A timing shift is usually legislative language having the effect of moving a budgetary effect, either revenue or spending, from one year to another, either later or earlier in time. In general, the only policy implication is the movement of the arrival or dispersal of the budgetary resources. A notable example of such legislative language would be to move the date of the payment of employees from one day to another, either later or earlier, so that the accounting for the payment falls into a different fiscal year due to the legislative provision.
In 1987, the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Reaffirmation Act of 1987 included a section which prohibited “timing shifts”, terming them “shifts from one year to another”. The Congressional Budget Act Annotated for the Senate (February 1990; Annotated by William G. Dauster) included a section on this issue. It is included as a Special Issue: Shifts From One Year To Another (PDF).
Section 3(8) of the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2011
S-Paygo 2010 includes the following definition of “timing shift” which indicates to the scorekeepers to ignore those budgetary effects of law which meet its terms when preparing cost estimates. A corresponding requirement is found in section 308 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974:
(8) The term “timing shift” refers to a delay of the date on which outlays flowing from direct spending would otherwise occur from the ninth outyear to the tenth outyear or an acceleration of the date on which revenues would otherwise occur from the tenth outyear to the ninth outyear.
Section 202 (BBEDCRA) Prohibiting Timing Shifts
Section 202 of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Reaffirmation Act of 1987 prohibited timing shifts when it was enacted, but the provision was repealed by the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990.
sec. 202. prohibition of counting as savings the transfer of government actions from one year to another.
(a) In General.—Except as otherwise provided in this section, any law or regulation that has the effect of transferring an outlay, receipt, or revenue of the United States from one fiscal year to an adjacent fiscal year shall not be treated as altering the deficit or producing net deficit reduction in any fiscal year for purposes of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 and the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.
(b) Exceptions.—Subsection (a) shall not apply if the law making the transfer stipulates that such transfer—
(1) is a necessary (but secondary) result of a significant policy change;
(2) provides for contingencies; or
(3) achieves savings made possible by changes in program requirements or by greater efficiency of operations.
Timing Shift Prohibitions Included in Budget Resolutions
Certain budget resolutions have included language having the effect of not counting the budgetary effects of provisions that are timing shifts. These provisions have defined the term as causing a delay in spending or an acceleration in revenues. The following is an example from section 4107(b) of H. Con. Res. 71 (115th Congress), the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2018:
SEC. 4107. HONEST ACCOUNTING: COST ESTIMATES FOR MAJOR LEGISLATION TO INCORPORATE MACROECONOMIC EFFECTS.
(b) Timing Shift.—The term “timing shifts” means—
A) provisions that cause a delay of the date on which outlays flowing from direct spending would otherwise occur from one fiscal year to the next fiscal year; or
(B) provisions that cause an acceleration of the date on which revenues would otherwise occur from one fiscal year to the prior fiscal year.