Dispelling Fiscal Illusions: How Much Progress Have Governments Made in Getting Assets and Liabilities on Balance Sheet?


Timothy C Irwin

Publication Date:

April 21, 2016

Electronic Access:

Free Download. Use the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view this PDF file

Disclaimer: This Working Paper should not be reported as representing the views of the IMF.The views expressed in this Working Paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the IMF or IMF policy. Working Papers describe research in progress by the author(s) and are published to elicit comments and to further debate


When rights and obligations are not recognized as assets and liabilities on a government’s balance sheet, the government’s deficit can be reduced by selling off-balance-sheet assets or incurring off-balance-sheet liabilities. This paper examines how much progress has been made in recognizing assets and liabilities and thus dispelling the fiscal illusions that such transactions create. Looking at the accounts, government-finance statistics, and long-term fiscal projections produced in 28 advanced economies in the period since 2003, it finds good progress in the recognition of some assets and liabilities, such as accounts payable and simple financial assets, but much less in others, such as civil-service pensions.


Working Paper No. 2016/095



Publication Date:

April 21, 2016



Stock No:




Please address any questions about this title to publications@imf.org