What Is a Fiscal Year?

What Is a Fiscal Year?

By Charles Joseph | Editor, Financial Affairs
Reviewed by Corey Michael | Senior Financial Analyst

A fiscal year is a period used by companies and organizations to calculate their budget, financial reports, and taxes. It spans 12 consecutive months, but doesn’t necessarily start in January. In fact, many businesses choose to begin their fiscal year at a different time, often aligning it with the end of their busiest period. This helps them to better manage their finances and make more accurate predictions for the year ahead. A fiscal year is especially useful for businesses with seasonal operations, allowing them to encapsulate a full cycle of operations within one fiscal period.

Related Questions

1. How does a fiscal year differ from a calendar year?

A calendar year starts on January 1 and ends on December 31. But a fiscal year can start and end at any time, as long as it covers a full 12-month period. Companies choose a fiscal year that aligns best with their business cycle.

2. How does a company choose its fiscal year?

Want More Financial Tips?

Get Our Best Stuff First (for FREE)
We respect your privacy and you can unsubscribe anytime.

A company typically chooses its fiscal year based on its operational cycle. Businesses that are seasonally active often start their fiscal year after their busy period ends, enabling a holistic view of their financial year.

3. What are the benefits of using a fiscal year?

Using a fiscal year can simplify financial reporting and tax planning for companies. It allows businesses to align their financial year with their unique business cycle, positively influencing budgeting, financial planning, and forecasting processes.

4. Can a company change its fiscal year?

Yes, a company can usually change its fiscal year. However, in some jurisdictions, this may require permission from the taxation authorities and a valid business reason. This could involve submitting an application detailing the rationale for the proposed change.

5. Why do some companies align their fiscal year with the federal government’s fiscal year?

Some companies choose to align their fiscal year with the government’s to simplify legal, filing and reporting obligations like taxes. This is common for companies that work with or are funded by the government. For instance, the U.S. federal government’s fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30.