Fiscal Year

What Is a Fiscal Year?

A fiscal year is a one-year period used by governments, businesses, and other organizations for financial reporting and budgeting. Unlike a calendar year that runs from January 1 to December 31, a fiscal year can start and end on any date, spanning 12 consecutive months.

Understanding Fiscal Years

Fiscal years are utilized to prepare and audit financial statements and to report financial performance. They provide a consistent period for comparing financial results over time. The selection of a fiscal year can be influenced by the nature of the business, industry standards, and regulatory requirements.

How Does a Fiscal Year Work?

A fiscal year is divided into four quarters, each consisting of three months. This division helps organizations manage budgeting, forecasting, and reporting processes.
At the end of each fiscal year, companies close their books and prepare annual financial statements to summarize their financial activities over the year.

IRS Requirements for Fiscal Years

The IRS allows businesses to choose a fiscal year that suits their financial reporting needs, but certain guidelines must be followed:

  1. Adoption: New businesses can select their fiscal year by filing their first tax return with the chosen tax year.
  2. Change: Established businesses wishing to change their fiscal year must obtain IRS approval by filing Form 1128, “Application to Adopt, Change, or Retain a Tax Year.”
  3. Consistency: Once selected, the fiscal year must be used consistently for financial reporting and tax purposes unless a change is approved by the IRS.

Benefits of Fiscal Years

  • Seasonal Business Alignment: Companies with significant seasonal variations may benefit from a fiscal year that ends during their off-peak season, facilitating smoother financial management.
  • Industry Standards: Some industries have common fiscal years, aiding in benchmarking and comparison with peers.
  • Government Contracts: Aligning with government fiscal years can simplify compliance and reporting requirements.

Examples for Corporations

  • Retailers: Many retailers choose a fiscal year ending in January to include the holiday season sales in their financial year.
  • Schools and Universities: Typically, these institutions use a fiscal year ending in June or July to align with the academic calendar.
  • Government: The U.S. federal government’s fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30.


Choosing an appropriate fiscal year is crucial for accurate financial reporting, compliance, and effective financial management. Aligning the fiscal year with business cycles, industry standards, or regulatory requirements can enhance financial planning and performance assessment.


Is a Fiscal Year the Same As a Calendar Year?

No, a fiscal year can start and end on any dates, whereas a calendar year runs from January 1 to December 31.

A fiscal period is a specific time frame within the fiscal year used for reporting financial results, often divided into quarters or months.

A company might have a fiscal year that starts on April 1 and ends on March 31 of the following year.

Businesses may choose a fiscal year to better align with operational cycles, industry practices, or to accommodate seasonal variations in business activity.

Businesses select a fiscal year based on their operational cycles, industry norms, and strategic financial planning needs.

Generally, individual taxpayers must use a calendar year, though some exceptions apply for farmers, fishermen, and certain trusts.

Failure to adhere to the chosen fiscal year can result in penalties, increased scrutiny from tax authorities, and complications in financial reporting.
Using a fiscal year allows for more relevant and comparable financial analysis, especially for businesses with seasonal fluctuations or industry-specific cycles.


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