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Deficit Tracker

BPC’s economic policy team analyzes the government’s running budget deficit and updates the Deficit Tracker every month.

Large and sustained federal budget deficits are harmful to the fiscal health of the United States. Yet policymakers struggle with reining in the red ink. Even in times of economic growth, the federal government ran large and growing budget deficits, near $1 trillion per year. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was an ominous trend. Now that policymakers are enacting necessary, emergency measures to combat the crisis, federal budget deficits are escalating to levels not seen since World War II. BPC’s economic policy team analyzes the government’s running budget deficit and updates the Deficit Tracker every month.

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Deficit Tracker

2021 deficit (so far): $284 billion
2017 Deficit 2018 Deficit 2019 Deficit 2020 Deficit 2021 Deficit
October 46 63 100 134 284
November 182 202 305 343 --
December 210 225 319 357 --
January 159 176 310 389 --
February 351 391 544 624 --
March 527 600 691 744 --
April 344 385 531 1482 --
May 433 532 739 1880 --
June 523 607 747 2744 --
July 566 684 867 2807 --
August 674 898 1067 3002 --
September 666 779 984 3131 --
NOTE: GRAPH SHOWS CUMULATIVE DEFICITS OVER THE FISCAL YEAR, WHICH BEGINS IN OCTOBER.
Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury, Congressional Budget Office.

Tracking the Federal Deficit: October 2020

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the federal government ran a deficit of $284 billion in October, the first month of fiscal year 2021. This deficit is the difference between $238 billion of revenue and $522 billion of outlays. Because November 1 fell on a weekend this year, however, certain payments that would normally be made in November were instead shifted to October, increasing the size of this month’s deficit. Without those payments, October’s deficit would have been $230 billion.

Either way, this October’s deficit is a large increase from last October’s figure of $134 billion. The year-over-year surge in the deficit is the sum of slightly lower revenues—3% lower than last October, mostly due to lower receipts of individual income taxes—and much greater outlays—37% greater than last October (23% greater when accounting for the timing shift of some payments), mainly because of the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout.

  • FY2021

    Tracking the Federal Deficit: October 2020

    The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the federal government ran a deficit of $284 billion in October, the first month of fiscal year 2021. This deficit is the difference between $238 billion of revenue and $522 billion of outlays. Because November 1 fell on a weekend this year, however, certain payments that would normally be made in November were instead shifted to October, increasing the size of this month’s deficit. Without those payments, October’s deficit would have been $230 billion.

    Either way, this October’s deficit is a large increase from last October’s figure of $134 billion. The year-over-year surge in the deficit is the sum of slightly lower revenues—3% lower than last October, mostly due to lower receipts of individual income taxes—and much greater outlays—37% greater than last October (23% greater when accounting for the timing shift of some payments), mainly because of the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout.

  • FY2020

    Fiscal Year 2020 in Review

    The federal government ran a deficit of $3.1 trillion in fiscal year 2020, more than triple the deficit for fiscal year 2019. This year’s deficit amounted to 15.2% of GDP, the greatest deficit as a share of the economy since 1945. FY2020 was the fifth year in a row that the deficit as a share of the economy grew. Revenues in FY2020 fell 1% from last year, while outlays surged 47%.

    The FY2020 budget splits into two distinct halves: before and after COVID-19 and its economic fallout. In the first six months of the fiscal year (October through March), the deficit was running 8% above last year’s rate; in the last six months (April through September), the deficit soared to eight times its level in those months last year.

    Through March, revenues had been running 6% above FY2019, propelled by higher wages and salaries that raised individual and payroll tax receipts. In April through September, however, revenues dipped 7% below their rate from the second half of FY2019, pulled down by the loss of economic activity and legislation enacted in response to the crisis. This second-half pattern of revenues dragged down by economic losses and policy changes was present across many types of revenue. Withheld income and payroll taxes fell 8%—because of a weaker economy, with fewer jobs and lower wages; and because of policy changes, which allowed employers to defer payroll tax payments and created refundable payroll tax credits for paid sick leave, family and medical leave, and employee retention. Nonwithheld income and payroll taxes also fell 7%, while corporate income taxes fell by 21%. Both of these declines were the sum of economic losses and legislative changes to lower tax burdens.

    Meanwhile, outlays in the first half of FY2020 grew 7% from last year’s rate. Then, from April through September, outlays almost doubled their level from those months last year, a $2 trillion increase. The character of spending increases also changed from the first to the second half of the year. From October through March, higher spending was driven by mandatory programs—Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. In the next six months, spending ballooned because of emergency responses to the pandemic and recession. Compared to the same months in FY2019, spending increased in April through September 2020 by:

    • $577 billion from the Small Business Administration, mostly for the Paycheck Protection Program
    • $443 billion on unemployment insurance benefits
    • $274 billion in refundable tax credits, including recovery rebates
    • $112 on the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (which in recent months has mostly reimbursed health care providers for their pandemic-related losses and paid for testing and treatment of COVID-19)
    • A new program, the Coronavirus Relief Fund, which gave aid to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, spent $149 billion in these months.

    Tracking the Federal Deficit: September 2020

    Each September, the government receives substantial revenue from individual and corporate income taxes, which generally produces a monthly surplus. For example, the federal government recorded an $83 billion surplus last September (or a surplus of $31 billion after accounting for a shift in the timing of some payments). This year, however, greater spending in response to the pandemic and recession dominated the usual revenue increase, and the government ran a monthly deficit of $124 billion. This deficit was the difference between revenues of $372 billion and spending of $496 billion.

    Revenue this September fell 1% from last September, the result of lost economic activity and policy changes allowing some taxes to be deferred or reduced. For instance, individual income and payroll taxes were 5% below last year’s level, while corporate income taxes fell 16%. Individual income tax refunds also increased by 68%, further lowering net revenue.

    Meanwhile, spending this September was 70% greater than last September (albeit only 44% greater when accounting for a shift in the timing of some payments). Spending mostly increased in response to the economic fallout from COVID-19. For instance, spending on unemployment insurance benefits increased from $2 billion last September to $35 billion this September. Outlays from the Department of Homeland Security were $27 billion higher this September, almost entirely because of spending from its Disaster Relief Fund that paid for some unemployment compensation. Outlays from the Small Business Administration grew from $85 million last September to $1.8 billion this September. And outlays from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund—which in recent months has mostly reimbursed health care providers for greater costs and lower revenue due to the pandemic and paid for testing and treatment of COVID-19—increased from $192 million last September to $7 billion this September.

    Nonetheless, while spending on these programs far exceeds pre-COVID levels, it’s fallen significantly from earlier in 2020. The $62 billion spent on unemployment insurance (including outlays from the Disaster Relief Fund) in September is down 47% from its June peak of $116 billion. $1.8 billion in outlays from the SBA is 99.6% less than its June peak of $511 billion. And the $7 billion of outlays from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund is 82% less than its April peak of $39 billion. Of course, these declines only reflect programs that still spent significant amounts last month. Other major relief programs—like Economic Impact Payments, relief for airline workers, or the Coronavirus Relief Fund (which sent money to state and local governments—no longer account for significant spending at all. In sum, September 2020 saw much greater spending than September 2019, but much less than earlier this year, as the previously enacted federal response to the pandemic and recession continued to wind down.

    Tracking the Federal Deficit: August 2020

    The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the federal government ran a deficit of $198 billion in August, the eleventh month of fiscal year 2020. This deficit—the difference between $223 billion of revenues and $420 billion of outlays—is $3 billion less than last August’s, although this apparent improvement is an illusion created by shifts in the timing of certain payments. Without these timing shifts, this August’s deficit would have been $106 billion (or 72%) greater than last August’s. The cumulative deficit in FY2020 has risen to $3.0 trillion, an increase of $1.9 trillion from this point last year.

    Analysis of notable trends: Cumulative revenue for the fiscal year is down 1% from this point last year, while cumulative outlays are 46% higher. August repeated this asymmetry, with revenues 2% lower than last August’s and outlays—netting out the timing shifts described above—27% higher.

    Thanks to a strong economy, this year’s revenue through March had been running 6% above last year’s. Then COVID-19 hit, and revenues from April through August have come in 9% lower than last year, due to both the loss in economic activity and legislation responding to the pandemic.

    Accounting for timing shifts, about half the increase in outlays from last August to this one came from spending on unemployment insurance benefits. While that spending has soared compared to last year, it has dropped significantly from last month. Adjusted for timing shifts, spending on unemployment insurance benefits ballooned from $2 billion last August to $110 billion this July before falling to $53 billion this August. Other major spending items related to COVID-19 and its economic fallout have followed the same trajectory. Outlays from the Small Business Association—in recent months, mostly loans and guarantees under the Paycheck Protection Program—were $99 million last August, rose to $26 billion this July, and dropped to $12 billion this August (also adjusted for timing shifts). Likewise, spending from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund—which, in recent months, has mostly gone to reimbursing health care providers for costs or lost revenues due to COVID-19 and providing money for testing and treatment of COVID-19—went from $183 million last August to $17 billion this July to $8 billion this August (adjusted for timing shifts).

    CBO now projects that the total deficit this fiscal year will run to $3.3 trillion, more than triple last year’s and the largest deficit as a share of the economy since 1945.

    Tracking the Federal Deficit: July 2020

    The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the federal government ran a deficit of $61 billion in July, the tenth month of fiscal year 2020. Although this July’s deficit was actually smaller than last July’s $120 billion deficit, the change does not represent an improved fiscal condition but a mere timing shift. The deadline for non-withheld individual and corporate income taxes, normally in April, was delayed until July of this year, causing an unusual spike in July revenue (which totaled $563 billion). Even this influx of taxes was overcome by monthly outlays that, at $624 billion, were 68% greater than last July’s. The cumulative budget deficit for FY2020 now stands at $2.8 trillion, more than triple the deficit at this point last year.

    Analysis of notable trends: Stepping back from monthly fluctuations caused by the change in filing deadlines, total revenue so far this fiscal year is down 1% from this point last year. Revenues through this March had actually been 6% higher than through the same point last fiscal year, as higher individual and corporate earnings led to greater individual and corporate income tax receipts. Then the pandemic hit. From April through July, revenues are 10% lower than over same months last year, a combination of economic damage and legislation that gave individuals and corporations greater tax deductions.

    While revenue has sagged relative to the prior fiscal year, outlays have exploded—they have been 51% greater so far in FY2020 than at the same point in FY2019. Most of this increase has come from the federal response to the pandemic and its economic fallout, and this was once again the case in July. Federal spending on unemployment insurance benefits was $3 billion last July; it soared to $110 billion this July. A majority of the rise was due to the additional $600 in weekly benefits for all recipients. Meanwhile, outlays through the Small Business Administration rose from $103 million last July to $26 billion this July, mostly because of loans made through the Paycheck Protection Program. UI and PPP have received consistent and large surges in spending since the beginning of the federal coronavirus response: From April through July, SBA outlays have been $564 billion more this year than last, while outlays for UI benefits have risen by $358 billion. Another program that has seen a surge in coronavirus-related spending is the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, which, in recent months, has mostly gone to reimbursing health care providers for costs or lost revenues due to COVID-19 and providing money for testing and treatment of COVID-19. Congress spent $243 million on this fund last July, but $17 billion this July.

    Tracking the Federal Deficit: June 2020

    The Congressional Budget Office reported that the federal government ran a deficit of $864 billion in June, the ninth month of fiscal year 2020. This monthly deficit is more than 100 times larger than last June’s deficit of $8 billion. This difference came from a sizable drop in revenues, which were down 28% from last June (from $334 billion to $241 billion), and especially from a massive increase in outlays, up 223% from last June (from $342 billion to $1.105 trillion). The budget deficit so far this fiscal year has surged to $2.7 trillion, $2 trillion more than at the same point last year. As exemplified by June, the cumulative difference stems from a drop in revenues—13% lower than at the same point last year—and a much bigger leap in outlays—49% higher than at this time last year.

    Analysis of notable trends: June represented another record-breaking deficit. Monthly deficits continue to be pushed upward by the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 emergency: The biggest fiscal change between last June and this one was on the spending side, and the biggest spending changes were from coronavirus-related programs. Outlays from the Small Business Administration, which funds the Paycheck Protection Program, soared from $80 million last June to $35 billion this May to $511 billion this June. Almost half of all government spending in June was through the SBA. Meanwhile, federal spending on unemployment insurance benefits rose from $2 billion last June to $93 billion this May to $116 billion this June. Half of the increase between last June and this June came from the $600 per month increase in benefit amounts. Finally, the Public Health Social Services Emergency Fund—which in recent months has reimbursed health care providers for health costs or lost revenues due to the pandemic, as well as paying for COVID-19 testing and treatments—went from $300 million last June to $14 billion this June (down from $27 billion in May).

    The drop in revenue between last June and this one was due almost entirely to the administration delaying the deadline for quarterly tax payments from June 15 to July 15. Monthly revenue was down $93 billion compared to a year ago, of which $43 billion came from delaying corporate tax payments while $42 billion came from delaying individual and payroll tax payments. CBO expects most of this delayed revenue to eventually be collected, although some will be lost as businesses fail before the new payment deadlines.

    Tracking the Federal Deficit: May 2020

    The Congressional Budget Office reported that the federal government ran a deficit of $399 billion in May, the eighth month of fiscal year 2020. This represents almost double the monthly deficit recorded in May 2019. So far this fiscal year, the budget deficit has mounted to $1.88 trillion, more than two-and-a-half times as large as at this point last year (when it was $739 billion). Total revenues so far this fiscal year are down 11% ($256 billion) compared to the same point last year, while outlays are up 29% ($886 billion).

    Analysis of notable trends: CBO notes that the fiscal year so far can be split into two distinct parts: one before the new coronavirus had affected economic output and federal finances (October through March) and one in which the pandemic had ravaged both (April and May). In the pre-coronavirus part of the year, outlays and revenues were each higher than at the same point last year. During the past two months, however, outlays soared (up 30% this May compared to last) while revenues evaporated (25% lower this May than last).

    Outlays have surged in response to the health emergency itself and the resulting economic fallout: for example, spending on unemployment insurance soared from $2 billion last May to $93 billion this May; spending on refundable tax credits (at this moment, mainly the Economic Impact Payments) surged from $3 billion last May to $53 billion this May; outlays from the Small Business Administration (at this moment, mostly loan guarantees from the Paycheck Protection Program) rose from $98 million last May to $35 billion this May; and spending on the Public Health Social Services Emergency Fund (in recent months, mostly reimbursing health care providers for costs and lost revenue stemming from the pandemic and paying for public health measures like testing and vaccine development) climbed from $250 million last May to $27 billion this May.

    On the revenue side, most of the drop in May relative to last year is from individual income and payroll taxes, which together dropped by 24% ($51 billion). While much of this drop is due to job loss and reduced incomes, some also derives from the shift in tax deadlines passed in the CARES Act, such as the ability for employers to defer their payroll taxes until the end of this calendar year.

    Tracking the Federal Deficit: April 2020

    The Congressional Budget Office reported that the federal government generated a $737 billion deficit in April, the seventh month of fiscal year 2020. April’s deficit is a $897 billion swing from the $160 billion surplus recorded a year earlier in April 2019. April’s shortfall brings the total deficit so far this fiscal year to $1.48 trillion, which is 179% ($949 billion) higher than the same period last year. Total revenues so far in FY2020 decreased by 10% ($200 billion), while spending increased by 29% ($749 billion), compared to the same period last year.

    Analysis of Notable Trends: The $737 billion deficit in April is by far the largest monthly shortfall as a share of the economy in the past 40 years (since the data was collected). Similarly, the $1.48 trillion deficit so far this fiscal year is on track to be the largest deficit as a share of the economy since World War II. These figures reflect the COVID-19 pandemic and the federal government’s emergency measures responding to it. In April 2020, federal income and payroll tax revenues fell 55% ($258 billion) compared to last April, primarily reflecting the millions of Americans who have been laid off or furloughed. (The income tax decline also reflects the delayed April 15 tax filing deadline.) Meanwhile, relief packages enacted by lawmakers led federal spending in April to more than double (from last April) to $976 billion. Spending on unemployment insurance rose from $3 billion in April 2019 to $49 billion this year, reflecting major expansions in the program. The recently enacted Economic Impact Payments to individual households totaled roughly $200 billion. Other major increases in April outlays were the Coronavirus Relief Fund providing aid to state and local governments of $142 billion and initial expenditures for the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses of $15 billion. Medicare spending also tripled to $152 billion. Finally, the federal government spent an additional $40 billion on aid to health care providers for combatting COVID-19.

    Tracking the Federal Deficit: March 2020

    The Congressional Budget Office reported that the federal government generated a $117 billion deficit in March, the sixth month of fiscal year 2020. March’s deficit is a $30 billion decrease from the $147 billion deficit recorded a year earlier in March 2019. (If not for timing shifts of certain payments, the deficit in March would have been $169 billion, or $22 billion more than in March 2019.) March’s deficit brings the total deficit so far this fiscal year to $741 billion, which is 7% ($50 billion) higher than the same period last year. Total revenues so far in FY2020 increased by 6% ($97 billion), while spending increased by 7% ($147 billion), compared to the same period last year.

    Analysis of Notable Trends in This Fiscal Year to Date: Through the first six months of FY2020, federal reserve remittances increased by 22% ($6 billion) because of lower short-term interest rates, which decreased the Federal Reserve’s interest expenses and increased its payments to the Treasury. As in previous months, the rise in spending was driven by increasing expenditures on the military (7%, or $22 billion), Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (6%, or $57 billion total), and net interest on the public debt (5%, or $10 billion). Notably, the March 2020 report was not significantly impacted by the new coronavirus pandemic nor the federal government’s emergency measures responding to it. CBO anticipates that those budgetary effects will be more noticeable in April.

    Tracking the Federal Deficit: February 2020

    The Congressional Budget Office reported that the federal government generated a $235 billion deficit in February, the fifth month of fiscal year 2020. February’s deficit is a $1 billion increase from the $234 billion deficit recorded a year earlier in February 2019. (If not for timing shifts of certain payments, the deficit in February would have been $238 billion, or $4 billion more than in February 2019.) February’s deficit brings the total deficit so far this fiscal year to $625 billion, which is 15% ($80 billion) higher than the same period last year (or $28 billion higher once timing shifts are accounted for). Total revenues so far in FY2020 increased by 7% ($88 billion), while spending increased by 9% ($168 billion), compared to the same period last year. (After accounting for timing shifts, spending rose by 6% or $116 billion.)

    Analysis of Notable Trends in This Fiscal Year to Date:  Through the first five months of FY2020, individual income tax refunds fell by 6% ($5 billion), increasing net revenue, as the timing of refund payments varies annually. Customs duties rose by 14% ($4 billion), partly due to tariffs imposed by the current administration, primarily on imports from China. On the spending side, net interest on the public debt increased by 6% ($10 billion)—even amidst historically low interest rates—because the overall debt burden has risen. Outlays for the Department of Veterans Affairs rose by 7% ($6 billion) because of rising participation in veterans’ disability compensation, growing average disability benefits, and increasing spending on a program that helps veterans receive treatment in non-VA facilities.

    Tracking the Federal Deficit: January 2020

    The Congressional Budget Office reported that the federal government generated a $32 billion deficit in January, the fourth month of fiscal year 2020. January’s deficit is a $40 billion change from the $9 billion surplus recorded a year earlier in January 2019. (If not for timing shifts of certain payments, the federal government would actually have realized a $1 billion surplus in January 2020 and a $12 billion deficit in January 2019.) January’s deficit brings the total deficit so far this fiscal year to $388 billion, which is 25% ($78 billion) higher than the same period last year (or $23 billion higher once timing shifts are accounted for). Total revenues so far in FY2020 increased by 6% ($67 billion), while spending increased by 10% ($145 billion), compared to the same period last year. (After accounting for timing shifts, spending rose by 6% or $90 billion.

    Analysis of Notable Trends in This Fiscal Year to Date: Through the first four months of FY2020, revenue from corporate income taxes rose by 27% ($16 billion). Additionally, Federal Reserve remittances increased by 14% ($3 billion) partly due to lower short-term interest rates that reduced its interest expenses. On the spending side, after accounting for timing shifts, total Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid outlays rose by 6% ($41 billion). Outlays for the Department of Defense rose by 7% ($14 billion), largely for procurement and research and development.

    Tracking the Federal Deficit: December 2019

    The Congressional Budget Office reported that the federal government generated a $15 billion deficit in December, the third month of fiscal year 2020. December’s deficit is 7% ($1 billion) higher than the deficit recorded a year earlier in December 2018. (If not for timing shifts of certain payments, the deficit in December would have been roughly $42 billion, or $4 billion more than the adjusted deficit from a year ago.) December’s deficit brings the total deficit so far this fiscal year to $358 billion, which is 12% ($39 billion) higher than the same period last year. Total revenues so far in FY2020 increased by 5% ($35 billion), while spending increased by 7% ($74 billion), compared to the same period last year.

    Analysis of Notable Trends in This Fiscal Year to Date: Through the first three months of FY2020, revenue from excise taxes fell by 33% ($10 billion), relative to the same period in 2018, due to a one-year moratorium of the tax on health insurance providers (the “Cadillac tax,” which has since been repealed). Conversely, revenue from customs duties increased by 18% ($3 billion) as a result of additional tariffs imposed by the current administration, primarily on imports from China. On the spending side, outlays for Department of Defense programs rose by 10% ($16 billion), mostly for procurement. Additionally, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac began making smaller payments to the Treasury in order to replenish their capital reserves, resulting in an an 88% ($7 billion) decline in net payments (recorded in the federal budget as an increase in net outlays).

    Tracking the Federal Deficit: November 2019

    The Congressional Budget Office reported that the federal government generated a $207 billion deficit in November, the second month of fiscal year 2020. November’s deficit is 1% ($2 billion) higher than the deficit recorded a year earlier in November 2018. (If not for timing shifts of certain payments, the deficit in November would have been roughly $158 billion, or $2 billion lower than the adjusted deficit from a year ago.) November’s deficit brings the total deficit so far this fiscal year to $342 billion, which is 12% ($36 billion) higher than the same period last year (or $32 billion higher once timing shifts are accounted for). Total revenues so far in FY2020 increased by 3% ($12 billion), while spending increased by 6% ($49 billion), compared to the same period last year.

    Analysis of Notable Trends in This Fiscal Year to Date: Through the first two months of FY2020, revenue from excise taxes fell by 40% ($9 billion), relative to the same period in 2018, due to a one-year moratorium of the tax on health insurance providers. Conversely, revenue from customs duties increased by 32% ($4 billion) as a result of additional tariffs imposed by the current administration, primarily on imports from China. On the spending side, outlays for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid rose by 7% ($22 billion), and spending on education rose by 25% ($3 billion), largely the result of rising subsidy costs for federal student loans.

    Tracking the Federal Deficit: October 2019

    The Congressional Budget Office reported that the federal government generated a $133 billion deficit in October, the first month of fiscal year 2020. October’s deficit is 33% ($33 billion) more than the deficit recorded a year earlier in October 2018.

  • FY2019

    Tracking the Federal Deficit: September 2019 (end of the fiscal year)

    The Congressional Budget Office reported that the federal government generated a surplus of $83 billion in September, the final month of Fiscal Year 2019. This brings the total FY2019 deficit to $984 billion, 26 percent ($205 billion) higher than last year’s deficit. If not for timing shifts of certain payments, this year’s deficit would have been 21 percent ($162 billion) larger than the deficit in FY2018. On an apples-to-apples basis, total revenues in FY2019 increased by 4 percent ($133 billion), while spending increased by 7 percent ($294 billion), compared to the prior fiscal year.

    Analysis of Notable Trends for Fiscal Year 2019: Corporate income tax revenue increased by 14 percent ($25 billion) relative to 2018, although that year notably was tied for the lowest corporate revenue level (1.0 percent) as a share of the economy since 1965, a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA). Customs duties increased by 71 percent ($29 billion) versus last year due to the imposition of tariffs, specifically on certain imports from China. On the spending side, outlays from the refundable earned income and child tax credits increased by 14 percent ($11 billion) versus last year, reflecting expansions enacted in TCJA. Finally, payments for net interest on the public debt rose by an alarming 14 percent ($52 billion), largely due to higher short-term interest rates and a growing federal debt burden on which those interest payments are owed.

    Tracking the Federal Deficit: August 2019

    The Congressional Budget Office reported that the federal government generated a $200 billion deficit in August, the eleventh month of Fiscal Year 2019. This makes for a total deficit of $1.067 trillion so far this fiscal year, 19 percent ($168 billion) higher than over the same period last year. (Excluding timing shifts of certain payments, the total deficit so far this fiscal year is 17 percent—$137 billion—higher than over the same period last year.) Total revenues so far in FY 2019 increased by 3 percent ($102 billion), while spending increased by 7 percent ($271 billion), compared to the same period last year.

    Analysis of Notable Trends this Fiscal Year to Date: Trends in the major categories of revenue and spending continued from previous months—compared to last year, individual income and payroll taxes collectively rose by 3 percent ($82 billion), while spending for the largest mandatory programs (Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) collectively increased by 6 percent ($105 billion). Revenues from customs duties increased by 72 percent ($26 billion), primarily due to new tariffs imposed on certain imports from China. Estate tax revenue decreased by 25 percent ($5 billion) due to the 2017 tax cuts which doubled the value of the estate tax exemption. Additionally, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac remitted $16 billion more in payments to the Treasury this year. Finally, net interest payments on the federal debt continued to rise, increasing by 14 percent ($48 billion) versus last year due to higher interest rates and a larger federal debt burden.

    Tracking the Federal Deficit:   July 2019

    The Congressional Budget Office reported that the federal government generated a $120 billion deficit in July, the tenth month of Fiscal Year 2019. This makes for a total deficit of $867 billion so far this fiscal year, 27 percent ($184 billion) higher than over the same period last year (excluding timing shifts of certain payments, the total deficit so far this fiscal year is 20 percent—$140 billion—higher than over the same period last year). Total revenues so far in Fiscal Year 2019 increased by 3 percent ($92 billion), while spending increased by 8 percent ($276 billion), compared to the same period last year.

    Analysis of Notable Trends this Fiscal Year to Date: Increased revenues were driven mostly by a 7 percent ($65 billion) increase in payroll taxes due to the strong labor market that has resulted in continued job growth and rising wages. On the spending side, outlays for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid increased by a combined 6 percent ($46 billion, $37 billion, and $18 billion, respectively). Department of Education outlays rose by 79 percent ($40 billion), mostly due to an upward revision to the net subsidy costs of previously issued student loans. Finally, net interest payments on the federal debt continued to rise, increasing by 14 percent ($44 billion) versus last year due to higher interest rates and a larger federal debt burden.

    Tracking the Federal Deficit:   June 2019

    The Congressional Budget Office reported that the federal government generated an $8 billion deficit in June, the ninth month of Fiscal Year 2019, for a total deficit of $746 billion so far this fiscal year. If not for timing shifts of certain payments, June’s deficit would have been  $57 billion, which is $28 billion (97 percent) larger than the adjusted deficit for June 2018. Total revenues so far in Fiscal Year 2019 increased by 3 percent ($69 billion), while spending increased by 7 percent ($208 billion), compared to the same period last year.

    Analysis of Notable Trends this Fiscal Year to Date: Individual and payroll taxes together rose by 3 percent ($60 billion), reflecting an expanding economy and a low unemployment rate. Furthermore, customs duties increased by 77 percent ($22 billion) versus last year, primarily due to the imposition of new tariffs. On the spending side, Social Security expenditures increased by 6 percent ($42 billion) compared to last year due to increases in the number of beneficiaries and the average benefit payment. Finally, net interest payments on the federal debt continued to rise, increasing by 16 percent ($44 billion) versus last year due to higher interest rates and a larger federal debt burden.

    Tracking the Federal Deficit:   May 2019

    The Congressional Budget Office reported that the federal government generated a $207 billion deficit in May, the  eighth month of Fiscal Year 2019, for a total deficit of  $738 billion so far this fiscal year. May’s deficit is 41 percent ($60 billion) more than the deficit recorded a year earlier in May 2018. If not for timing shifts of certain payments, the deficit would have been 7 percent ($11 billion) larger than the deficit in May 2018. Total revenues so far in Fiscal Year 2019 increased by 2 percent ($49 billion), while spending increased by 9 percent ($255 billion), compared to the same period last year.

    Analysis of Notable Trends this Fiscal Year to Date: Corporate income tax receipts were down by 9 percent ($11 billion) compared to last year, reflecting the lower marginal corporate tax rate enacted in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Further, customs duties increased by 78 percent ($19 billion) versus last year, due to the imposition of new tariffs. On the spending side, Department of Defense spending increased by 10 percent ($39 billion) compared to last year, particularly on military operations, maintenance, procurement, and R&D. Finally, net interest payments on the federal debt continued to rise, increasing by 16 percent ($37 billion) versus last year due to higher interest rates and a larger federal debt burden.

    Tracking the Federal Deficit: April 2019

    The Congressional Budget Office reported that the federal government generated a $161 billion surplus in April, the seventh month of Fiscal Year 2019, for a total deficit of $531 billion so far this fiscal year. April’s surplus is 33 percent ($54 billion) less than the surplus recorded a year earlier in April 2018. If not for timing shifts of certain payments, the surplus would have been 5 percent ($8 billion) smaller than the surplus in April 2018. Total revenues so far in Fiscal Year 2019 increased by 2 percent ($36 billion), while spending increased by 6 percent ($135 billion), compared to the same period last year.

    Analysis of Notable Trends this Fiscal Year to Date: Income tax refunds were down by 5 percent ($12 billion) compared to last tax season, contrary to many analysts’ expectations. Further, outlays from the refundable earned income and child tax credits increased by 12 percent ($9 billion) versus last year, reflecting expansions enacted in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Net interest payments on the public debt continued to rise, up 13 percent ($27 billion) compared to last year, largely as a result of higher interest rates and the nation’s steadily growing debt burden.

    Tracking the Federal Deficit: March 2019 

    The Congressional Budget Office reported that the federal government generated a $149 billion deficit in March, the sixth month of Fiscal Year 2019, for a total deficit of $693 billion so far this fiscal year. March’s deficit is 29 percent ($60 billion) less than the deficit recorded a year earlier in March 2018. If not for timing shifts of certain payments, the deficit would have been 9 percent ($14 billion) smaller than the deficit in March 2018. Total revenues so far in Fiscal Year 2019 increased by 0.6 percent ($9 billion), while spending increased by 5 percent ($103 billion), compared to the same period last year.

    Analysis of Notable Trends this Fiscal Year to Date: Customs duties increased by 86 percent ($16 billion) compared to last year. On the spending side, outlays for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid increased by a combined 4 percent ($26 billion, $10 billion, and $5 billion, respectively). Department of Defense spending rose by 9 percent ($28 billion), and net interest payments on the national debt were up by 13 percent ($22 billion), largely due to interest rates on short term debt being substantially higher now than they were during the first half of Fiscal Year 2018.

    Tracking the Federal Deficit: February 2019 

    The Congressional Budget Office reported that the federal government generated a $227 billion deficit in February, the fifth month of Fiscal Year 2019, for a total deficit of $537 billion so far this fiscal year. February’s deficit is 5 percent ($12 billion) higher than the deficit recorded a year earlier in February 2018. Total revenues so far in Fiscal Year 2019 decreased by 0.3 percent ($4 billion), while spending increased by 8.5 percent ($142 billion), compared to the same period last year.

    Analysis of Notable Trends this Fiscal Year to Date: Income tax refunds were down by 10 percent ($10 billion) from October-February 2019 compared to the same period in Fiscal Year 2018, and corporate income tax receipts were down by 19 percent ($14 billion) from October-February 2019 relative to the same period in Fiscal Year 2018. The dip in corporate revenues is primarily attributable to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. On the spending side, Department of Homeland Security outlays decreased by 31 percent ($11 billion) due to a relative decrease in disaster spending versus last year. Conversely, net interest payments on the national debt were up 15 percent ($20 billion) from October-February 2019 compared to the same period in Fiscal Year 2018.

    Tracking the Federal Deficit: December 2018 

    The Congressional Budget Office reported that the federal government generated an $11 billion deficit in December, the third month of Fiscal Year 2019, for a total deficit of $317 billion so far this fiscal year. If not for timing shifts of certain payments, the deficit in December would have been roughly $32 billion, according to CBO. December’s deficit is 52 percent ($12 billion) lower than the deficit recorded a year earlier in December 2017. Total revenues so far in Fiscal Year 2019 increased by 0.1 percent ($2 billion), while spending increased by 9.4 percent ($93 billion), compared to the same period last year.

    Analysis of Notable Trends in December 2018: Revenue from customs duties spiked by 83 percent ($8 billion) from October-December 2018, relative to the same period in 2017, due to the administration’s imposition of new tariffs. Conversely, corporate income tax revenue declined by 15 percent ($9 billion) from October-December 2018 relative to the same period in 2017. This dip mainly reflects the reduction of corporate tax rates enacted in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. On the spending side, interest payments on the federal debt in December 2018 rose by 47 percent ($11 billion) relative to December 2017.

    Tracking the Federal Deficit: November 2018

    The Congressional Budget Office reported that the federal government generated a $203 billion deficit in November, the second month of Fiscal Year 2019, for a total deficit of $303 billion so far this fiscal year. If not for timing shifts of certain payments, the deficit in November would have been roughly $158 billion, according to CBO. November’s deficit is 46 percent ($64 billion) higher than the deficit recorded a year earlier in November 2017. Total revenues so far in Fiscal Year 2019 increased by 3 percent ($14 billion), while spending increased by 18 percent ($115 billion), compared to the same period last year.

    Analysis of Notable Trends in November 2018: Department of Homeland Security spending fell by 46 percent ($4 billion) relative to November 2017, reflecting a decrease in spending on disaster relief. Conversely, Social Security spending (benefit payments) increased by 5 percent ($4 billion) compared to November 2017.

    Tracking the Federal Deficit: October 2018

    Analysis of Notable Trends in October 2018:The Congressional Budget Office reported that the federal government generated a $98 billion deficit in October, the first month of Fiscal Year 2019. October’s deficit is 56 percent ($35 billion) higher than the deficit recorded a year earlier in October 2017. Total revenues increased by 7 percent ($17 billion), while spending increased by 18 percent ($55 billion), compared to a year earlier.

  • FY2018

    End of Fiscal Year 2018

    This entry reflects the U.S. Treasury Department’s official end-of-year spending, revenue, and deficit figures for Fiscal Year 2018, as released in its Final Monthly Treasury Statement for Fiscal Year 2018.  

    The total deficit for FY 2018 is $779 billion, with total spending clocking in at $4.1 trillion and total revenue at $3.3 trillion. The deficit grew by 17 percent ($113 billion) compared to FY 2017 and is the highest federal deficit in six years (since FY 2012). While spending grew by about 3 percent ($127 billion) in FY 2018, revenue grew by less than 1 percent ($14 billion). Disturbingly, federal interest payments on the debt spiked to $372 billion — up 20 percent ($62 billion) from FY 2017 — reflecting the largest year-over-year increase in over a decade (both in terms of nominal and inflation-adjusted dollars).

    October 5, 2018

    The Congressional Budget Office reports that the federal government generated a $782 billion deficit for Fiscal Year 2018, about 17 percent ($116 billion) higher than the deficit for FY 2017. However, about $44 billion in payments that normally would have been included in FY 2018, which ended Sept. 30, fell on a weekend and instead were made in FY 2019. If not for these payment timing shifts, the FY 2018 deficit would have been even larger, estimated at $826 billion. Revenues in FY 2018 remained almost entirely flat, growing by less than 1 percent. While some revenue sources such as individual income tax collection grew by about 6 percent ($96 billion), others such as corporate income tax collection shrank dramatically by about 31 percent ($92 billion). As revenue stagnated, federal spending continued to climb by 3 percent ($129 billion). Spending on the three largest mandatory programs — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — rose by 4 percent ($73 billion). In continuation of a disturbing trend, interest payments on the federal debt were the fastest growing portion of the budget, up 20 percent ($62 billion) from FY 2017. Total interest payments on the federal debt for FY 2018 were $371 billion, nearly as much as the federal government spent on the Medicaid program over the same period (all spending figures adjusted by CBO to remove the effects of timing shifts).

    September 10, 2018

    The federal government produced a monthly budget deficit of $211 billion in August, up from $108 billion during the same month last year. The cumulative Fiscal Year 2018 deficit now stands at $895 billion, exceeding by more than $100 billion CBO’s latest projection for that period. It is important to note that due to the calendar, payments of about $68 billion normally made in September were made in August. For this reason, August’s cumulative deficit is larger than it otherwise would have been, which will be offset by a lower deficit in September.

    This year’s cumulative deficit is 33 percent ($222 billion) higher than for the same period last year. According to CBO, while federal revenues have increased by 1 percent ($19 billion) over the first 11 months of FY 2018, federal outlays have increased by 7 percent ($240 billion). Outlays rose across all major categories, including interest spending, defense spending, and spending on major entitlement programs. Key drivers of the increased deficit year-over-year in the month of August alone (adjusted by CBO to remove the effects of timing shifts) were: interest spending up 25 percent ($7 billion); defense spending up 10 percent ($5 billion); and Social Security and Medicare spending up 5 percent and 7 percent respectively ($4 billion each).

    August 7, 2018

    The federal government generated a monthly budget deficit of $75 billion in July, bringing the cumulative Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 deficit to $682 billion. This year’s deficit is 20 percent ($116 billion) higher than last year’s cumulative deficit over the same period. Cumulative interest payments on the federal debt increased again this month relative to the same period last year, totaling $309 billion so far this fiscal year. The Congressional Budget Office attributes this 19 percent ($48 billion) year-over-year increase in interest spending to several factors: a higher rate of inflation, higher interest rates, and a larger debt burden. Other increases in spending compared to July 2017 included a 5 percent increase in spending on Social Security ($4 billion) and an 8 percent increase in defense spending ($3 billion). Total revenues for the month were down about 3 percent ($7 billion). Fiscal year to date, revenues have increased by about 5 percent ($105 billion), despite a 28 percent ($66 billion) drop in corporate tax collections. This drop has been more than offset by an 8 percent ($104 billion) increase in individual income tax collections so far this fiscal year.

    July 10, 2018

    In June, the federal government produced a monthly budget deficit of $75 billion, bringing the cumulative Fiscal Year 2018 deficit to $607 billion. This year’s deficit is $84 billion higher than last year’s cumulative deficit over the same period. The primary reason on the spending side is interest payments, which have increased by 17 percent ($39 billion) through the month of June compared to the same period in 2017. Spending on the three largest mandatory programs—Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—has increased by 4 percent ($115 billion) versus the comparable period in 2017. On the revenue side, corporate income taxes are 28 percent lower ($62 billion) compared to the same period in 2017. About a third of this dip occurred in June, which CBO attributes to a decrease in corporate tax collection largely due to the implementation of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Provisions lowering the corporate tax rate and expanding the ability of corporations to immediately deduct the full value of equipment purchases particularly had an impact on the revenue decline. But overall revenues have increased slightly compared to last year, driven by individual income and payroll tax collections, which rose by 5 percent ($105 billion) compared to the same period in 2017. This increase is partially attributable to a growing workforce and increases in wages and salaries subject to taxation.

    June 7, 2018

    The federal government produced a monthly budget deficit of $144 billion in May, up from $88 billion during the same month last year. May’s shortfall brings the cumulative Fiscal Year 2018 deficit to $530 billion, 22 percent higher than last year’s cumulative deficit over the same period. CBO attributes the increased deficit through last month in part to increases in interest spending, up 15 percent (or $32 billion) compared to this point last year. In the month of May alone, interest payments rose by 26 percent (or $7 billion) compared to May 2017, perhaps partially reflecting the trend of rising rates on U.S. Treasury securities. Also, corporate tax collections through May fell by 25 percent (or $42 billion) compared to the same period in FY2017. Conversely, individual income and payroll tax payments through May were up 6 percent (or $109 billion) compared to the same point last year. Spending increases in Medicare, Medicaid, defense, and other programs also contributed to the year-over-year deficit increase in FY2018 to date.

    May 7, 2018

    As usual, April produced a monthly budget surplus, as the government received hundreds of billions of dollars in tax returns during the month. An extraordinary $218 billion surplus in April prompted the cumulative 2018 budget deficit to shrink to $382 billion so far this fiscal year. Last year, the government had accrued a smaller $344 billion deficit through April, and the year before it was even lower. CBO partly attributes this year’s larger deficit to increases in interest spending (up 14 percent vs. last year), Department of Homeland Security spending (mainly disaster relief), as well as increases in spending on Social Security and defense. At the same time, revenues are up overall compared to last year, due mainly to an 8 percent increase from individual income and payroll taxes. Conversely, corporate income taxes declined precipitously compared to last year (by 22 percent), which may reflect behavior influenced by the recent tax legislation.

Methodological Note:

The monthly tracker entries report preliminary spending, revenue, and deficit data from CBO’s Monthly Budget Reviews. These summaries are released around the fifth business day of every month and preview the release of official budget data from the Treasury Department, which follows on roughly the eighth business day of every month (except end-of-year data, which tends to be released later in October). Historically, CBO’s preliminary data is accurate, often differing from Treasury’s final figures by only a few billion dollars, if at all. For example, CBO preliminarily reported that the total FY2019 deficit was $984 billion in their September 2019 review, matching the official figure that Treasury later reported.

The deficit tracker graphic is updated retroactively with official Treasury data, whereas the monthly text entries are not.

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