Nonprofits: Choosing or Changing the Fiscal Year-End
by Lee Byrd
What is a fiscal year? A fiscal year is the period used for calculating annual (“yearly”) financial statements in businesses and other organizations. Many nonprofits have a fiscal year-end of June 30th. However, this is not a requirement and the organization’s fiscal year can end whenever the nonprofit should chose, as long as the end date is specified in the organizational documents.
So how should a nonprofit chose the best fiscal year-end for the organization? Some things to consider include:
- Program year – the organization’s fiscal year should coincide with its program year so that one year’s program activities should not fall into two fiscal years. For example, if the majority of the nonprofit’s programs fall during the summer months, June 30th is most likely not the best option for that nonprofit’s fiscal year-end.
- Grant cycles – Some organizations may find it helpful to align their fiscal year-end with the terms of the organization’s major grants and/or funders. This enables the organization to develop a clean cut-off for grant reporting and simplifies the grants process.
- Audit evidence – Nonprofits who require an audit generally need time subsequent to year-end to close out the books and gather audit evidence in preparation for the audit. Having a year-end that falls during the organization’s busiest time of year may impact the availability and timeliness of sufficient audit evidence.
- Debt covenants – For organizations with significant debt covenants, the cyclical nature of the organization’s operations and the impact on the calculation of those covenants should be considered when choosing a year-end.
Once the above factors have been considered and a year-end has been chosen, many nonprofits question the audit and reporting impact of a fiscal year-end change. A year-end change will affect how the nonprofit presents its audited financial statements in the year of change and in the subsequent fiscal year. An organization can chose to extend the period under audit in the year of change or undergo an audit for the short period, plus the original fiscal year. For this reason, it is often common for single year financial statements to be presented rather than comparative statements in the year of change. The need for a comparative financial statement presentation and the costs of an extended or additional audit period should be considered in the year of change.
Lastly, in order to change the organization’s year-end with the IRS, Form 1128 “Application to Adopt, Change, or Retain a Tax Year” will need to be filed along with Form 990 for the short period to bridge the gap between the original year-end and the new year-end. A copy of the nonprofit’s tax exempt ruling letter from the IRS will need to be submitted with along with Form 1128. If an extension is needed for the short-period Form 990, the extension must be filed prior to the initial due date of the new fiscal year. Additionally, the nonprofit will want to review and amend any organizational documents (such as bylaws) that refer to the fiscal year-end.
If you are considering a change to your nonprofit’s year-end, contact Landon & Company LLP for further guidance on your specific situation.
Lee ([email protected]) is an Audit Manager with Langdon & Company LLP. She works with many healthcare nonprofit organizations.