We at Truth in Accounting (TIA) strive to bring you the most current and accurate data from financial reports that we can. We distribute that information through our State of the States and State of the Cities reports and our Data Z website. What you don’t see from Truth in Accounting is the behind-the-scenes team of people pulling this data from the government financial statements.
You also can not see how difficult it is to find some of the data points needed to create our reports. The TIA team spends months extracting the data because it is often difficult to search government reports electronically. Unlike publicly traded companies who are required to submit their data to the Securities and Exchange Commission in an electronic portal affectionately known as EDGAR (Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system) in a computer-readable format, government reports are submitted to government websites as PDFs. Not only are the reports in PDF format, but they are uploaded as very unfriendly PDF files. By unfriendly, we mean that the PDFs aren’t always searchable. The PDFs have images embedded that come from a snip or copy of an actual document that the government used to track their information. These snips are basically images or jpgs and thus not searchable with a typical PDF search function. You can’t search numbers or words that are embedded in a PDF as an image.
So, the point is, if the experts at Truth in Accounting have difficulty searching data in government reports and struggle meticulously to ferret out the reported information, how do citizens search this data? Don’t citizens have a right to access easily searchable information about how their government is using their hard-earned tax dollars?
Thus, TIA’s stance is that government reports should be as easy to search as those of a publicly traded company. After all, we, as taxpayers, are as much of an investor in our governments as a private investor is in a publicly traded company.
Our next two blog posts will explain the SEC's requirements for publicly traded companies. What are their reporting mechanisms? Then, we will look at how these requirements would assist taxpayers in looking at data on how their governments use tax dollars. Read Blog Two Here