Federal Receipts and Expenditures in the NIPAs

June 29, 2009

Today CBO released an updated report on the treatment of federal receipts and expenditures in the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPAs).The Congress, executive branch agencies, and the press generally focus on the accounting of government finances presented in the Budget of the United States Government, which is prepared by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The budget is structured to provide information that can assist lawmakers in their policy deliberations, facilitate the management and control of federal activities, and help the Treasury manage its cash balances and determine its borrowing needs. In contrast, the NIPAs produced by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), an agency within the Department of Commerce are intended to provide a comprehensive measure of activity in the U.S. economy, of which the federal sector is one part. Because the aims of the NIPAs differ from those of the federal budget, the two accounting systems treat some of the government's transactions very differently, as described in this report. Despite the accounting differences, the government budget numbers reported by the BEA are not all that different from those reported under the OMB framework.