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Comprehensive Government Budgets

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Practice Advice on Public Financial Management

Comprehensive Government Budgets (OECD and IMF)

Summary Advice (OECD): The OECD advises that government budgets should be comprehensive, which means that they should encompass all government revenue and expenditure.

Summary Advice (IMF): The IMF advises that the public should be provided with comprehensive information on the past, current, and projected fiscal activity, and on major fiscal risks.

Main Points (OECD): The OECD advice is contained in its 2002 document Best Practices for Budget Transparency. The main points are:

  • The budget is the government’s key policy document. It should be comprehensive, encompassing all government revenue and expenditure, so that the necessary trade-offs between different policy options can be assessed.
  • The government’s draft budget should be submitted to Parliament far enough in advance to allow Parliament to review it properly. In no case should this be less than three months prior to the start of the fiscal year. The budget should be approved by Parliament prior to the start of the fiscal year.
  • The budget, or related documents, should include a detailed commentary on each revenue and expenditure programme.
  • Non-financial performance data, including performance targets, should be presented for expenditure programmes where practicable.
  • The budget should include a medium-term perspective illustrating how revenue and expenditure will develop during, at least, the two years beyond the next fiscal year. Similarly, the current budget proposal should be reconciled with forecasts contained in earlier fiscal reports for the same period; all significant deviations should be explained.
  • Comparative information on actual revenue and expenditure during the past year and an updated forecast for the current year should be provided for each programme. Similar comparative information should be shown for any non-financial performance data.
  • If revenue and expenditures are authorised in permanent legislation, the amounts of such revenue and expenditures should nonetheless be shown in the budget for information purposes along with other revenue and expenditure.
  • Expenditures should be presented in gross terms. Ear-marked revenue and user charges should be clearly accounted for separately. This should be done regardless of whether particular incentive and control systems provide for the retention of some or all of the receipts by the collecting agency.

Main Points (IMF): The IMF advice is contained in the 2007 Manual on Fiscal Transparency, which is an update of its 1998 Code of Good Practices on Fiscal Transparency. The documents provide principles and practices on the provision of comprehensive information on fiscal activity and government objectives and the presentation of such information in a way that facilitates policy analysis and promotes accountability. The IMF advises that a cornerstone for ensuring the timely and uniform availability of fiscal information is that it can be readily accessed free of charge on the internet. The Manual and Code include good practices relating to (1) the coverage of budget documentation; (2) past, recent, and future performance information; (3) fiscal risks, contingent liabilities, quasi-fiscal activities, and tax expenditures; (4) identification of revenue sources; (5) debt and financial assets; (6) subnational government and public corporations; and (7) long-term reports. The main points are:

  • The public should be provided with comprehensive information on the past, current, and projected fiscal activity, and on major fiscal risks. 
  • The budget documentation, including final accounts, and other published fiscal reports should cover all budgetary and extrabudgetary activities of the central government.
  • Statements describing the nature and fiscal significance of central government tax expenditures, contingent liabilities, and quasi-fiscal activities should be part of the budget documentation, together with an assessment of all major fiscal risks.
  • Receipts from all major revenue sources, including resource-related activities and foreign assistance, should be separately identified in the annual budget presentation.
  • The central government should publish information on the level and composition of its debt and financial assets; significant nondebt liabilities (including pension rights, guarantee exposure, and other contractual obligations); and natural resource assets.
  • The budget documentation should report the fiscal position of subnational governments and the finances of public corporations.
  • The government should publish a periodic report on long-term public finances.

Commentary: The practice of preparating and distributing government budgets has been considered by international agencies to be a crucial area of information sharing and advice. Both the OECD and IMF have produced manual-style advisory documents, that have been updated over time.

Source: OECD (2002). Best Practices for Budget Transparency at (accessed 3 January 2013). IMF (2007). Manual on Fiscal Transparency, at (accessed 3 January 2013).

Page Created By: Ben Eisen on 15 September 2012. Updated by Ian Clark on 3 January 2013. The content presented on this page, except for the Commentary by the best practices project team, is drawn directly from the source(s) cited above, and consists of direct quotations or close paraphrases. This material does not necessarily reflect the official view of the publishing organization.


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