Define: 10-K

Quick Summary of 10-K

A 10-K is an annual report that companies file with the SEC. It contains crucial information about the company’s finances, business operations, and other financial data. It serves as a comprehensive evaluation of the company’s performance, aiding investors and other stakeholders in assessing the company’s current state.

What is the dictionary definition of 10-K?
Dictionary Definition of 10-K

A “10-K” is a comprehensive annual report that publicly traded companies submit to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). It provides a detailed overview of a company’s financial performance, operations, and risks. The 10-K includes audited financial statements, management’s discussion and analysis (MD&A), and other disclosures required by the SEC.

Full Definition Of 10-K

A 10-K report is a company’s annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This report contains crucial financial information about the company, such as audited financial statements, a description of the company’s business and financial condition, and other relevant financial data. For instance, Apple Inc. submits a 10-K report to the SEC each year, providing detailed information about its financial performance, including revenue, expenses, and profits. The report also includes details about Apple’s products and services, competitors, and future plans. This example demonstrates how companies like Apple use the 10-K report to disclose essential financial information to investors and the general public. The report aids investors in making informed decisions regarding buying or selling the company’s stock while also allowing the public to comprehend the company’s financial status and future objectives.

The 10-K filing is a comprehensive annual report required by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for publicly traded companies. It provides a thorough overview of a company’s financial performance, legal proceedings, market conditions, and risk factors, among other essential information. This document serves as a critical tool for investors, analysts, and regulators to assess a company’s financial health and business operations. Although the 10-K is an American requirement, its significance extends globally, influencing international investors and markets.

Purpose and Importance

The primary purpose of the 10-K filing is to ensure transparency and provide detailed information about a company’s financial status and business activities. This transparency helps maintain investor confidence and supports the efficient functioning of capital markets. The 10-K includes audited financial statements, management’s discussion and analysis (MD&A), disclosures about market risk, and details on the company’s internal controls and procedures.

Structure of the 10-K Filing

The 10-K is divided into several sections, each providing specific information. These sections include:

  1. Business: Describes the company’s operations, products, services, and market position.
  2. Risk Factors: Identifies and explains the risks that could materially affect the company’s business, financial condition, and results of operations.
  3. Legal Proceedings: Details any ongoing or pending legal actions involving the company.
  4. Mine Safety Disclosures: Relevant for companies involved in mining operations, this section provides information about mine safety and health.
  5. Selected Financial Data: Summarises key financial data for the last five years.
  6. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations (MD&A): This document provides management’s perspective on the company’s financial results and trends.
  7. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data: This section includes audited financial statements and notes, which provide a detailed account of the company’s financial condition.
  8. Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure: Discuss any changes in the company’s accountants and any disagreements on accounting practices.
  9. Controls and Procedures: Details the company’s internal controls over financial reporting and any changes in these controls.
  10. Other Information: This includes any other relevant information not covered in the previous sections.
  11. Exhibits, Financial Statement Schedules, and Signatures: This section lists the exhibits and schedules filed with the report and includes the signatures of the company’s principal officers.

Legal and Regulatory Framework

The legal foundation for the 10-K filing is rooted in the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which established the SEC and set forth the requirements for periodic reporting by publicly traded companies. The act mandates that companies provide accurate and timely information to investors, promoting transparency and fairness in the securities markets.

Securities Exchange Act of 1934

The Securities Exchange Act of 1934 was enacted to govern securities transactions on the secondary market following the initial offering. This act requires issuers of publicly traded securities to file annual reports (Form 10-K), quarterly reports (Form 10-Q), and current reports (Form 8-K) with the SEC. These reports ensure that investors have access to regular, comprehensive updates about the companies they invest in.

Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) 2002 introduced significant reforms to enhance corporate responsibility, improve financial disclosures, and combat corporate and accounting fraud. SOX established stricter regulations for all U.S. public company boards, management, and public accounting firms. Key provisions affecting the 10-K include:

  • Section 302: Mandates that principal executive and financial officers certify the accuracy of financial reports.
  • Section 404: Requires management and external auditors to report on the adequacy of the company’s internal controls over financial reporting.

Detailed Analysis of Key Sections


The “Business” section describes the company’s operations, including its principal products and services, markets, and competitive environment. This section is crucial for investors to understand the company’s business model and strategic direction. It also covers information about subsidiaries, joint ventures, and significant transactions that have taken place during the fiscal year.

Risk Factors

The “Risk Factors” section outlines the specific risks that the company faces, which could adversely affect its business, financial condition, or results of operations. These risks can be market-related, regulatory, operational, or financial. Companies must provide a detailed and candid assessment of these risks to give investors a realistic view of potential challenges and uncertainties.

Legal Proceedings

The “Legal Proceedings” section provides information about any material pending legal proceedings involving the company, its subsidiaries, or its properties. This includes details about the nature of the litigation, the parties involved, and the potential financial impact. This disclosure helps investors understand a company’s legal challenges and their possible implications.

Management’s Discussion and Analysis (MD&A)

The MD&A section is one of the most critical parts of the 10-K filing. It offers management a perspective on the financial results and significant trends affecting its operations. The MD&A provides insights into the company’s performance, liquidity, capital resources, and operations results. It also discusses known trends, demands, commitments, events, or uncertainties that are reasonably likely to impact future performance.

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

This section includes the company’s audited financial statements, such as the balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement, and statement of shareholders’ equity. The notes to the financial statements provide additional context and details about the accounting policies and significant financial transactions. This section is vital for investors to accurately assess the company’s financial health and performance.

Compliance and Enforcement

The SEC enforces compliance with the 10-K filing requirements through various means. Companies that fail to file their 10-K on time or provide inaccurate information can face penalties, including fines, suspension of trading, and delisting from stock exchanges. Additionally, executives who certify false financial statements can be subject to criminal charges under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

Timing and Deadlines

The SEC mandates specific deadlines for filing the 10-K, which depend on the company’s public float:

  • Large Accelerated Filers: Must file within 60 days after the fiscal year-end.
  • Accelerated Filers: Must file within 75 days after the fiscal year-end.
  • Non-Accelerated Filers and Smaller Reporting Companies: Must file within 90 days after the fiscal year-end.

XBRL Requirements

Companies are required to submit their financial statements and related footnotes in eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) format. XBRL enhances the accessibility and usability of financial data, allowing investors and regulators to analyse and compare it more efficiently.

International Context

While the 10-K is specific to the United States, similar reporting requirements exist in other jurisdictions, reflecting the global importance of financial transparency. According to the Companies Act of 2006, publicly traded companies in the United Kingdom must submit annual reports, including financial statements, a strategic report, a directors’ report, and an auditor’s report.

Challenges and Criticisms

Despite its importance, the 10-K filing process is not without challenges and criticisms. Some of the common issues include:

Complexity and Length

The 10-K can be complex and lengthy, making it difficult for investors to navigate and understand all the information provided. While necessary, detailed disclosures can sometimes overwhelm readers with too much information.

Boilerplate Disclosures

There is a concern that some companies use boilerplate language in their risk factors and other sections, reducing the usefulness of the information. Investors and regulators seek more specific, tailored disclosures that provide genuine insights into the company’s risks and operations.

Compliance Costs

Preparing the 10-K is a costly and time-consuming process for companies. The need for extensive documentation, audits, and compliance with multiple regulatory requirements can be burdensome, especially for smaller firms.

Future Trends

The landscape of financial reporting is continuously evolving. Some future trends and potential changes in the 10-K filing process include:

Enhanced Technology Use

Advancements in technology, such as artificial intelligence and data analytics, are expected to streamline the preparation and analysis of 10-K filings. These technologies can improve accuracy, reduce costs, and enhance the quality of disclosures.

Sustainability and ESG Reporting

There is a growing demand for more comprehensive reporting on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors. Investors increasingly seek information on how companies address sustainability issues and their impact on long-term value creation. Future 10-K filings may include more detailed ESG disclosures.

Regulatory Changes

The SEC and other regulatory bodies continually review and update disclosure requirements to enhance transparency and protect investors. Regulation changes could lead to new reporting standards, including more rigorous requirements for cybersecurity disclosures and other emerging risks.


The 10-K filing is a cornerstone of financial transparency and accountability for publicly traded companies in the United States. It comprehensively overviews a company’s financial health, business operations, risks, and management perspective. Despite the challenges and criticisms, the 10-K remains an essential tool for investors, analysts, and regulators.

As the business environment and regulatory landscape evolve, so will the 10-K filing requirements. Companies must stay abreast of these changes to ensure compliance and communicate their financial performance and strategic direction to stakeholders. For investors, understanding the nuances of the 10-K can provide valuable insights into the companies in which they invest, ultimately supporting informed decision-making and fostering a more transparent and efficient market.

10-K FAQ'S

A 10-K filing is an annual report that publicly traded companies are required to submit to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). It provides a comprehensive overview of the company’s financial performance, risks, and other relevant information.

The deadline for filing a 10-K depends on the company’s fiscal year-end. Generally, companies must file their 10-K within 60 or 90 days after the end of their fiscal year.

A 10-K includes detailed financial statements, management’s discussion and analysis of the company’s financial condition, risk factors, legal proceedings, executive compensation, and other relevant disclosures.

No, only publicly traded companies registered with the SEC are required to file a 10-K. Private companies and certain smaller reporting companies have different reporting requirements.

Yes, 10-K filings are publicly available on the SEC’s website ( through their EDGAR database. Many companies also provide a copy of their 10-K on their own websites.

If a company fails to file its 10-K on time, it may face penalties and sanctions from the SEC. Additionally, it may lose credibility with investors and stakeholders, potentially impacting its stock price and reputation.

Yes, a 10-K can be used as evidence in legal proceedings. The information disclosed in a 10-K can be relevant in various legal matters, such as securities fraud cases or shareholder disputes.

Yes, a company can be held liable for false or misleading statements in its 10-K. If investors suffer financial losses due to relying on inaccurate information in the 10-K, they may have grounds to file a lawsuit against the company for securities fraud.

Yes, if a company discovers errors or omissions in its 10-K filing, it can file an amendment known as a 10-K/A. This allows the company to correct any inaccuracies or provide additional information.

Certain smaller reporting companies may be eligible for scaled-down reporting requirements, such as filing a 10-KSB or 10-KT. Additionally, foreign private issuers may have different filing obligations. It is important to consult with legal counsel or the SEC for specific exemptions or exceptions.

Related Phrases
Form 10-K

This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 11th June 2024.

Cite Term

To help you cite our definitions in your bibliography, here is the proper citation layout for the three major formatting styles, with all of the relevant information filled in.

  • Page URL:
  • Modern Language Association (MLA):10-K. DLS Solicitors. June 20 2024
  • Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):10-K. DLS Solicitors. (accessed: June 20 2024).
  • American Psychological Association (APA):10-K. Retrieved June 20 2024, from website:
Avatar of DLS Solicitors
DLS Solicitors : Family Law Solicitors

Our team of professionals are based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. We offer clear, specialist legal advice in all matters relating to Family Law, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Lasting Power of Attorney and Court of Protection.

All author posts