Fiscal year

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The fiscal year (in tax law : year in which Switzerland : tax period ; english financial year ) is the period for which companies or other business entities , the results of its operations in an annual financial statements summarize, while the period between two balance sheet dates considered.


The legal term of the business year is used in the Commercial Code ( § 242 HGB ), the term of the business year in the Income Tax Act ( § 4a EStG ) and, according to common parlance, also in the law of the community of homeowners ( § 28 Paragraph 1 Sentence 1 WEG ). The term fiscal year is mainly used for public finances . In the law of ideal clubs , the German Civil Code (BGB) assumes that every club has a financial year ( Section 39 (2 ) BGB ). In linguistic usage (especially in speeches, minutes, press articles) it is also referred to as the club year .

Technically, the financial year begins with the opening balance sheet and ends on the balance sheet date , which may not be more than 12 months after the opening date ( Section 240 (2) sentence 2 HGB). As a rule, the financial year is the same as the calendar year , but deviations are permitted. It should be noted, however, that the financial year that has been selected is usually retained due to the principle of balance sheet continuity .

Short fiscal year

If the fiscal year changes, there is inevitably a short fiscal year. The short financial year usually covers a period of less than 12 months and is intended to bridge the adjustment phase between two full financial years. A short fiscal year may therefore be shorter but not longer than 12 months ( Section 240 (2) sentence 2 HGB). Reasons for short financial years are start-ups, dissolutions, sales and changes to another regular reporting date.

If a company is founded in the course of a year and the financial year should be identical to the calendar year, then the year of foundation is a short financial year from the time of foundation to December 31 of the same year.

Fiscal year different from the calendar year

A business year “different from the calendar year” can be selected depending on the industry in order to better record typical seasonal developments in seasonal businesses . It can then be expedient to choose a balance sheet date that falls on a point in time that takes into account the peak of the season, when stocks are largely reduced and sales focus are taken into account.

In agriculture , a business year is usual that begins either on May 1st (mainly grassland) or on July 1st, depending on the type of activity. In earlier times, the agricultural business year usually began on St. Martin's Day (November 11th). d. Usually concluded, so that the festivals and church masses that often take place on St. Martin's Day represent the best opportunity to pay rent and interest and to conclude or renew contracts.

Another marketing year applies to viticulture. The financial year permitted under income tax law for farmers and foresters results in detail from § 8c EStDV .

Other sectors also have similar seasonal focuses, which align their different fiscal years, for example, with the inventory cycle or sales focus.

Further reasons for a financial year that deviates from the calendar year are:

  • in the case of companies belonging to the group, the adjustment to the financial year of the group parent, which is often based abroad;
  • Adaptation to long-term obligations with billing periods, for example to waste incineration and other disposal contracts at waste management companies;
  • Use of temporary production settings e.g. B. through regular maintenance and cleaning work, as inventory work is made easier; Inventories, finished goods, semi-finished products, operating resources, raw materials, etc. can then be recorded more easily and more precisely than during ongoing production;
  • Adaptation to the competitive environment;
  • Facilitating a more reliable and earlier assessment of the overall annual performance of a company if around 50% of the annual result is generated in the first and not in the fourth quarter of the financial year;
  • Adaptation to weather-related seasonal processes in agriculture, forestry and sports (“sports year”); this includes z. B. the adjustment to the Bundesliga match schedule from August to May or the choice of the business year from March to February in the motorsport area;
  • Other seasonal adjustments (e.g. to the Christmas business or to avoid seasonal peak times for tax authorities and tax advisors).

Changes in the fiscal year

A change in the financial year requires an amendment to the articles of association. In the case of corporations , this means that the amendment to the articles of association must be entered in the commercial register, because an amendment to the articles of association only becomes effective when it is entered in the commercial register. In the case of this amendment to the articles of association, according to the prevailing opinion, a retroactive effect must be observed. In this regard , the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt am Main decided that the entry of the amendment to a GmbH articles of association with regard to the financial year was in any case inadmissible if the shortened financial year had already expired at the time the resolution was passed. Because of the constitutive effect of the entry ( Section 54 Paragraph 3 GmbHG ), changes to a GmbH partnership agreement cannot have retroactive effect. The resolution relates to a decision of the Federal Fiscal Court from 1997. For reasons of legal certainty and the protection of creditors , the change in the financial year must be entered in the commercial register before the start of the new financial year.

Tax law

In the case of commercial enterprises, the tax office must agree to a change in the financial year to a period that deviates from the calendar year so that the changed financial year is also tax-effective ( Section 4a, Paragraph 1, No. 2, Sentence 2 EStG, Section 8b EStDV). In the case of tradespeople, the profit of the different financial year is deemed to have been obtained in the calendar year in which the financial year ends ( Section 4a (2) No. 2 EStG); in the case of farmers and foresters there is a division.

Business year in the group

While the financial year of the group and the parent company must be identical ( Section 299 (1) HGB), this need not be the case for the consolidated subsidiaries. However, if the reporting date of a group company is more than three months before the reporting date of the consolidated financial statements, this company must be included in the consolidated financial statements on the basis of interim financial statements (short financial year) prepared for the reporting date and the period of the consolidated financial statements ( Section 299 (2) HGB).

International Accounting Standards

The IAS put the financial year ( english financial year ) as the norm ahead and deal in detail with the short fiscal year. The aim of IAS 34 is to regulate the minimum components for an interim report and to regulate the accounting and valuation principles for financial statements that are prepared for an interim reporting period. According to IAS 34.4, the period of a short financial year ( English interim period ) is shorter than a full year, whereby an interim report ( English interim report ) is prepared with complete or summarized figures. Whoever has to prepare such interim financial statements and when, leaves IAS 34.1 to national legislation.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. Ernst Heymann / Norbert Horn, Commentary HGB , 1999, p. 482
  2. Ernst Heymann / Norbert Horn, Commentary HGB , 1999, p. 86
  3. OLG Frankfurt am Main, decision of March 9, 1999; GmbHR 1999, p. 484.
  4. BFH GmbHR 1997, p. 670.
  5. ^ Günter Henn / Jürgen Frodermann / Dirk Jannott, Handbuch des Aktienrechts , 2009, p. 152 .
  6. IAS Standard IAS 34 ( Memento of August 30, 2011 in the Internet Archive )