Every company is required to keep business records for several years. Ownership records, for example, should be permanently retained. Accounting experts recommend keeping your tax returns for at least seven years. In some cases, these documents are publicly available, so anyone can access them. Whether you need information on a potential business partner, a competitor or a supplier, it may be worth checking their tax records. This will give you a better idea of their financial situation and overall performance.
If it's a publicly traded company, you may be able to find their financial statements on their website or on sites like Edgar.
Before getting started, make sure you know what to look for. Public companies and other business entities, such as those listing their securities on a U.S. exchange or having more than $10 million in total assets, are required to submit financial statements to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. These documents can be accessed online through the EDGAR database and may include the following:
- 10-K report
- 10-Q report
- 8-K report
- SEC S-1
- Schedule 13D
The 10-K and 10-Q reports are the most commonly filed SEC forms. The first one provides detailed information regarding a company's financial performance, including a business overview, financial data, executive compensation, properties, risk factors and other data. It must be filed annually. The SEC form 10-Q is an abbreviated version of the 10-K and needs to be filed quarterly.
Since these forms are available to the public, investors often check them to evaluate the companies in which they have an interest. Other businesses may look up this information too.
For example, you may want to check a supplier's financial status before partnering with it. If that company goes bankrupt, your business will suffer. You might not be able to maintain your production schedule and fulfill customer orders, which would lead to loss of revenue.
Organizations must also file the 8-K report to inform SEC about any major events concerning shareholders. Companies that plan to go public are required to complete the SEC S-1 form. If you decide to acquire beneficial ownership of at least 5 percent of a company's shares, you must file the Schedule 13D form.
The SEC forms listed above provide more than just an overview of a company's finances. They also offer accurate insights into its risk factors, working capital, inventory turnover and other key aspects. This allows you to evaluate the risks involved and make an informed decision.
An organization's tax records and other documents provided to SEC can be found for free in a database called EDGAR. This acronym stands for Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval. Users can search for tax records, periodic reports, company filings, insider transactions and other relevant information.
EDGAR features more than 21 million fillings. All you need to do is to visit SEC.gov, click Filings and then access EDGAR Company filings. Enter the name of the company and click Search. You can also check an organization's daily fillings, archives and mutual funds.
AlphaSense, CapIQ, Dun & Bradstreet and other online financial databases provide comprehensive data and research on public and private companies. D&B, for example, is the world's largest database. It provides detailed insights into more than 200 million companies from over 190 countries.
Another comprehensive resource is CapIQ. This online platform provides investors and organizations with business reports, global market data, financial statements, research estimates and more. You can also search for tax records on AlphaSense, which uses artificial intelligence and natural language processing technology to turn data into actionable insights on companies, products and market trends.
Experian provides business public records, too. This company holds data on more than 27 million, credit-active companies in the U.S. Even though this platform is best known for its credit services, it provides marketing assistance and other services as well. Users can download detailed reports that include public records, business credit information, financial stability risk ratings, collection fillings and bankruptcy reports. However, you may not find the same information for each business you look into.
If you prefer a more traditional approach, you can always check with the city or county where the company operates. Contact the Secretary of State in the state of incorporation or check its official website. The information you need may be available online.