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An annual report is a comprehensive report on a company's activities throughout the preceding year. Annual reports are intended to give shareholders and other interested people information about the company's activities and financial performance. They may be considered as grey literature. Most jurisdictions require companies to prepare and disclose annual reports, and many require the annual report to be filed at the company's registry. Companies listed on a stock exchange are also required to report at more frequent intervals (depending upon the rules of the stock exchange involved).
Typical annual reports may include: 
Other information deemed relevant to stakeholders may be included, such as a report on operations for manufacturing firms or corporate social responsibility reports for companies with environmentally or socially sensitive operations. In the case of larger companies, it is usually a sleek, colorful, high-gloss publication.
The details provided in the report are of use to investors to understand the company's financial position and future direction. The financial statements are usually compiled in compliance with IFRS and/or the domestic GAAP, as well as domestic legislation (e.g. the SOX in the U.S.).
In the United States, a more-detailed version of the report, called a Form 10-K, is submitted to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  A publicly held company may also issue a much more limited version of an annual report, which is known as a "wrap report." A wrap report is a Form 10-K with an annual report cover wrapped around it. 
The examples and perspective in this section may not represent a worldwide view of the subject.(June 2014)
Statement of Directors' responsibilities for the shareholders' financial statements
The Directors are responsible for preparing the Annual Report and the financial statements in accordance with applicable Law of the Republic of Ireland, including the accounting standards issued by the Accounting Standards Board and published by The Institute of Chartered Accountants. Irish company law requires the directors to prepare financial statements for each financial period which give a true and fair view of the state of affairs of the company and of the profit or loss of the company for that period.
In preparing these financial statements, the Directors are required to:
The directors confirm that they have complied with the above requirements in preparing the financial statements. The directors are responsible for keeping proper books of account that disclose with reasonable accuracy at any time the financial position of the company and to enable them to ensure that the financial statements are prepared in accordance with accounting standards generally accepted in Ireland and with Irish statute comprising the Companies Acts 1963 to 2009...
In 1903, US Steel published an annual report whose financial accuracy was certified by Price, Waterhouse & Co in what is known as the earliest modern corporate annual report. 
Certain groups such as The True Cost Of Chevron Network have released 'alternative' annual reports as a way to highlight ongoing environmental destruction and/or human rights abuses committed by a particular company. 
The Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002 is a United States federal law that mandates certain practices in financial record keeping and reporting for corporations.
Financial statements are formal records of the financial activities and position of a business, person, or other entity.
Generally Accepted Accounting Principles is the accounting standard adopted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and is the default accounting standard used by companies based in the United States.
An audit is an "independent examination of financial information of any entity, whether profit oriented or not, irrespective of its size or legal form when such an examination is conducted with a view to express an opinion thereon.” Auditing also attempts to ensure that the books of accounts are properly maintained by the concern as required by law. Auditors consider the propositions before them, obtain evidence, and evaluate the propositions in their auditing report.
A financial audit is conducted to provide an opinion whether "financial statements" are stated in accordance with specified criteria. Normally, the criteria are international accounting standards, although auditors may conduct audits of financial statements prepared using the cash basis or some other basis of accounting appropriate for the organization. In providing an opinion whether financial statements are fairly stated in accordance with accounting standards, the auditor gathers evidence to determine whether the statements contain material errors or other misstatements.
Corporate governance is defined, described or delineated in diverse ways, depending on the writer's purpose. Writers focused on a disciplinary interest or context often adopt narrow definitions that appear purpose-specific. Writers concerned with regulatory policy in relation to corporate governance practices often use broader structural descriptions. A broad (meta) definition that encompasses many adopted definitions is "Corporate governance” describes the processes, structures, and mechanisms that influence the control and direction of corporations."
An annual general meeting is a meeting of the general membership of an organization.
Bank regulation is a form of government regulation which subjects banks to certain requirements, restrictions and guidelines, designed to create market transparency between banking institutions and the individuals and corporations with whom they conduct business, among other things. As regulation focusing on key factors in the financial markets, it forms one of the three components of financial law, the other two being case law and self-regulating market practices.
A privately held company is a company whose shares and related rights or obligations are not offered for public subscription or publicly negotiated in the respective listed markets but rather the company's stock is offered, owned, traded, exchanged privately, or over-the-counter. In the case of a closed corporation, there are relatively few shareholders or company members. Related terms are a closely held corporation, unquoted company, and unlisted company.
Corporate transparency describes the extent to which a corporation's actions are observable by outsiders. This is a consequence of regulation, local norms, and the set of information, privacy, and business policies concerning corporate decision-making and operations openness to employees, stakeholders, shareholders and the general public. From the perspective of outsiders, transparency can be defined simply as the perceived quality of intentionally shared information from the corporation.
A Form 10-K is an annual report required by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), that gives a comprehensive summary of a company's financial performance. Although similarly named, the annual report on Form 10-K is distinct from the often glossy "annual report to shareholders," which a company must send to its shareholders when it holds an annual meeting to elect directors. The 10-K includes information such as company history, organizational structure, executive compensation, equity, subsidiaries, and audited financial statements, among other information.
An auditor's report is a formal opinion, or disclaimer thereof, issued by either an internal auditor or an independent external auditor as a result of an internal or external audit, as an assurance service in order for the user to make decisions based on the results of the audit.
Sustainability reporting refers to the disclosure, whether voluntary, solicited, or required, of non-financial performance information to outsiders of the organization. Generally speaking, sustainability reporting deals with information concerning environmental, social, economic and governance issues in the broadest sense. These are the criteria gathered under the acronym ESG.
A Company Secretary is a senior position in a citizen sector establishment. Also known as Compliance Officers, it is one of the positions that is a part of the key managerial personnel of any company. In large American and Canadian publicly listed corporations, a Company Secretary is typically named a Corporate Secretary. A Company Secretary is responsible for the efficient administration of a company, particularly with regard to ensuring compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements and for ensuring that decisions of the board of directors are implemented.
The Companies Act 2006 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which forms the primary source of UK company law.
Regulation S-K is a prescribed regulation under the US Securities Act of 1933 that lays out reporting requirements for various SEC filings used by public companies. Companies are also often called issuers, filers or registrants.
A directors' report is a document produced by the board of directors under the requirements of UK company law, which details the state of the company and its compliance with a set of financial, accounting and corporate social responsibility standards.
The Transparency Directive, Transparency Obligations Directive or Directive 2004/109/EC is an EU Directive issued in 2004, revising an earlier Directive 2001/34/EC. The Transparency Directive was amended in 2013 by the Transparency Directive Amending Directive.
Canadian corporate law concerns the operation of corporations in Canada, which can be established under either federal or provincial authority.
Voluntary disclosure is the provision of information by a company's management beyond requirements such as generally accepted accounting principles and Securities and Exchange Commission rules, where the information is believed to be relevant to the decision-making of users of the company's annual reports.