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                                Publicly Available Data, the Google Chart Application, and Decision-Making
                                                                                                      Richard Torian
                                                                                                    February 15, 2011

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate the use of the Google Chart application (
http://code.google.com/apis/charttools/index.html) to graphing public data on a web page.  I believe the graphs below show how graphing data visually enhances data analysis.  With the Google Chart application, it is fairly easy to graph static data on to a web page.   Combining these two processes, first, creating the graph at the Google site, and then, second, adding the graph to a web page, opens up to the information professional opportunities for increasing the value of the professional’s service to the user.  The increased value is found in a presentation (the graph) that can enhance analysis.

Nine topics (gross profit margins; relative numbers - corporate types; commodity price changes; gross domestic product numbers; occupational fraud; accounting problems; state sales taxes; inventory percentage of total assets; and working capital percentage of total assets) were selected to search for databases containing data that might be of interest to the intended user.   For these topics, the intended user is the accounting and financial manager and the decision maker. 

Searches did lead to possible databases of interest.  Then the databases were analyzed as to how graphing data in the databases would show useful analysis to the user.  Data was integrated into the Google application and then the resulting code was transferred to this website page.

Presented below are the nine sets of graphs and a short description on what the graphs are intended to show.
Gross Profit Margin Percentage for 5 Retail Sectors (Cenus Bureau data)
The graph on the left was created using Google’s Chart Tools.

The graph is presented here to show how gross profit margins can vary significantly according to the type of product sold.   For example, gasoline products have a gross profit margin percentage in the 15 to 20 % range in recent years and women’s clothing in the 45 to 50 % range.

The graph also shows that gross profit margin percentages usually do not vary much within a retail sector.   For example, the heights of the bars for each type of retail product remain fairly constant from year to year.

US Census data was used to generate the graph.  Click
here to go to a PDF file to see the data.
1.  Gross Profit Margin Percentages by Business Sector
2.   Relative Numbers and Earnings by Corporate Type
Relative Numbers of Business Entities - 2007
The graph below was created using Google’s Chart Tools.

The graph is presented here to show the relative numbers of business entities in the United States.   As shown on the graph, sole proprietorships represent slightly more than 70 % of business entities, followed by S corporations with between 10 and 15 %, and then c corporations, limited liability corporations, general partnerships, and limited partnerships, each with less than 6 %.

Data from the Internal Revenue Service tax statistics for 2007 was used to generate the graph.
3.  Price Changes of Commodities from 2006 to 2010
Changes in Commodity Prices from 2006 to 2010
The graph to the left was created using Google’s Chart Tools.

The graph shows how price (cost) data can be used to show on one graph what commodities are priced more in 2010 compared to the price of the commodity in 2006.   This is not easily done, as far as I can determine, because each commodity’s price per unit is given in different unit measurements (e.g. ounces, pounds, etc.) and only one unit measurement is graphable on a single graph.   One way around this unit problem is to convert the average price for a year into a percentage of the total of average prices for all years.  For example, the total of all average unit prices for gold for the years 2006 to 2010 was $4,391 per ounce so that the average price of gold for 2006 ($598/ounce) as a percentage of the total for all years is 14% (598/4391).

The graph shows that the only commodity price (cost) for any of the commodities that was less in 2010 than in 2006 is the price of natural gas.

Data was taken from several data bases.
4.   Gross Domestic Products 2008 to 2010
Gross Domestic Product Trends -2008 to 2010
The graph to the left was created using Google’s Chart Tools.

The graph shows changes from 2008 to 2010 in gross domestic product (GDP) in US dollars for 13 countries.  Next to the country’s name in the legend is the GDP percentage increase from 2008 to 2010.   Four countries (Japan; Germany; Russia; and Mexico) had a decrease in GDP from 2008 to 2010.  Three countries (China; India; and Indonesia) had double digit increases.

China stands out because not only did it have the largest percentage increase but it also started from a base GDP ($8.204 trillion in 2008) more than double the amount of the next highest GDP percentage increased country (India; 16% increase; base = $3.478 trillion).

Data from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Book.  Click
here to go to this data.
5.   Methods, Ways, and Methods of Occupational Fraud
Frequency of Major Types of Occupational Fraud
Asset Misappropriation Types
Initial Detection of Occupational Fraud
The pie charts to the left were created using Google’s Chart Tools.

The first chart shows the approximate frequency in 2010 of the three principle methods of occupational fraud (fraud against a company committed by employees).  Asset misappropriation is where an employee steals or misuses company resources.  Corruption is where an employee corrupts a business transaction for benefit.   And, financial statement fraud is the misstatement of financial reports to mislead users.

The second chart shows the approximate frequency in 2010 of the five principle ways in which employees misappropriated company assets for the employee benefit.

The third chart shows the five most frequent methods in 2010 that occupational fraud was detected.   Receiving a tip about the fraud was by far the most frequent (40% of the detections).  Three of the five most frequent detection methods can be initiated by the company (management review; internal audit; and account reconciliation).   “Other” includes:  document examination; external audit; surveillance/monitoring; notified by police; confession; and IT controls.

The data in the graphs were obtained from the “Report to the Nation on Occupational Fraud and Abuse – 2010” published by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.   Click
here for the link to the report (PDF file).
6.  Public Company Accounting Problems
Public Company Accounting Problems
The bar chart to the left was created using Google’s Chart Tools.

The chart shows an average of the frequency of problems that public companies had from 1997 to 2005.    These accounting problems led the public companies to restate (re-issue) their financial statements.   The data in the chart comes from two surveys conducted by the United States Government Accounting Office.

The chart provides an indication of where accounting problems most often occur.

More details on the surveys conducted by the US Government Accounting Office can be found by clicking
here.
7.   Sales Tax Range for States
The map chart to the left was created using Google’s Chart tools.

The chart shows by color the relative sales tax rates for each state.  The states in white (Alaska; Delaware; Montana; New Hampshire; and Oregon) have no sales tax.   The state in black (California; 8.25 %) has the highest sales tax rate.   States with darker colors (from white to black) have higher sales tax rates.  The sales tax rates used to create the chart do not include local jurisdiction sales taxes, which several states do have.

The average tax rate for all states is 5.1 %.  Twenty one states have rates less than the average and twenty-nine higher than the average. The median (tax rate in the middle) is 6 %.

Click
here to see state sales tax data used in the chart.  This data is at the Tax Foundation website.   Click here to go to a Wikipedia site with information on state sales taxes.
8.  Inventory as a Percentage of Total Assets for Several Sectors
Inventory as a Percentage ofTotal Assets for Several Sectors
The box chart to the left was created using Google’s Chart Tools.

The chart shows the percentage of the inventory balance sheet amount as a percentage of the total assets for 18 business sectors.   The percentages are based on survey data compiled by BisStats (a BizMiner company) from US Government and possibly other sources.

The average inventory to total assets percentage for all sectors is 5.2 %.  Companies can use this benchmark data to determine how they are doing compared to their sector peers.

Those sectors with larger amounts of inventory, compared to sales, might consider reducing the inventory on hand as a way to reduce costs.

Click
here to go to the BizStats data that was used to create the chart.
9.  Working Capital as a Percentage of Total Assets
Working Capital as a Percentage of Total Assets for Several Sectors
The box chart to the left was created using Google’s Chart Tools.

The chart shows the percentage of cash, accounts receivalbe, and inventory amounts (working capital) amounts on the balance sheet as a percentage of the total assets for 18 business sectors.   The percentages are based on survey data compiled by BisStats (a BizMiner company) from US Government and possibly other sources.

The cash, accounts receivalbe, and inventory amounts to total assets percentage for all sectors is 26.6 %.  Companies can use this benchmark data to determine how they are doing compared to their sector peers.

It is interesting that the percentages are so high and represent such a high amount of the value of a company.   Fixed and other current assets are probably difficult to find a correct fair market value for and therefore these high percentages could represent a higher uncertainty in company valuation.

Click
here to go to the BizStats data that was used to create the chart.