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Budget Issues Key Questions to Consider When Evaluating Balances in Federal Accounts


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Given the fiscal pressures facing the nation, examination of balances carried forward into future fiscal years (carryover balances) provides an opportunity to identify areas where the federal government can improve and maximize the use of resources. GAO was asked to review issues related to federal carryover balances. GAO's objectives were to (1) identify key questions for congressional committees, managers, and other reviewers to consider when evaluating carryover balances, including whether to reduce them, and (2) describe how answering these key questions provides insight into why carryover balances may exist in selected accounts. GAO reviewed carryover balances from fiscal years 2007 through 2012 in eight selected accounts from the Departments of Defense (DOD), Health and Human Services (HHS), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Treasury. Account selection was based on several characteristics, including the average size of the balance, budget function, type of account, agency, and whether the account was composed of mandatory or discretionary funds. GAO is not making any recommendations. DOD, HHS, HUD, and Treasury generally agreed with our findings and provided technical comments that were incorporated as appropriate. HHS provided comments stating that conclusions drawn from the report may not apply across the board to all accounts.



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