A fiscal year is the twelve-month period that an organization uses for budgeting, forecasting and reporting.
Although many organizations follow the calendar year, a fiscal year can start at any point in the year and end 12 months later. The fiscal year of the United States government, for example, runs from October 1 to September 30. Fiscal years are identified according to the year in which they end.
Usually a fiscal year begins on the first day of the beginning month and ends on the last day of the 12th month. However, some companies choose to have fiscal years that comprise only full weeks and end on a particular day of the week. In those cases, fiscal years are not exactly twelve months long, some being 52 weeks long and others 53.
Fiscal year is abbreviated as FY. For reporting purposes, it is usually combined with the specific year, for example as FY 2015 or FY15. Similarly, fiscal quarter is abbreviated as Q and combined with dates to identify the specific period.
In the United States, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires publicly traded companies to file performance reports for fiscal years on Form 10-K. Quarterly reports are filed on Form 10-Q. Corporate 10-Q and 10-K filings are maintained in the SEC’s EDGAR database.