The federal budget deficit was $522 billion for the first six months of fiscal year 2017, the Congressional Budget Office estimates - $63 billion more than the shortfall recorded during the same span last year.
But that result was slightly affected by shifts in the timing of certain payments that otherwise would have been due on a weekend. If not for those shifts, the deficit for the first six months of fiscal year 2017 would have been $61 billion* larger than that recorded for the same period last year.
Total Receipts: Down Slightly in the First Six Months of Fiscal Year 2017
Receipts through March totaled $1,474 billion, CBO estimates—$2 billion less than the amount for the same period last year. That slight decrease is the net effect of the following changes, which largely offset one another:
Individual income and payroll (social insurance) taxes together rose by $46 billion (or 4 percent).
Amounts withheld from workers' paychecks rose by $56 billion (or 5 percent). That change largely reflects increases in wages and salaries.
Nonwithheld payments of income and payroll taxes fell by $4 billion (or 3 percent). Much of that decline occurred in January, when taxpayers made their last quarterly payment of estimated taxes for the 2016 tax year. Most taxpayers will not make their final payment of income taxes for 2016 until this month, when individual tax returns are due.
Individual income tax refunds increased by $3 billion (or 2 percent).
Receipts from unemployment insurance taxes (one kind of payroll tax) declined by $2 billion (or 11 percent).
Remittances from the Federal Reserve to the Treasury, which are included in "Other Receipts" in the table below, fell by $26 billion, largely because the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (Public Law 114-94) required the Federal Reserve to remit most of its surplus account to the Treasury in fiscal year 2016. The central bank remitted the required amount, $19 billion, in a onetime payment in late December 2015.
Corporate income taxes fell by $22 billion (or 18 percent). Most of that decline occurred in March as a result of the changes in due dates for certain corporate income tax returns that were mandated under the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015 (P.L. 114-41). Starting this year, most corporations are required to file their tax returns in mid-April rather than mid-March. Corporate income tax receipts are thus expected to be higher in April than they would have been if that due date had not been changed.
Total Outlays: Up by 3 Percent in the First Six Months of Fiscal Year 2017
Outlays for the first six months of fiscal year 2017 totaled $1,996 billion, CBO estimates—$61 billion (or 3 percent) more than they were during the same period last year. The discussion below reflects small net adjustments to remove the effects of timing shifts.
The largest increases in outlays were the following:
Outlays for the three largest mandatory spending programs increased by a total of $34 billion (or 4 percent).
Social Security benefits increased by $13 billion (or 3 percent), reflecting typical recent growth in the number of beneficiaries and in the average benefit payment.
Medicare spending grew by $11 billion (or 4 percent) because of an increase in the number of beneficiaries and growth in the amount and cost of services for those beneficiaries.
Outlays for Medicaid rose by $9 billion (or 5 percent), largely because of new enrollees added through expansions of coverage authorized by the Affordable Care Act.
Outlays for net interest on the public debt increased by $28 billion (or 22 percent), largely because of differences in the rate of inflation. To account for inflation, the Treasury MONTHLY BUDGET REVIEW FOR MARCH 2017 APRIL 7, 2017 3 Department adjusts the principal of its inflation-protected securities each month. (It uses the change in the consumer price index for all urban consumers that was recorded two months earlier to make that adjustment.) The adjustments made in the first six months of fiscal year 2016 were negative, but those made to date in 2017 have been positive.
Spending by the Department of Homeland Security, which is included in the "Other" category in the table below, rose by $3 billion (or 13 percent), primarily because of increased spending for flood insurance resulting from damage caused by floods in Louisiana, Texas, and West Virginia last summer.
Outlays for subsidies for health insurance purchased through the marketplaces established under the Affordable Care Act, which are included in "Other" in the table below, rose by about $5 billion (or 32 percent). Spending climbed largely because the premiums for those plans were higher than last year.
Spending for the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is included in "Other" in the table below, increased by $4 billion (or 5 percent), mostly because of increases in the number of veterans receiving disability payments and in the health care services provided to veterans.
Outlays in some areas of the budget declined:
The government received $9 billion more in payments from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than it did last year. The two entities make quarterly payments to the Treasury each December and March. Those payments are recorded as offsets to spending and thus lower net outlays.
Outlays for the Department of Education, which are included in "Other" in the table below, fell by $4 billion (or 10 percent), mostly because of decreased spending for student loans and Pell grants.
Spending for other programs and activities increased or decreased by smaller amounts.
Estimated Deficit in March 2017: $173 Billion
In CBO's estimation, the federal government realized a deficit of $173 billion in March 2017—$65 billion more than the deficit in March 2016.
CBO estimates that receipts in March 2017 totaled $217 billion—$11 billion (or 5 percent) less than those in the same month last year. Net collections of corporate income taxes fell by $21 billion as a result of the change in the filing deadlines for those tax returns. Individual income tax refunds increased by $8 billion (or 13 percent), largely because a change in law delayed the Internal Revenue Service's processing of refunds from tax returns that claimed the earned income tax credit or the additional child tax credit; many refunds that would have been processed in February were instead processed in March. Partly offsetting those decreases in revenue was an increase of $18 billion (or 8 percent) in withholding of individual income and payroll taxes that reflects increases in wages and salaries and, to a lesser extent, calendar differences between 2017 and 2016.
Total spending in March 2017 was $391 billion, CBO estimates—$55 billion more than spending in March 2016. If not for shifts this year in the timing of certain payments from April to March, outlays would have increased by $11 billion (or 3 percent). (The changes discussed below reflect adjustments to account for those shifts.)
Among the larger changes in outlays were these:
Spending for the government's three largest mandatory spending programs increased by a total of $7 billion: Outlays for Medicare rose by $4 billion (or 8 percent), Social Security benefits by $3 billion (or 3 percent), and Medicaid spending by $1 billion (or 4 percent).
Outlays for net interest on the public debt increased by $7 billion (or 30 percent).
The government received $6 billion more in payments from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than it did last year, resulting in lower net outlays.
Payments for the earned income tax credit and the additional child tax credit combined were $4 billion (or 25 percent) higher than those made last year. The increase was most likely caused by the delay in February in processing refunds.
Spending for other programs and activities increased or decreased by smaller amounts.
Actual Deficit in February 2017: $192 Billion
The Treasury Department reported a deficit of $192 billion for February—the same amount as CBO estimated last month, on the basis of the Daily Treasury Statements, in the Monthly Budget Review for February 2017.
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