Monthly budget review: FY 2008 deficit of $438 billion

October 7, 2008

CBO released its Monthly Budget Review today. Based on data from the Daily Treasury Statements, CBO estimates that the federal budget deficit was about $438 billion in fiscal year 2008, $276 billion more than the shortfall recorded in 2007. (The Treasury Department will report the actual deficit for fiscal year 2008 later this month.)

Relative to the size of the economy, that deficit was equal to 3.1 percent of gross domestic product, up from 1.2 percent in 2007. (The average deficit over the preceding five years, 2002-2006, was 2.6 percent of GDP.) The $438 billion figure is about $31 billion more than the $407 billion deficit CBO projected this summer, primarily because revenues are lower than we anticipated and spending for defense and deposit insurance is turning out to be higher.

CBO estimates that receipts in 2008 were about $44 billion (or 1.7 percent) below receipts in 2007, falling from 18.8 percent of GDP in 2007 to about 17.7 percent of GDP in 2008. Corporate income taxes declined the most, falling by about $65 billion (18 percent), due largely to weakness in corporate earnings throughout the fiscal year. Individual income tax receipts declined by about $19 billion (or 1.6 percent) relative to receipts in fiscal year 2007, reflecting $62 billion in tax rebates (from the economic stimulus legislation) that were recorded as offsets to revenues. In contrast, receipts of social insurance (payroll) taxes rose by about $31 billion (or 3.5 percent), and other receipts increased by about $9 billion (or 5.4 percent).

Spending rose by about 8 percent. Contributing significantly to the growth in spending were outlays for tax rebates (those rebates that were recorded on the spending side of the budget because they exceeded the recipients' income tax liability), for deposit insurance, and for national defense.