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What is a fiscal year?

A fiscal year usually refers to an accounting year that does not end on December 31. (The accounting year of January 1 thrugh December 31 is usually referred to as a calendar year.) Some examples of the fiscal years used by U.S. corporations include:

  • the 12 months of February 1 through January 31
  • the 12 months of October 1 through September 30
  • the 12 months of June 1 through May 31
  • the 52 weeks (four 13-week quarters) ending on the Saturday closest to January 31 (This will require an occasional fiscal year of 53 weeks since 52 weeks X 7 days = 364 days vs. 365 days per year.)

One reason a business or other organization will have its accounting year end on a date other than December 31 is to fit its natural business year. For example, school districts will use fiscal years of July 1 through June 30. Retailers often end their fiscal years near the end of January.

A corporation or other organization needing audited financial statements will likely save auditing fees by having its accounting year different from the calendar year end of December 31.