What Is a Fiscal Period?

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A fiscal period is a budgetary accounting period. Fiscal periods can be calendar years or quarters, or any other period of time as determined by an accounting cycle. For businesses, a fiscal period is the length of time covered by company financial statements.

Calendar Year

  • The most common fiscal period is the calendar year. An example of a fiscal calendar year is the one that corresponds to individual federal income tax. Most individuals in the United States pay taxes based on earnings or wages from January to December. Even though the tax is not due until April, the basis for the tax is still on a fiscal calendar-year period.

Quarterly Periods

  • Fiscal or accounting periods can be quarterly, which is common in publicly traded companies that file financial reports under Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) guidelines. The SEC requires quarterly fiscal period reports, which are due 45 days after the fiscal quarter period has closed. The company must report financial data for the quarterly fiscal period starting at the close of the last fiscal quarter.

Company Fiscal Period

  • Most companies are required to report financial statements on an annual basis, but there are no requirements as to when the statements generate. Some companies use a calendar year as the fiscal period, and others use operating budget or business cycles as the fiscal period. An example of business not operating fiscal periods on a calendar year are retail shops, since this industry is seasonal and has the largest portion of sales during the holiday season at the calendar year's end. Wal-Mart ends its fiscal period on January 31, and is a good example of a retail business not using a calendar-year fiscal period.

Government

  • The United States government has a fiscal period that begins on October 1 of each year, and continues through September 30 of the following year. The fiscal period or accounting cycle crosses through two calendar years, so the fiscal period name is by the year the accounting cycle ends. For example, a fiscal period beginning on October 1, 2010 and ending on September 30, 2011, is "fiscal year 2011" for identification purposes.

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