Element: Outlay

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Data Element Name Legislation
Outlay DATA Act

Background

The DATA Act requires agencies to report outlays by program activity, object class, and program activity by object class for each of their congressionally created appropriations accounts. Prior to the DATA Act, outlays on a government-wide basis have not been reported by program activity or object class. However, OMB publishes outlays by appropriations account on Line 3020 of the SF 133 Reports on Budget Execution and Budgetary Resources. Treasury publishes outlays in its Treasury Combined Statement of Receipts, Outlays, and Balances of the United States Government. In addition, other publications show government-wide outlays (though not by appropriations account, program activity, or object class.)

Context

a. An outlay in layperson’s terms is a payment. All payments by the federal government track back to congressionally created appropriations accounts. The federal government makes payments for a wide range of goods and services, e.g. contracts, financial assistance awards, and personnel compensation.

b. Outlays are defined by OMB in Circular A-11, Section 20, as follows:

Outlay generally means a payment to liquidate an obligation (other than the repayment of debt principal or other disbursements that are “means of financing” transactions). Outlays are generally equal to cash disbursements but also are recorded for cash-equivalent transactions, such as the issuance of debentures to pay insurance claims, and in a few cases are recorded on an accrual basis such as interest on public issues of the public debt. Outlays are the measure of Government spending.

c. Agencies track outlays and other financial activities in their financial systems. As is the case in the private sector, agencies use a standard chart of accounts, which is called the United States Standard General Ledger (USSGL), to record their financial transactions. The USSGL accounts for outlays are described in the Treasury Financial Manual Volume I Part 2 Supplement, Section V: Crosswalks to Standard External Reports for Fiscal 2015 Reporting.

Analysis of Current Definitions

a. The current definition for outlay is well known in the federal budget and financial communities.

b. Agencies will continue to report outlays using the definition in OMB Circular A-11 and the USSGL accounts in the Treasury Financial Manual USSGL that crosswalk to Line 3020, Outlays, in the SF 133 Report on Budget Execution and Budgetary Resources.

Recommended Data Element Name Recommended Definition
Outlay Payments made to liquidate an obligation (other than the repayment of debt principal or other disbursements that are "means of financing" transactions). Outlays generally are equal to cash disbursements but also are recorded for cash-equivalent transactions, such as the issuance of debentures to pay insurance claims, and in a few cases are recorded on an accrual basis such as interest on public issues of the public debt. Outlays are the measure of Government spending.

References

OMB Circular A-11, Section 20, Terms and Concepts. See section 20.3 for the definition of outlays.

Treasury Financial Manual supplement United States Government Standard General Ledger, Part 2 Fiscal 2015 Reporting, Section V: Crosswalks to Standard External Reports for Fiscal 2015 Reporting, page 80, Line 3020 Outlays.