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Some Algebra of Fiscal Transparency; How Accounting Devices Work and How to Reveal Them


  • Timothy C Irwin


Accounting devices that artificially reduce the measured fiscal deficit can be analyzed as transactions involving unrecognized assets and liabilities. Different accounting systems recognize different sets of assets and liabilities and are thus vulnerable to different sets of devices. Some devices can be revealed by moving progressively from cash accounting to modified accrual accounting to full accrual accounting. Revealing all would require the publication of extended fiscal accounts in which all future cash flows give rise to assets or liabilities.

Suggested Citation

  • Timothy C Irwin, 2012. "Some Algebra of Fiscal Transparency; How Accounting Devices Work and How to Reveal Them," IMF Working Papers 12/228, International Monetary Fund.
  • Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:12/228

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Timothy C Irwin, 2012. "Accounting Devices and Fiscal Illusions," IMF Staff Discussion Notes 12/02, International Monetary Fund.
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    Cited by:

    1. Timothy C. Irwin, 2015. "Defining The Government'S Debt And Deficit," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 29(4), pages 711-732, September.
    2. Mike Seiferling & Shamsuddin Tareq, 2015. "Fiscal Transparency and the Performance of Government Financial Assets," IMF Working Papers 15/9, International Monetary Fund.
    3. Timothy C. Irwin, 2016. "Dispelling fiscal illusions: how much progress have governments made in getting assets and liabilities on balance sheet?," Public Money & Management, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 36(3), pages 219-226, April.
    4. Timothy C. Irwin, 2015. "The whole elephant: A proposal for integrating cash, accrual, and sustainability-gap accounts," OECD Journal on Budgeting, OECD Publishing, vol. 14(3), pages 1-18.


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