Market Overview

Steve Ballmer Wants A 10-K For Government, Here's The Closest Thing We Already Have

Steve Ballmer Wants A 10-K For Government, Here's The Closest Thing We Already Have

Once a year, even the largest, most complicated global conglomerates must break down their convoluted accounting practices and disclose to investors all the gory details of the company’s financial activities. This annual disclosure comes in the form of a 10-K filing. Former Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer wants to bring all the transparency of the 10-K filing to Washington, D.C.

In a new interview with the New York Times, Ballmer discusses his new project, USAFacts.


After a conversation with his wife about taxes several years ago, Ballmer decided he would attempt to create an integrated database of information about the U.S. government that includes information similar to the details included in annual corporate 10-K filings.

“You know, when I really wanted to understand in depth what a company was doing, Amazon or Apple, I’d get their 10-K and read it,” Ballmer said. “It’s wonky, it’s this, it’s that, but it’s the greatest depth you’re going to get, and it’s accurate.”

Government Accountability

Incredibly, there is no existing database of government spending across the state, local and federal levels. The closest thing Americans have to a governmental 10-K form is a statement called the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for state and local governments. The governments compile financial information and then their reports are audited by an external accounting firm before being made public.

On the federal level, the U.S. Treasury releases a similar annual report called the Financial Report of the United States Government.

However, USAFacts will be the first database that combines all the available government financial information in one place so that U.S. citizens can see exactly where their tax dollars are going.

“You’ve got to look at federal, state and local together,” Ballmer said. “Because I’m a citizen, I don’t care whether I give my money to A, B or C. I just want to know how it lands, how it impacts what’s going on.”

Ballmer has spent several years and more than $10 million putting USAFacts together. Now he hopes the database will help Americans form opinions based on unbiased data that comes directly from the government itself. In the era of fake news, Ballmer aims to provide reliable data as a starting point for public discussion.

“People can disagree about what to do — I’m not going to tell people what to do,” Ballmer concluded.

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Image Credit: By Dell Inc. - Windows 8 Launch - Steve Ballmer, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


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