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What is an annual report?

What is an annual report?

A company’s annual report is a detailed report that public companies are required to present annually to their shareholders, government organizations, and especially the local tax office which can prepare auditor’s reports. Thanks to these annual reports you can learn about the company’s financial situation and how well it has performed over the past year.

reading annual report on mobile device

In most cases, the annual report is divided into two parts. The first part contains achievements and plans for the future. It may include letters from key executives, as well as graphics, photos, and charts, and is often directed to investors. The second section is concerned with providing detailed financial statements and other important financial information. Often their form is determined by separate regulations or standardized corporate financial reporting practices.

Annual reports are required by law, but they also serve as marketing material, showing the company’s successes and strategies. They can be created in the form of an online catalogues to be viewed by shareholders and the public on the company’s website.

In this text, we will explain what annual reports are, why they are important, and how they can help different groups. We will also show how a well-designed annual report can influence viewers’ perception, using visually appealing elements such as charts and infographics.

What Should be Included in the Annual Report?

annual reports with graphs

The annual report should contain key information that provides a comprehensive overview of the company’s operations, financial performance, and future goals. The report usually consists of several key elements:

  • Letters to shareholders: These letters, often written by the CEO or chairman, provide an overview of the company’s operations and financial performance as well as prospects. They may highlight key events, achievements, new products or services, and the desired direction of the company.

  • Management Discussion and Analysis (MD&A): This section provides a detailed analysis of the company’s performance by its management. It delves into various aspects such as financial performance, market trends, risks, and opportunities.

  • Audited financial statements: These statements, including the auditor’s report, balance sheet, cash flow statement, income statement, and profit/loss account, provide a detailed summary of the company’s financial performance. They disclose assets, liabilities, revenues, expenses, and changes in equity compared with the previous year.

  • Summary of financial data: This section of the annual business report may contain notes or discussions relating to the financial statements, providing additional context and explanation.

  • Accounting Policies: An overview of the accounting policies used by company management in preparing the annual report and financial statements.

Who Needs to File an Annual Report?

The filing of an annual report depends on the size and type of business entity. Larger organizations typically assign employees to prepare the annual report, whereas smaller businesses or limited liability companies may have less stringent reporting requirements.

Specifics may vary depending on the country or state. Small businesses that file their taxes on an annual basis may have less stringent requirements, for example, since a lot of information demanded by the local government is already accounted for. If you regularly send income statements to the tax office; you might not have to prepare the company’s annual report for the government. These reports are typically smaller in size and scope than those prepared by larger corporations.

The filing requirements for annual reports for larger corporations are more stringent. An annual report typically includes a letter from the CEO or chairman outlining the company’s history, previous year’s activities, financial outlook, and short- and long-term objectives. A mission statement, the names of executive officers or board members, and a list of the company’s services or products may also be included in the annual report.

To reinforce the corporate identity, visual elements such as graphics, photos, and a brand narrative are frequently included. Many companies send their annual reports electronically, often using hosting services like Publuu’s cloud.

Publuu lets you convert your annual reports to beautiful, attention-grabbing flipbooks that will make your financial documents present beautifully on any device, just like the report below:

Publuu’s online annual report example

View more annual report examples


If assistance is required in completing and filing the annual report, it may be beneficial to seek the advice of a financial lawyer. To avoid penalties and potential company dissolution, it is critical to file annual reports on time and pay any required fees. Specific filing deadlines, requirements, and fees vary by state, so it is critical to become acquainted with the applicable regulations.

What’s the Purpose of an Annual Report?

woman reading annual report in the sun

The annual report serves many stakeholders, including investors and employees by fulfilling many purposes. It provides critical information that enables investors to make informed investment decisions.

Reading an annual report provides valuable information about a company’s financial health, industry performance, and broader economic trends. They provide data based on which companies can make investment decisions, helping investors assess the opportunities and risks of investing in a particular company.

For employees, the annual report serves as a reflection of the company’s financial condition, highlighting both its achievements and areas for improvement. The company’s management can use it to assess financial aspects such as cost inefficiencies, revenue generation, and potential areas of waste. With financial analysis, you can determine your financial position, draw up plans and initiatives, encourage stakeholder support, and aligning expectations with the company’s trajectory.

Finally, the annual report provides employees with a comprehensive and reliable source of information. It includes useful resources that can be used throughout the year, such as company communications, high-quality visuals, and design elements. This data can be used for a variety of internal and external communications, reinforcing the company’s brand identity and enabling more effective reporting and presentations.

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