A fiscal quarter is one of the four three-month periods that make up an organization’s fiscal year.
Fiscal quarter is abbreviated as Q and combined with dates to identify the specific period. For example, the fourth fiscal quarter of 2016 might be abbreviated as Q4 2016, Q4/16 or Q416.
Because the fiscal years of some organizations don’t correspond to the calendar year, fiscal quarters can be for various three-month periods. For example, the fiscal year of the United States government runs from October 1 to September 30, so its first quarter runs from October 1 to December 31. However, that period would be the fourth quarter for an organization whose fiscal year runs from January 1 to December 31.
In the United States, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires publicly-traded companies to report on their quarterly performance within 40 days of the end of each quarter. Quarterly reports are submitted on the SEC’s 10-Q forms.