and send it as their annual report to shareholders. In those cases, the 10-K filed with the SEC and the annual report to shareholders are the same document. For more information on the annual report to shareholders, please click here.

Following is a description of each section of Form 10-K, along with some suggestions on how to use the information. At the end of this document, we explain the role of public companies in ensuring the accuracy of their 10-Ks and the role of the SEC in reviewing the documents. We also tell you how to find company 10-Ks.

Source: US Securities and Exchange Commission,
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