Key Issues > America's Fiscal Future > Current Fiscal Conditions

America's Fiscal Future

This big-picture look at the nation’s fiscal condition covers the federal government’s financial statements; the federal debt; federal, state, and local fiscal projections; and budget trends.

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Current Fiscal Conditions

Unsustainable Fiscal Path: Costs Are Growing Faster than Revenues

The nation’s unsustainable fiscal path is not just something that we are predicting for the future: it is happening now. Over the past 3 years, spending has increased more rapidly than revenues.

Financial Outcomes for Fiscal Years 2017 - 2019

FY 2019 FY 2018 FY 2017
Outlays (Spending) $4.4 Trillion $4.1 Trillion $4.0 Trillion
Receipts (Revenues) $3.5 Trillion $3.3 Trillion $3.3 Trillion
Deficit $984 Billion $779 Billion $666 Billion
Debt Held by the Public
(End of Fiscal Year)
$16.8 Trillion $15.8 Trillion $14.7 Trillion

Source: Financial Report of the United States Government for Fiscal Years 2019, 2018, 2017.

Each year, the Department of the Treasury (in consultation with the Office of Management and Budget) publishes the consolidated financial statements of the U.S. government, which GAO audits. A more complete picture of the government’s fiscal condition requires looking at both the federal budget and the financial report. Together, both types of statements show that the federal government is on an unsustainable fiscal path.

Auditing the Federal Government’s Books

While federal financial management has improved since the government began preparing these statements, we have been unable to render an audit opinion on them because of:

  1. Serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense;
  2. The federal government's inability to adequately account for intragovernmental activity and balances between federal agencies; and
  3. Weaknesses in the federal government’s process for preparing the consolidated financial statements.

Want to go deeper into the results? Read our February 2020 press release on our latest audit, as well as our work on Federal Financial Accountability.

Need to know more about financial statement auditing (or what an “audit opinion” is)? Read this post on our WatchBlog.

Unpacking the Financial Report of the U.S. Government

GAO periodically publishes a guide to understanding the financial report of the U.S. government, for those who want to dig deeper into the financial report.

View the Guide

The annual Financial Report of the United States Government contains a lot of information about the U.S. government’s finances. Check out our new guide to understanding the financial report.

View the Transcript
Privacy Statement

The Short Version

Short on time? The U.S. government publishes a yearly Executive Summary (PDF, 7 pages) that provides a brief high-level summary of key parts of the Financial Report. In the Financial Report, you will find the Executive Summary and the financial statements themselves, as well as:

  • Management’s Discussion and Analysis: Insights on topics including the reporting entity, the results of operations, and future outlook.
  • Notes to the Financial Statements: Disclosures and detailed information relating to the financial statements.
  • Required Supplementary Information: Additional information on topics such as fiscal sustainability and social insurance, as required by federal financial accounting standards.
  • Other Information: Information on topics such as the tax burden and the tax gap.
  • Required Supplementary Stewardship Information: Highlighted federal investments in programs related to nonfederal property, human capital, and research and development.
  • GAO’s Independent Auditor’s Report: Includes GAO’s reports on the reliability of the information in the financial statements and internal control over financial reporting.

GAO Contact

Dawn B. Simpson

Director, Financial Management and Assurance