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ECONOMICS REPORT - Fiscal Year

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This is Bob Doughty. Welcome to the VOA Special English Economics Report. You can now hear environment news on Tuesday as part of Science in the News.

Our first Economics Report is about a timely subject. Have you ever wondered what is a fiscal year? A fiscal year is simply a way to record and report financial activity. It is the same length as a calendar year. In fact, many businesses begin their fiscal year on January first.

The fiscal year for the United States government starts on October first and ends September thirtieth. Other fiscal years begin in April or July. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants begins its fiscal year on August first.

Accountants add up earnings and losses at the end of a fiscal year. These numbers are needed to know how much is owed for taxes, and how much is left for the next budget.

Congress is supposed to approve federal spending for the coming fiscal year by October first. This does not always happen.

President Bush gave Congress his spending plan for fiscal two-thousand-four on February third. That was only the beginning.

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate must write and vote on their own budget resolution. This is a general plan for spending.

Then, a conference committee meets. Members from both houses are on this committee. They approve a final budget resolution which goes to a vote in both houses. But this is not the end of the process.

Committees in both houses must also approve the exact amount of money for each program. This is called appropriations. Under the committees are subcommittees that make decisions about areas like education and defense.

Bills to permit spending then go to the full House and Senate for a vote. The appropriations process often takes place at the same time as the budget resolution process.

Government offices can close if the president has not signed a new budget by October first. But Congress can pass a continuing resolution, like the one now in place. Continuing resolutions provide money for government operations at current levels until a budget is completed.

All this cannot take too much time. Only four months into the new fiscal year, the president must give Congress a new budget and the whole process starts over again.

This VOA Special English Economics Report was written by Mario Ritter. If you have a question, send it to special@voanews.com. This is Bob Doughty.

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