GAO Glossary of Terms and Definitions (September 2005)


The issuance of checks, disbursement of cash, or electronic transfer of funds made to liquidate a federal obligation. Outlays also occur when interest on the Treasury debt held by the public accrues and when the government issues bonds, notes, debentures, monetary credits, or other cash-equivalent instruments in order to liquidate obligations. Also, under credit reform, the credit subsidy cost is recorded as an outlay when a direct or guaranteed loan is disbursed. An outlay is not recorded for repayment of debt principal, disbursements to the public by federal credit programs for direct loan obligations and loan guarantee commitments made in fiscal year 1992 or later, disbursements from deposit funds, and refunds of receipts that result from overpayments.

Outlays during a fiscal year may be for payment of obligations incurred in prior years (prior-year obligations) or in the same year. Outlays, therefore, flow in part from unexpended balances of prior-year budgetary resources and in part from budgetary resources provided for the year in which the money is spent.

Outlays are stated both gross and net of offsetting collections. (See Offsetting Collections under Collections.) Total government outlays include outlays of off-budget federal entities. (See also Expenditure; Expense.)

[Page 73-74]




Operating Lease