Balanced Budget: Definition, Example of Uses, and How to Balance

Balanced Budget: Definition, Example of Uses, and How to Balance

What Is a Balanced Budget?

A balanced budget is a scenario in monetary planning or the budgeting course of the place complete anticipated revenues are equal to complete deliberate spending. This time period is most often utilized to public sector (authorities) budgeting. A Budget can be thought-about balanced in hindsight after a full yr’s value of revenues and bills have been incurred and recorded.


  • A balanced Budget happens when revenues are equal to or better than complete bills.
  • A Budget may be thought-about balanced after a full yr of revenues and bills have been incurred and recorded.
  • Proponents of a balanced Budget argue that Budget deficits burden future generations with debt.


Understanding a Balanced Budget

The phrase “balanced Budget” is often utilized in reference to official authorities budgets. For instance, governments could problem a press launch stating that they’ve a balanced Budget for the upcoming fiscal year, or politicians could marketing campaign on a promise to stability the Budget as soon as in workplace.

When revenues exceed bills there’s a Budget surplus; when bills exceed revenues there’s a Budget deficit. Whereas neither of those is a technically balanced Budget, deficits are likely to elicit extra concern.

The time period “budget surplus” is commonly used at the side of a balanced Budget. A Budget surplus happens when revenues exceed bills, and the excess quantity represents the distinction between the 2. In a enterprise setting, an organization can reinvest surpluses again into itself, equivalent to for research and development expenses; pay them out to workers within the type of bonuses; or distribute them to shareholders as dividends.

In a authorities setting, a Budget surplus happens when tax revenues in a calendar yr exceed authorities expenditures. The US authorities has solely achieved a Budget surplus 4 instances since 1970. It occurred throughout consecutive years from 1998 till 2001.

A budget deficit, in contrast, is the results of bills eclipsing revenues. Budget deficits essentially lead to rising debt, as Budget have to be borrowed to satisfy bills. For instance, the U.S. nationwide debt, which is in extra of $27 trillion as of November 2020, is the results of accrued Budget deficits over many a long time.1

Benefits and Disadvantages of a Balanced Budget

Proponents of a balanced Budget argue that extreme Budget deficits saddle future generations with untenable debt. Simply as any family or enterprise should stability its spending towards obtainable earnings over time or danger chapter, a authorities ought to attempt to keep up some stability between tax revenues and expenditures.

Most economists agree that an extreme public sector debt burden can pose a significant systemic danger to an economic system. Finally, taxes have to be raised or the cash provide artificially elevated—thus devaluing the foreign money—to service this debt. This can lead to a crippling tax invoice as soon as taxes are finally raised, excessively excessive rates of interest that crimp enterprise and shopper entry to credit score, or rampant inflation that will disrupt your entire economic system.

However, operating constant Budget surpluses tends to not be politically common. Whereas it might be useful for governments to sock away surpluses for so-called “wet day Budget” in case of a downturn in tax income, the federal government is mostly not anticipated to function as a for-profit enterprise.

The existence of surplus authorities Budget tends to result in calls for for both decrease taxes or, extra typically, elevated spending since cash accumulating in public accounts makes a pretty goal for particular curiosity spending. Working a usually balanced Budget could assist governments to keep away from the perils of both deficits or surpluses.

Nonetheless, some economists really feel Budget deficits and surpluses serve a useful objective, by way of fiscal policy, sufficient in order that risking the dire results of extreme debt could also be definitely worth the danger, at the very least within the quick run. Keynesian economists insist that deficit spending represents a key tactic within the authorities’s arsenal to battle recessions.

Throughout financial contraction, they argue, demand falls, which ends up in gross domestic product (GDP) declines. Deficit spending, Keynesians say, can be utilized to make up for poor personal demand or to stimulate personal sector spending by injecting cash into key sectors of the economic system.

Throughout good financial instances, they argue (although maybe much less forcefully), governments ought to run Budget surpluses to restrain personal sector demand pushed by extreme optimism. For Keynesians, a balanced Budget in impact represents an abdication of the federal government’s obligation to make use of fiscal coverage to steer the economic system a method or one other.


Liberty Magazine requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Peter G. Peterson Foundation. “WHAT IS THE NATIONAL DEBT TODAY?” Accessed Nov. 27, 2020.


Prepare and write by:

Author: Mohammed A Bazzoun

If you have any more specific questions, feel free to ask in comments.


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