The Federal Fiscal Year

The Federal Fiscal Year
Bill Heniff Jr.
Analyst on the Congress and Legislative Process
Government and Finance Division
The fiscal year is the accounting period of the federal government. It begins on
October 1 and ends on September 30 of the next calendar year. Each fiscal year is
identified by the calendar year in which it ends and commonly is referred to as “FY.” For
example, FY2008 began October 1, 2007, and ends September 30, 2008. For more
information on the budget process, see the CRS Guides to Congressional Processes at
[] .
Initially, the federal fiscal year coincided with the calendar year. In 1842, President
John Tyler signed legislation changing the fiscal year to a July 1 to June 30 cycle.
Beginning with FY1977, the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 (Section 501 of P.L. 93-
344, currently codified at 31 U.S.C. 1102) changed the fiscal year to its current cycle. In
both instances, the intent was to provide Congress with more time to process
appropriations legislation, particularly to avoid continuing resolutions. Establishing the
most appropriate budget cycle continues to be the subject of some legislative proposals
that would change the current fiscal year to a biennial (two-year) period.
Figure 1. The Fiscal-Year Budgets of a Typical Federal Agency
Implementing FY2008 budget
Seeking funds for FY2009 budget
(congressional phase)
Planning for FY2010 budget
Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb
2007 20082009
Calendar year
Federal agencies simultaneously work on three fiscal-year budgets at any given time.
Figure 1 illustrates these three fiscal-year budgets. First, agencies implement budgetary
legislation for the current fiscal year. Second, they support the President’s budget
proposals during congressional consideration of budgetary legislation for the coming
fiscal year, referred to as the “budget year.” Third, federal agencies develop their budgets

for the following fiscal year, which the President will submit to Congress in February of
the next calendar year. For example, in May 2008, agencies were implementing the
FY2008 budget, seeking funds for the FY2009 budget, and beginning to develop the
FY2010 budget.