The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
Conventional fiscal accounting methodologies do not appropriately account for governments’ noncash policies, such as their contingent liabilities. When these liabilities are called, budget costs can be large, as evidenced by the United States’ saving and loan crisis. In general, deficit measures may underestimate the macroeconomic impact of government policies, promoting the substitution of noncash for cash expenditure and increasing future financing requirements. The paper describes extended deficit measures to address the problem, but notes their limited practical value. Nonetheless, some alternative methods of valuing contingent liabilities are proposed to gauge fiscal impact and facilitate budgetary control.