Although people commonly refer to a year as being made up of 52 weeks, this only totals 364 days, meaning such a calculation is one or two days short of the actual length of the year. This can cause problems for companies that organize their accounts on a fiscal basis, which covers a 12-month period, rather than a calendar basis, which runs from January 1 to December 31.
Reasons for Fiscal Year
There are several reasons to use a fiscal year instead of a calendar year. One is to coincide with the April deadline for filing individual tax returns. Another reason is when a company's major periods of expenditure and income are at different times. For example, a ski-wear company may buy materials for production in the fall, but sell much of their stock in January and February. Using a fiscal year can make it easier to partner up specific revenue and the relevant costs on the same set of annual accounts.
52-53 Week Concept
A 52-53 week tax year is a specific form of fiscal year that starts and ends on the same day of the week. This can be useful if, for example, a retailer that trades Monday through Saturday wants to always carry out its annual accounts process on a Sunday. A 52-53 week year inherently does not last 365 days. It will normally last exactly 52 weeks, though in some years it will last exactly 53 weeks.
The 52-53 week tax year format is acceptable under both the GAAP accounting standards and the IRS regulations.
Accounts prepared under the 52-53 week basis should be clearly marked as such. In particular, it should be made clear when a 53-week period has been used. This allows a fairer comparison to accounts that cover a 365- or 366-day period.