What is an accounting period?

Definition of Accounting Period

An accounting period is the period of time covered by a company's financial statements. Common accounting periods for external financial statements include the calendar year (January 1 through December 31) and the calendar quarter (January 1 through March 31, April 1 through June 30, July 1 through September 30, October 1 through December 31). It is common for these companies to also have monthly accounting periods. However, the financial statements for the monthly accounting periods are likely to be used only by the companies' managements.

In the U.S., some companies have annual accounting periods that end on dates other than December 31. For example, a company could have a fiscal year of July 1 through the following June 30. Its quarterly accounting periods would be July 1 through September 30, etc.

It is also common for U.S. retailers to have accounting periods that end on a Saturday. The annual accounting period for these businesses may be the 52- or 53-week fiscal years ending on the Saturday closest to February 1 or any other date. The retailers' quarterly accounting periods will be the 13-week periods, and the monthly accounting periods will be a 4- or 5-week time period.

Examples of Accounting Periods

The following are some examples of accounting periods used by U.S. companies:

  • Annual calendar year of January 1 through December 31
  • Annual fiscal year such as July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020; April 1, 2019 through March 31, 2020; etc.
  • 52- or 53-week fiscal year such as the 52 or 53 weeks ending on the last Saturday of January, etc.
  • Calendar quarters such as January 1 through March 31, April 1 through June 30, etc.
  • Fiscal quarters such as May 1 through July 31, August 1 through October 31, etc.
  • 13-week fiscal quarters such as the 13 weeks ending on the last Saturday in April, etc.
  • Calendar months such as March 1 through March 31, November 1 through November 30, etc.
  • 4- or 5-week fiscal months such as the 4 weeks ending the last Saturday of February, etc.

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