A fiscal year (or financial year, or sometimes budget year) is used by government accounting and budget purposes, which varies between countries. It is also used for financial reporting by businesses and other organizations. Laws in many jurisdictions require company financial reports to be prepared and published on an annual basis, but generally, do not require the reporting period to align with the calendar year (1 January to 31 December). Taxation laws generally require accounting records to be maintained and taxes calculated on an annual basis, which usually corresponds to the fiscal year used for government purposes. The calculation of tax on an annual basis is especially relevant for direct taxation, such as income tax. Many annual government fees—such as Council rates, license fees, etc.—are also levied on a fiscal year basis, while others are charged on an anniversary basis.
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Some companies—such as Cisco Systems—end their fiscal year on the same day of the week each year, i.e. the day that is closest to a particular date (for example, the Friday closest to 31 December). Under such a system, some fiscal years will have 52 weeks and others 53 weeks.
The calendar year is used as the fiscal year by about 65% of publicly traded companies in the United States and for a majority of large corporations in the UK and elsewhere, with notable exceptions being in Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
Many universities have a fiscal year which ends during the summer to align the fiscal year with the academic year (and, in some cases involving public universities, with the state government's fiscal year), and because the university is normally less busy during the summer months. In the northern hemisphere this is July to the next June. In the southern hemisphere this is calendar year, January to December. Some media/communication-based organizations use a broadcast calendar as the basis for their fiscal year.
The fiscal year is usually denoted by the calendar year in which it ends, so United States federal government spending incurred on 14 November 2019 would belong to fiscal year 2020, operating on a fiscal calendar of October–September.
Chart of various fiscal years
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The fiscal year for individuals and entities to report and pay income taxes is often known as the taxpayer's tax year or taxable year. Taxpayers in many jurisdictions may choose their tax year. Some federal countries, such as Canada and Switzerland, require the provincial or cantonal tax year to align with the federal year. In the United States, most states retained a 30 June fiscal year-end date when the federal government switched to 30 September in 1976. Nearly all jurisdictions require that the tax year be 12 months or 52/53 weeks. However, short years are permitted as the first year or when changing tax years.
Most countries require all individuals to pay income tax based on the calendar year. Significant exceptions include:
- Australia: individuals pay income tax based on the financial year of 1 July until 30 June.
- United Kingdom: the tax year for individuals begins on 6 April. This is due to Britain historically having a calendar year starting on Lady Day (25 March) in the Julian calendar, which translated to 5 April when the Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1752, and which then became 6 April in 1800. (In 1900 keeping the tax year synchronised to the Julian calendar was abandoned).
- United States: individuals may (but rarely do) elect any tax year, subject to IRS approval.
Many jurisdictions require that the tax year conform to the taxpayer's fiscal year for financial reporting. The United States is a notable exception: taxpayers may choose any tax year, but must keep books and records for such year.
Operation in various countries/region
In some jurisdictions, particularly those that permit tax consolidation, companies that are part of a group of businesses must use nearly the same fiscal year (differences of up to three months are permitted in some jurisdictions, such as the U.S. and Japan), with consolidating entries to adjust for transactions between units with different fiscal years, so the same resources will not be counted more than once or not at all.
In Afghanistan, the fiscal year was recently changed from 1 Hamal – 29 Hoot (21 March – 20 March) to 1 Jadi – 30 Qaws (21 December – 20 December). The fiscal year runs with the Afghan or Solar Hijri calendar, because of the differing cycle of leap years in the Gregorian and Afghan calendars, there can be slight differences in the start date of fiscal (and calendar) years. As shown in the chart below, leap years will coincide in 2020 and 2024 but will desynchronize with the Gregorian calendar having a leap year in 2028 as opposed to the Afghan calendar's leap year of 2029.
In Australia, a fiscal year is commonly called a "financial year" (FY) and starts on 1 July and ends on the next 30 June. Financial years are designated by the calendar year of the second half of the period. For example, financial year 2017 is the 12-month period ending on 30 June 2017 and can be referred to as FY2016/17. It is used for official purposes, by individual taxpayers and by the overwhelming majority of business enterprises. Business enterprises may opt to use a financial year that ends at the end of a week (e.g., 52 or 53 weeks in length, and therefore is not exactly one calendar year in length), or opt for its financial year to end on a date that matches the reporting cycle of its foreign parent. All entities within the one group must use the same financial year.
For government accounting and budget purposes, pre-Federation colonies changed the financial year from the calendar year to a year ending 30 June on the following dates: Victoria changed in 1870, South Australia in 1874, Queensland in 1875, Western Australia in 1892, New South Wales in 1895 and Tasmania in 1904. The Commonwealth adopted the near-ubiquitous financial year standard since its inception in 1901. The reason given for the change was for convenience, as Parliament typically sits during May and June, while it was difficult for it to meet in November and December to pass a budget.
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In Austria the fiscal year is the calendar year, 1 January to 31 December.
In Brazil, the fiscal year is the calendar year, 1 January to 31 December.
For individual taxpayers, the fiscal year is the calendar year, 1 January to 31 December.
In China, the fiscal year for all entities is the calendar year, 1 January to 31 December, and applies to the tax year, statutory year, and planning year.
In Colombia, the fiscal year is the calendar year, 1 January to 31 December.
In Costa Rica, the fiscal year is 1 October to 30 September.
In Greece, the fiscal year is the calendar year, 1 January to 31 December.
However, a company incorporated in Hong Kong can determine their own financial year ended date which may be a difference from the Government tax calendar year. They can choose whatever 31st Dec, 31st Mar or 30th Jun whenever they want.
Companies following the Indian Depositary Receipt (IDR) are given freedom to choose their financial year. For example, Standard Chartered's IDR follows the UK calendar despite being listed in India. Companies following Indian fiscal year get to know their economical health on 31 March of every Indian financial or fiscal year.
The current fiscal year was adopted by the colonial British government in 1867 to align India's financial year with that of the British Empire. Prior to 1867, India followed a fiscal year that ran from 1 May to 30 April.
In 1984, the LK Jha committee recommended adopting a fiscal year that ran from 1 January to 31 December. However, this proposal was not adopted by the government fearing possible issues during the transition period. A panel set up by the NITI Aayog in July 2016, recommended starting the next fiscal year from 1 January to 31 December after the end of the current five-year plan.
On 4 May 2017, Madhya Pradesh announced that it would move to a January–December financial year, becoming the first Indian state to do so. But later it dropped the idea.
Until 2001, the fiscal year in Ireland was the year ending 5 April, as in the United Kingdom. From 2002, to coincide with the introduction of the euro, it was changed to the calendar year, 1 January to 31 December. The 2001 tax year was nine months, from April to December.
In Italy, the fiscal year is the calendar year, 1 January to 31 December. It was changed in 1965, before which it was 1 July to 30 June.
In Japan, the government's financial year is from 1 April to 31 March. The fiscal year is represented by the calendar year in which the period begins, followed by the word nendo (年度); for example the fiscal year from 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020 is called 2019–nendo.
In Macau, the government's financial year is 1 January to 31 December.
In Mexico, the fiscal year is the calendar year, 1 January to 31 December.
In Myanmar, the fiscal year is 1 October to 30 September.
In Nepal, the fiscal year is 1 Shrawan (4th month of Bikram calendar) to 31 Ashad (3rd month of Bikram calendar). Shrawan 1 roughly falls in mid-July.
In New Zealand, the government's fiscal and financial reporting year is 1 July to the next 30 June and applies also to the budget. The company and personal financial year is 1 April to 31 March and applies to company and personal income tax.
The Pakistani government's fiscal year is 1 July of the previous calendar year and concludes on 30 June. Private companies are free to observe their own accounting year, which may not be the same as government's fiscal year.
In Poland, the fiscal year is from 1 January to 31 December.
In Portugal, the fiscal year is the calendar year, 1 January to 31 December.
In Qatar, the fiscal year is from 1 January to 31 December.
The fiscal year for the calculation of personal income taxes is 1 January to 31 December.
Corporations and organisations are permitted to select any date as the end of each fiscal year, as long as this date remains constant.
In South Africa, the fiscal year for the Government of South Africa is 1 April to 31 March.
The year of assessment for individuals covers twelve months, 1 March to the final day of February the following year. The Act also provides for certain classes of taxpayers to have a year of assessment ending on a day other than the last day of February. Companies are permitted to have a tax year ending on a date that coincides with their financial year. Many older companies still use a tax year that runs from 1 July to 30 June, inherited from the British system. A common practice for newer companies is to run their tax year from 1 March to the final day of February following, to synchronize with the tax year for individuals.
The fiscal year for an organisation is typically one of the following:
- 1 January to 31 December
- 1 May to 30 April
- 1 July to 30 June
- 1 September to 31 August
However, all calendar months are allowed. If an organisation wishes to change into a non-calendar year, permission from the Tax Authority is required.
Republic of China
In Republic of China (Taiwan), the fiscal year is the calendar year, 1 January to 31 December. However, an enterprise may elect to adopt a special fiscal year at the time it is established and can request approval from the tax authorities to change its fiscal year.
United Arab Emirates
In the United Arab Emirates, the fiscal year is the calendar year, 1 January to 31 December.
In the United Kingdom, the financial year runs from 1 April to 31 March for the purposes of government financial statements. For personal tax purposes the fiscal year starts on 6 April and ends on 5 April of the next calendar year.
Although United Kingdom corporation tax is charged by reference to the government's financial year, companies can adopt any year as their accounting year: if there is a change in tax rate, the taxable profit is apportioned to financial years on a time basis.
A number of major corporations that were once government-owned, such as BT Group and the National Grid, continue to use the government's financial year, which ends on the last day of March, as they have found no reason to change since privatisation.
The 5 April year end for personal tax and benefits reflects the old ecclesiastical calendar, with New Year falling on 25 March (Lady Day), the difference being accounted for by the eleven days "missed out" when Great Britain converted from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar in September 1752 (the British tax authorities, and landlords were unwilling to lose 11 days of tax and rent revenue, so under provision 6 (Times of Payment of Rents, Annuities, &c.) of the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750, the 1752–53 tax year was extended by 11 days). From 1753 until 1799, the tax year in Great Britain began on 5 April, which was the "old style" new year of 25 March. A 12th skipped Julian leap day in 1800 changed its start to 6 April. It was not changed when a 13th Julian leap day was skipped in 1900, so the start of the personal tax year in the United Kingdom is still 6 April.
The United States federal government's fiscal year is the 12-month period beginning 1 October and ending 30 September the following year. The identification of a fiscal year is the calendar year in which it ends; thus, the current fiscal year is 2020, often written as "FY2020" or "FY20", which began on 1 October 2019 and will end on 30 September 2020.
Prior to 1976, the fiscal year began on 1 July and ended on 30 June. The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 made the change to allow Congress more time to arrive at a budget each year, and provided for what is known as the "transitional quarter" from 1 July 1976 to 30 September 1976. An earlier shift in the federal government's fiscal year was made in 1843, shifting the fiscal year from a calendar year to one starting on 1 July.
For example, the United States government fiscal year for 2020 is:
- 1st quarter: 1 October 2019 – 31 December 2019
- 2nd quarter: 1 January 2020 – 31 March 2020
- 3rd quarter: 1 April 2020 – 30 June 2020
- 4th quarter: 1 July 2020 – 30 September 2020
- Alabama, ends 30 September
- Michigan, ends 30 September
- New York, ends 31 March
- Texas, ends 31 August
The fiscal year for the Washington, D.C., government ends on 30 September.
Among the inhabited territories of the United States, most align with the federal fiscal year, ending on 30 September. These include American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico is the exception, with its fiscal year ending on 30 June.
Businesses and organizations
The tax year for a business is governed by the fiscal year it chooses. A business may choose any consistent fiscal year that it wants; however, for seasonal businesses such as farming and retail, a good account practice is to end the fiscal year shortly after the highest revenue time of year. Consequently, most large agriculture companies end their fiscal years after the harvest season, and most retailers end their fiscal years shortly after the Christmas shopping season.
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