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What Is an Annual Report? (With Definition & Top 2020 Business Examples)

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If you've started a business, at some point you're going to need to do an annual report. That can be a daunting prospect if this is your first time.

what is an annual report
Get a head start on creating an annual report with a well-designed annual report template, such as the one above.

In this guide, I'll walk you through what an annual report is, why you need it, and what you should include. I'll also share some tips and annual report examples to help you create annual reports your customers and investors actually want to read.

What Is an Annual Report? An Annual Report Definition

You may be wondering, what is an annual report and what is its purpose? 

An annual report provides companies' financial and operating information to regulatory authorities, shareholders and investors. 

As our annual report definition suggests, these reports are published once a year. In contrast, companies may be required to file earnings reports at specific times throughout the year. 

For example, the US Securities and Exchanges Commission expects companies to file earnings reports each quarter, and an annual report at the end of the fiscal (or financial) year. Financial year ends usually coincide with the end of a quarter, so typical dates for the end of reporting are March 31, June 30, September 30, or December 31.

Annual reports can be published in different places. As well as completing the regulatory filing, companies may share top findings via earnings calls. They may also publish their annual report on their websites. 

Find the Best Annual Report Templates

If you're looking for the best annual report templates to create your next annual report, Envato Elements has a great offer you won't want to miss. Download as many annual report examples as you want all for one low price. 

Get annual report templates from Envato Elements
Download an unlimited number of design assets on Envato Elements.

To find the perfect annual report template, go to Envato Elements and select Graphic Templates next to the on-screen search box. Type in annual report. You'll see thousands of attractive annual report templates you can use for your next filing. 

Find annual report templates on Envato Elements
Choose from many different annual report templates on Envato Elements.

Here are three of our top picks to get you started: 

1. Annual Report Brochure

what is a annual report for a business

Wondering what is an annual report for a business? This brochure will help you create the perfect annual report. It's got 24 pages, uses free fonts and is easy to edit with the latest versions of InDesign.

2. Corporate Annual Report

what is annual financial report

What is a corporate annual report without a bit of color to liven things up? The 48-page annual report template lets you customize colors with just a couple of clicks. It includes US Letter and A4 sizes and is easy to edit and customize in InDesign.

3. Annual Report Corporate Brochure

what is corporate annual report

Looking for a minimalist design for your next corporate annual report? This stylish A4 annual report template could be the right choice. It's got a clean design and is easy to edit in InDesign.

Envato Elements is a great choice when you want to change the design of your annual report regularly. But if you're looking for annual report examples for one-off use, check out the annual report templates available on GraphicRiver. 

Why You Need an Annual Report

what is an annual report and what is its purpose
Here's an attractive annual report template from Envato Elements.

So, what is the purpose of the comprehensive annual financial report? Why is it so important for companies to have one? As noted earlier, one of the main reasons is that it's a legal and regulatory requirement for many companies. 

An annual report keeps your company in good standing from the legal and financial viewpoint. If you don't file your annual report on time, your company might have to pay fines or extra fees. And in some cases, failing to remain in good standing might mean you're not allowed to keep trading. 

Annual reports are also a great way for companies to introduce their management teams, show off achievements, and talk about plans, 

Types of Annual Reports

what is the meaning of annual report
Business report is a multi-purpose brochure template that can be used as an annual report.

There are four main types of annual reports: 

  1. the corporate annual report
  2. the small business annual report
  3. the nonprofit annual report
  4. the alternative annual report

Let's take a brief look at what each of these involves:

1. Corporate Annual Report

When considering what an annual financial report is, the corporate annual report is what most people think of. This is a report filed by publicly traded companies with their local stock exchange or regulatory body. 

For example, US companies file their annual reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission. UK companies file theirs with Companies House and announce the filing on the stock exchange. If you're planning to file a corporate annual report, check the filing requirements for your country and location. 

2. Small Business Annual Report

Unless you're running a private company, you'll need to file an annual report for your LLC. What is an annual report for an LLC, what's required? In the US, that depends on the state. Small business annual reports are often shorter and simpler than corporate filings. But check the requirements of your country or location to see what you need to include for your business to remain in good standing.

3.  Nonprofit Annual Report

Though nonprofits usually enjoy tax benefits, they still have to file a statement of accounts to stay in good standing. While the financial reporting requirements are usually less onerous than for large public corporations, annual reports give nonprofits a great opportunity to report on their achievements in the past year. 

4. Alternative Annual Report

An alternative annual report won't always meet legal filing requirements, but it can be a great way to tell the story of your company's year your way. A lot of tech and SaaS companies provide alternative annual reports online to highlight interesting facts and figures about their business. 

Key Parts of Annual Reports

what is an annual report for an llc
Annual report example format from Envato Elements

Alternative reporting aside, here are some of the key elements to include in annual reports.

First of all, there are financial statements. There are four types of financial reports you've got to include:

  1. a balance sheet (a statement of assets and liabilities)
  2. an income statement (covering revenue and expenses)
  3. a cash flow statement (covering cash management from different activities)
  4. an equity statement (covering the value of and changes to company shares) 

You'll also need to include any explanatory notes that relate to these statements, or to regulatory compliance. And if regulations mandate the filing of audited financial statements, you'll also have to include an auditor's report.  

Other key parts of the annual report include:

  • Corporate, business or non-profit info - details about the name, address and contact information of your business entity. You'll also include names and titles of key executives or directors.
  • Non-financial content related to the operations and achievements of the company. For example, this is where you might report on how you're achieving your mission
  • Reports by the chair, CEO or business owner to put the finances and achievements into context

How to Create an Annual Report

 annual report example
Creating an annual report design is easy when you start with a template.

Ready to create your first annual report? Here's how you get started.

Remember what an annual report is and what its purpose is. So, start by making sure you've got all the right financial information available in the required format to meet your local filing regulations. 

Next, work out what story those numbers tell, and what you want people who read the annual report to take away. Collect accomplishments you want to include such as specific achievements or milestones and initiatives where your company has made a difference. Check your previous annual report to see what was planned or promised that you can report on this year. 

Once you know the story you're telling, start the process by creating a CEO's or chair's letter that'll go at the front of the annual report. Include key messages and highlights from the year to guide readers on what to look out for. Think of it as a kind of executive summary for your annual report.

Then prepare the rest of your report. You can give more detail on activities and initiatives. Collect some photographs to use as illustrations throughout the annual report. These days, annual reports don't have to be dry; they can be interesting, and, in the case of alternative annual reports, even interactive.

Once you've got all the elements together, it's time to think about the design. Consider:

  • Deciding on fonts for headers, subheads and body text. Don't use too many fonts, as that can be visually confusing. Instead, try different font weights for headings and subheadings.
  • Lay out your text, dividing it into small paragraphs for easy readability.
  • Include photographs that relate to your text to make the pages more attractive.

Remember, if you want a head start on designing your annual report you can take advantage of the annual report templates from Envato Elements. These will save you time while helping you achieve a professional look for your annual report. 

3 Cool Annual Report Examples

Want to get some ideas for your next annual report? Here are three annual report examples to inspire you.

1. Gates Foundation Year in Review

Gates Foundation Year in Review

This online annual report includes the CEO's letter at the top, and financials and business information near the end. In between, there are four key areas of work that you can click on for more detail, insights and statistics.

2.  Girls Who Code Annual Report 

Girls Who Code  Annual Report

As you'd expect from a more tech-minded report, the Girls Who Code annual report has some nice features. For example, text appears as you scroll to it while reading the CEO's letter. Numbers on charts and stats increase as you watch, but there are also links so you can jump to the section that interests you most.

3. CPA Ontario Annual Report 

CPA Ontario Annual Report

CPA Ontario has a more traditional but still attractive annual report. It keeps font use to a minimum, has consistent design, and includes short letters from the chair and the CEO. You can see how their annual reports have evolved over the years. This is a good example for a small business or corporate to follow. 

Learn More About Annual Reports

To find out more about writing and designing annual reports, check out the articles below:

Get Started on Your Next Annual Report!

In this guide, we've looked at what an annual report is, what it includes and how to create one. Remember, annual reports don't have to be dull and dry. They can have an exciting and attractive design.

Get a head start on creating an annual report with the well-designed annual report templates from Envato Elements. Download as many templates as you want for one low price. You can also find attractive annual report templates for one-off use on GraphicRiver. Check them out, and start creating your annual report today!

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