Stewardship Resource

“Should We Switch Our Fiscal Year?” Response Letter

Letter  Letter
  • Author: Rick Lund
  • Updated: 06/17/2008
  • Copyright: Rick Lund

In a recent newsletter I wrote that I "would like to learn from others whose fiscal year is other than the calendar year.  What are the benefits?  What are the disadvantages?  What do you recommend a congregation do to implement such a change?"

Click on A SUMMARY OF LETTERS to view the others responses.

--Jerry Hoffman

Rick Lund Writes:

I've lived with alternate fiscal years (October 1 through Sep 30) as an Army church business administrator for 15 years.  They are, as you observed, always difficult to interpret to folks used to thinking in calendar year cycles.  Given the importance of finances, the government's fiscal year tends to become the program reporting year as well; which can be challenging.

One Internet hit suggested that fiscal years should follow one's business cycles.  This fits the federal scheme.  The president proposes a budget in our January state of the union message.  The next nine months are spent wrestling with long range plans during times when Congress is ordinarily at work.  It fits our churchwide scheme where the ELCA's fiscal year ends January 31 (providing opportunity to receive calendar year end gifts from synods and congregations?).

The church's program year is a bit challenging.  Emotionally it seems to operate on a September through May program year with a summer pause for re-tooling.  General Motors has production cycle that is different than its fiscal year cycle when ends December 31.  At Fox Broadcasting the fiscal year and the production year end June 30.  

There are a few minor IRS concerns for changing tax years.  One needs, for example, to declare with FORMS 990 which year will be deemed to be a "short year" in the changeover.  

If I knew I was in a congregation with a long-tenured and clear-minded (from business perspective) pastor or church business administrator, it would seem as though the fiscal year change to June 30 would make sense.  If we're dealing with impending retirements or shorter tenure pastors, it would seem best to stick with a calendar year.  Just too much trouble involved in reinterpreting and changing things.

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