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In certain circumstances, it is necessary to do some research on a business. Perhaps you are interested in investing in the business, or maybe you are about to make a major purchase from the company. In either case, it is always best to do your research first.
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First, recognize that tax records for many businesses are proprietary information, and with one exception they are not freely available for the average consumer to view.
With that being said, it is fairly easy to research the company's current standing with the state. Each business, if they are organized as a corporation or a limited liability company, and are privately or publically owned, are required to file either quarterly or annual statements with the Secretary of State. They are also required to pay quarterly taxes. If a company has filed their required forms on time, it is a good indication that the management team knows what they are doing.
The Secretary of the State is ultimately in charge of what businesses must file, and how they can operate within their state. By visiting the corporation search page on your Secretary of State's website, you can view current information on the company you are researching. If they are in good standing or are considered "active" then they have satisfied the requirements for the state to continue conducting business within its borders. The terms active and in good standing can be used interchangeably.
If a company is considered in good standing with the state, at the bare minimum you can take comfort that they are following the rules and must be somewhat trustworthy. The management team has assured all state compliances and have ensures that their filings and payments are made on time. While not actual tax forms, this information will help you understand more about the company in question.
If you are researching a publicly traded company, your search for tax records is significantly easier. If a company is registered with the Securities and Exchanges Commission, they are
required to file regular statements with the SEC in order to maintain their active trading status.
Customers who are conducting research on these publicly traded companies are legally allowed to view these documents, as how the company is operating is a significant variable in the decision making process of whether or not to invest.
Thankfully, the SEC has set up EDGAR, which is a searchable database of all the information that the publicly traded companies are required to file. Using EDGAR is relatively straight forward, just type in the name of the corporation and you should be able to find their tax information.
Using EDGAR will not provide you with the actual forms that the company provides to the IRS, however, it will provide you with access to the forms which are used to generate the IRS filings. Forms such as the 10-K and the 10-Q will provide information about the company's earnings in comparison to their expenses, a summary from the CEO, and other documents.
Rather than a simple tax return, the filings that can be found on EDGAR will give a significantly clearer picture of the overall health and performance of the company in question. Companies who are publicly traded try to provide as much information as possible about their health of their organization in these forms (which are found on EDGAR) as it is these forms which are one of the primary sources of information for potential investors.
Now that you have found either how the company currently stands with the state, or how they are performing if they are publicly traded, you have now found as much information on a company's tax filings as possible.
If you research the company because they are offering you an investment proposal, perhaps the easiest way to find the company's tax filings is to simply ask them to provide you a copy of their previous year's filings with the IRS. If the company is serious, and wants your investment capital, they should be more than willing to provide to you as a sign of good faith.