An unusual and unexpected one-time event that must be explained to shareholders in an annual or quarterly report, e.g., write down for a discontinued operation, employee fraud, a lawsuit, or other one-time events. Results are often presented with and without these items. The logic of excluding these items is that investors have a better notion of future performance if one-time events are excluded. Differs from an unusual item in that extraordinary items are (1) material; (2) non-recurring; and (3) outside the ordinary nature of the business.
A large gain or loss in a company's earnings due to a non-recurring event that is out of the company's control. For example, a water distribution company may have unusually high earnings from sales because a natural disaster required relief organizations to purchase large quantities of clean water. On the other hand, it may have low earnings from sales because all the relief organizations had previously stocked up on water and did not need to buy any more. Extraordinary items are reported separately from the company's other financial statements so as to give a clearer picture of how the company is actually performing. Publicly-traded companies must report extraordinary items to shareholders in quarterly and annual reports and explain why they do not constitute a substantial increase or decrease in the company's health.
An infrequently occurring transaction or event that, if material, is reported separately from continuing operations.