Category Archives: 10-K/10-Q Tips

10-K Tip Number One for 2016

Happy New Year from all of us at the SEC Institute Division at PLI! We hope your new year is beginning well and if you are working on closing year-end December 31, 2015 that all is proceeding smoothly.

Last week, on January 7, 2016, Carol and George (that being us of course, the bloggers you are reading now!) presented a One-Hour Briefing, “PLI’s Second Annual Form 10-K Tune-up”. In the briefing we discussed three broad groups of issues to think about this year-end. These were New and Emerging Issues, Recurring Issues, and SEC Staff Focus Areas. Here is the complete list of the topics we discussed in the One-Hour Briefing:

  • New and Emerging Issues
    • Customer accounting for fees paid for cloud computing arrangements
    • PCAOB AS 18 Related Parties – impacts both auditors & registrants
    • PCAOB AS 17 Auditing Supplemental Info Accompanying Audited F/S
    • Audit Committee disclosure
    • ICFR and COSO
  • Recurring Issues
    • SAB 74 disclosures for Revenue Recognition and others
    • Disclosure effectiveness
    • Cybersecurity
    • Conflict minerals & Form SD disclosure
  • SEC Staff Focus Areas
    • Segments – focus on ASU 280
    • Statement of Cash Flows
    • Income taxes
    • Fair value
    • Foreign Exchange Rates, Commodity Prices, and Interest Rates


You can hear everything we discussed in an On-Demand version of the Briefing that will be available soon.

To augment the Briefing we are writing a series of blog posts to dive more deeply into each of the areas we discussed than the one-hour time limit allowed.

The first issue, customer accounting for fees paid for cloud computing arrangements, relates to ASU 2015-5. This ASU is effective for public business entities for periods beginning after December 15, 2015. For other entities the effective date is one year later.

One of the major issues in this new standard is that costs associated with a contract may be accounted for differently depending on whether the contract involves a software license or is only a service contract.

To get to that issue we need to review the major provisions of the ASU.

This project arose with the increase in the use of “cloud” based computing systems. These generally include “software as a service agreements” (SaaS) and other types of “software hosting” arrangements. There was no clear guidance about how customers should account for such arrangements. As a consequence, it was unclear whether these were software contracts subject to software accounting guidance or simply service contracts or perhaps a hybrid of the two accounting areas.

The ASU puts paragraph 350-40-15-4A into the ASC section dealing with internal use software:

“The guidance in this Subtopic applies only to internal-use software that a customer obtains access to in a hosting arrangement if both of the following criteria are met:

  1. The customer has the contractual right to take possession of the software at any time during the hosting period without significant penalty.
  2. It is feasible for the customer to either run the software on its own hardware or contract with another party unrelated to the vendor to host the software.”

If the above criteria are not met then the contract does not involve a software license and is a service contact.

The key issue here is that if the two criteria are met, then the agreement is treated as a multiple element arrangement and the costs are allocated between the software license and a service element associated with the hosting contract. The costs associated with the software license fall into the guidance for costs related to internal use software, or if appropriate, another software model such as software to be used in research and development.

On the other hand, if there is no software license element, then the contract is treated as any other service contract.

The financial reporting implications of this distinction can affect issues such as balance sheet classification, since a software license would be accounted for as an asset in appropriate circumstances, i.e. if it was paid for in advance. Income statement geography can also be affected as software amortization versus service contract expense could be in different income statement line items. And, it is possible that the amount of costs recognized in each period could be different.

This perhaps more complex issue depends on whether the arrangement includes a software license. If it does include a software license the internal use software guidance applies. The expense recognition part of this guidance is articulated in ASC 350-40-30:

30-1     Costs of computer software developed or obtained for internal use that shall be capitalized include only the following:

  1. External direct costs of materials and services consumed in developing or obtaining internal-use computer software. Examples of those costs include but are not limited to the following:
  2. Fees paid to third parties for services provided to develop the software during the application development stage
  3. Costs incurred to obtain computer software from third parties
  4. Travel expenses incurred by employees in their duties directly associated with developing software.
  5. Payroll and payroll-related costs (for example, costs of employee benefits) for employees who are directly associated with and who devote time to the internal-use computer software project, to the extent of the time spent directly on the project. Examples of employee activities include but are not limited to coding and testing during the application development stage.
  6. Interest costs incurred while developing internal-use computer software. Interest shall be capitalized in accordance with the provisions of Subtopic 835-20.

These costs can even include the costs of data conversion.

For service contracts, there is no such guidance. And here in fact lies the more problematic issue. If a cloud based computing arrangement includes a software license the internal use software guidance for costs may require capitalization of costs that would not be capitalized if the contract is only a service contract. Thus the amount of expense recognized for an arrangement could be different if it has a software license or does not have a software license. If you have this situation, careful analysis is crucial!

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Disclosure Simplification? That was too easy for GE, they went so much further!

In one of our June workshops a participant brought the most recent GE Form 10-K into the group’s discussions. GE has dramatically redesigned their Form 10-K to be a communication focused document.

If it weren’t for the cover page, most SEC reporting professionals would not even recognize this filing as a 10-K. Right after the cover page is a picture of a GE worker and this is followed by an executive summary. It looks like an annual report to shareholders at first, but no, it is the ACTUAL FORM 10-K! It even has colors!

The document is organized differently to tell GE’s story in a meaningful and engaging way. When you think Form 10-K you usually think of a lock-step structure of Parts and Items, and this structure does not appear at all in this narrative document. GE has used General Instruction C.1. in a very innovative way. This instruction says:

  1. Preparation of Report.
    1. (1)  This form is not to be used as a blank form to be filled in, but only as a guide in the preparation of the report on paper meeting the requirements of Rule 12b-12. Except as provided in General Instruction G, the answers to the items shall be prepared in the manner specified in Rule 12b-13.

GE completely redesigned the structure and the flow. GE did not follow the lock-step format of the Form 10-K Parts and Items. Instead they reorganized the content into a logical structure and flow. In addition, you will see a variety of font sizes and headings, pictures, graphics and other tools to make information easier to follow and understand. (All of course looking back to the concepts of Plain English.)

When we here at the blog first read the document we wondered how it could even be grounded in the Form 10-K instructions, but check out page 231. Here is the linkage to the instructions. In the order of the Parts and Items in the Form 10-K instructions GE cross references to where the required disclosures are in their new 10-K.

The investment in improvement and change in this document is, well, WOW!

You can find the 10-K at:

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome and appreciated!

10-K Tip – Another S-K Item 201 Oddity

Over the years S-K Item 201 has been amended, updated and added to on several occasions. As a result it has become a bit of a disclosure hodge-podge. It contains more than a few twists and turns, and we explored one of them in our last post about the performance graph from S-K item 201(e) that does not have to be in the Form 10-K.

This post is about another twisty disclosure rule, and is also a reminder that the Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations from CorpFin can be really helpful. You can find them all at:

This S-K Item 201 twist surrounds the equity compensation table that is required by S-K 201(d). At first reading, you would not think there is even an issue. The instructions to Form 10-K seem clear:

Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities.

(a)  Furnish the information required by Item 201 of Regulation S-K (17 CFR 229.201) and …(rest of the instruction omitted as it is not relevant).

With this straightforward instruction it would seem everything required by S-K Item 201 should be included in Item 5 of the 10-K, including S-K 201(d):

(d) Securities authorized for issuance under equity compensation plans
(1) In the following tabular format, provide the information specified in paragraph (d)(2) of this Item as of the end of the most recently completed fiscal year with respect to compensation plans (including individual compensation arrangements) under which equity securities of the registrant are authorized for issuance, aggregated as follows:

(i) All compensation plans previously approved by security holders; and
(ii) All compensation plans not previously approved by security holders.

However, this seemingly straightforward issue gets disrupted when you get to Item 12 in the Form 10-K instructions which says:

Item 12. Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters.

Furnish the information required by Item 201(d) of Regulation S-K (§ 229.201(d) of this chapter) and Item 403 of Regulation S-K (§ 229.403 of this chapter).

So, where is the appropriate place in the Form 10-K for this table? For a while many people read the instructions very literally and put the table in both Item 5 and Item 12! Eventually the common sense approach of the SEC, i.e. you don’t really need it twice, was clarified in this Compliance and Disclosure Interpretation:

Regulation S-K: Section 106. Item 201 — Market Price of and Dividends on the Registrant’s Common Equity and Related Stockholder Matters

Question 106.01

Question: Is the Item 201(d) disclosure required in Part II of Form 10-K, given that Item 5 of Form 10-K indicates that the registrant is required to furnish the information required under Item 201, or should the Item 201(d) disclosure be included (or incorporated by reference) in Part III of Form 10-K given that Item 12 indicates that the registrant is required to furnish the information required under Item 201(d)?

Answer: The Item 201(d) disclosure should be included in Part III, Item 12 of Form 10-K. An issuer may rely on General Instruction G.3 to Form 10-K to incorporate by reference the Item 201(d) disclosure from its proxy statement or information statement, even if the issuer did not submit a compensation plan for security holder action at its annual meeting of security holders. See American Bar Association (Jan. 30, 2004). [Mar. 13, 2007]

This one is pretty picky, but always good to get the details right! It also shows one facet of the SEC staff’s interpretive process, as the CDI resulted from an interpretive request from the ABA, which is linked to Reg S-K’s CDI 106.1.

As always your thoughts and comments are welcome!


Form 10-K Tip – A Subtle Filed Versus Furnished Issue

In our previous two posts dealing with the differences between the Form 10-K and the Annual Report to Shareholders (the ARS that accompanies the proxy), we delved into the differences between “filed” and “furnished” documents.

Here is another fairly subtle place that this “filed versus furnished” distinction comes into Form 10-K.

Regulation S-K Item 201(e) is the source of the requirement for the “performance graph” which does a five-year comparison of the return on a $100 investment in the company’s stock, a broad market index and an industry index. (The text of Item 201(e) is included below).

Here is an example of the graph from American Woodmark:

From this part of the Instructions to Item 5 of the Form 10-K it seems relatively straightforward that this graph should be in Item 5 of the 10-K:

Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities.

  1. (a)  Furnish the information required by Item 201 of Regulation S-K (17 CFR 229.201)…

(Note: The rest of the Item 5 instructions are omitted as they do not affect this issue)

However, if you persevere (that is stay awake!) trying to read the whole of S-K Item 201, including the instructions (always an important part of the items!) you will find Instruction 7 to Item 201(e):

  1. The information required by paragraph (e) of this Item need not be provided in any filings other than an annual report to security holders required by Exchange Act Rule 14a-3 (17 CFR 240.14a-3) or Exchange Act Rule 14c-3 (17 CFR 240.14c-3) that precedes or accompanies a registrant’s proxy or information statement relating to an annual meeting of security holders at which directors are to be elected (or special meeting or written consents in lieu of such meeting). Such information will not be deemed to be incorporated by reference into any filing under the Securities Act or the Exchange Act, except to the extent that the registrant specifically incorporates it by reference.

The reason for this instruction goes back many years to when changes were made in the proxy rules and this graph was moved from the proxy statement to S-K Item 201.

And, as you read this instruction, you might be tempted to say “so what”! But the subtle and important issue is that the ARS is not a filed document!

So, if you put the graph in the Form 10-K, it is “filed” information, subject to 1934 Act liability provisions. However, if you put it only in the ARS, it is not subject to 1934 Act liability. While this might not be a major issue, it is still one to think about.

One path some companies use is to put the graph on the back page of a 10-K wrap, so it is not actually included in the 10-K itself.

Here is an example of a company, American Woodmark, that dealt with the issue by putting the graph in the 10-K wrap pages instead of the Form 10-K, in order to keep the graph from being filed. Check out page 12 of their ARS:

Yes, this one is pretty subtle, even picky, but one to think about.

As always, your comments and thoughts are welcome!

Here is the main part text of S-K Item 201(e). You can see the whole Item at:

S-K Item 201

(e) Performance graph. (1) Provide a line graph comparing the yearly percentage change in the registrant’s cumulative total shareholder return on a class of common stock registered under section 12 of the Exchange Act (as measured by dividing the sum of the cumulative amount of dividends for the measurement period, assuming dividend reinvestment, and the difference between the registrant’s share price at the end and the beginning of the measurement period; by the share price at the beginning of the measurement period) with:

(i) The cumulative total return of a broad equity market index assuming reinvestment of dividends, that includes companies whose equity securities are traded on the same exchange or are of comparable market capitalization; provided, however, that if the registrant is a company within the Standard & Poor’s 500 Stock Index, the registrant must use that index; and

(ii) The cumulative total return, assuming reinvestment of dividends, of:

(A) A published industry or line-of-business index;

(B) Peer issuer(s) selected in good faith. If the registrant does not select its peer issuer(s) on an industry or line-of-business basis, the registrant shall disclose the basis for its selection; or

(C) Issuer(s) with similar market capitalization(s), but only if the registrant does not use a published industry or line-of-business index and does not believe it can reasonably identify a peer group. If the registrant uses this alternative, the graph shall be accompanied by a statement of the reasons for this selection.

10-K Tip of the Week – Annual Report to Shareholders vs Form 10-K

In sort of a lighthearted way this week’s Tip is a “versus” tip. With big boxing matches coming up next week, or perhaps just remembering old movies with aliens and monsters, the issue of how the Form 10-K works versus how the Annual Report to Shareholders (ARS) works seems appropriate.

This question frequently comes up in our workshops, and many folks don’t know whether or not the ARS is actually required or where to find the ARS requirements. The ARS is actually a very distinct and separate document from the Form 10-K.

The Form 10-K is the Annual Report to the SEC. It is required by the rules of the SEC and is filed with the SEC. As such, it is not a document furnished directly to shareholders, although they clearly have an opportunity to use the information as it is publicly accessible.

The ARS is actually required by the proxy rules. Rule 14a-3, which deals with information that must be furnished to shareholders in the proxy solicitation process says:

“(b) If the solicitation is made on behalf of the registrant, other than an investment company registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940, and relates to an annual (or special meeting in lieu of the annual) meeting of security holders, or written consent in lieu of such meeting, at which directors are to be elected, each proxy statement furnished pursuant to paragraph (a) of this section shall be accompanied or preceded by an annual report to security holders …….”

When a company is having its annual meeting and will elect directors at this meeting, it must furnish each shareholder with the proxy statement containing information about the election and officers and directors, and also must furnish each shareholder the ARS.

The next logical question is what must be included in the ARS? Rule 14a-3 enumerates the requirements and they include, among lots of other information:

Financial statements
Selected financial data

“a brief description of the business done by the registrant and its subsidiaries during the most recent fiscal year which will, in the opinion of management, indicate the general nature and scope of the business of the registrant and its subsidiaries”

For a complete list of all the required information in the ARS check out Rule 14a-3. It is on page 890 of our 2015 SEC Handbook and you can also find it here:

Way back many years ago most companies did a separate ARS which was mailed in paper form to all shareholders along with the proxy statement. To see an example of this kind of traditional ARS check out this one from American Woodmark, a cabinet manufacturer:

The above link is to the ARS American Woodmark prepared for 2013, and it has wonderful photography and nicely typeset financial statements and MD&A. It is almost elegant in its presentation of information about the company. It is also a very expensive document to produce!

Because this kind of ARS is so expensive, many companies use a more cost effective ARS called the “10-K wrap”. This version of the ARS is actually a cover and perhaps a few pages of financial and company background “wrapped” around the Form 10-K. This approach works well because all the information required by rule 14a-3 that must be furnished to shareholders is in the Form 10-K.

American Woodmark switched to the 10-K wrap approach in 2014. You can find their 2014 ARS at:

It would be interesting to know how much money American Woodmark saved going from the “pretty picture” ARS to the “10-K wrap” ARS!

To summarize, the Form 10-K is the formal annual report filed with the SEC as part of complying with the 34 Act, while the ARS is not filed with the SEC, it is actually furnished to shareholders.

(The proxy rules do require that copies of the ARS be sent to the SEC, one of the few paper filings companies still have to make.)

Lastly, if you are focusing on the words filed versus furnished in the above sentence, yes, they are very important and mean very different things! We will discuss that difference in our next post!

As always, your comments and thoughts are welcome and appreciated!