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Understanding fiscal deficit: Key concepts and calculations

Fiscal deficit, a crucial concept in economics, refers to the difference between a government’s total expenditure and its total revenue, excluding borrowing. 

Understanding fiscal deficit is imperative as it provides insights into a government’s financial health, its ability to manage debt, and the impact of its fiscal policies on the economy. Let us understand what is fiscal deficit in this article. 

Understanding fiscal deficit

The term “fiscal” concerns the government’s financial management with regard to inflows and outflows of government funds. On the opposite side, “deficit” stands for an insufficiency of resources. Hence, when anybody says “Fiscal Deficit,” it refers to the difference between what a government makes and spends within a year’s duration.

This measurement highlights the extent to which the government relies on borrowing to cover its expenses. To bridge this gap, the government may resort to issuing bonds, increasing taxes, or utilizing foreign reserves. However, a persistently high fiscal deficit can result in government debt and potentially trigger inflation.

The current fiscal deficit of India is very important to understand this topic. During the April-October period of 2023-24, the fiscal deficit stood at ₹9,06,584 crore, reflecting the variance between expenditure and revenue. In comparison to the same timeframe in the previous year, the deficit constituted 58.9% of the budget.

You may also have heard about the budget deficit. So, while a budget deficit focuses on the disparity between projected and actual income and spending, a fiscal deficit zooms in on the real figures of a government’s revenue and expenditures over a specific period, usually a fiscal year. 

This reveals the extent to which a government is outspending its earnings. To fill this financial gap, the government typically turns to borrowing, a move that can have significant consequences on the economy and stock markets.

Similar to fiscal deficit, you also need to understand the meaning of gross fiscal deficit (GFD). It represents the surplus of total expenditure, including loans net of recovery, over revenue receipts (including external grants) and non-debt capital receipts. Basis this,, the net fiscal deficit is derived by subtracting the net lending of the Central government from the gross fiscal deficit.

With that basic understanding of a fiscal deficit, let’s dive into its calculation and examine its various elements.

What is the fiscal deficit formula?

A fiscal deficit is calculated by subtracting the total amount of the government’s spending from its earnings. This basic formula can be expanded for easier comprehension:

Fiscal Deficit = (Revenue Expenditure + Capital Expenditure) – (Revenue Receipts + Capital Receipts)

Rearranging the variables:

Fiscal Deficit = (Revenue Expenditure – Revenue Receipts) + Capital Expenditure – (Recoveries of loans + other Receipts)

Many countries like India often face fiscal deficits where the government spends more than it earns. However, in opposing circumstances, known as fiscal surplus arises when government revenue exceeds its expenditure.

Nonetheless, it is important to understand that a fiscal deficit is not necessarily an indication of economic instability. If there are vast and long-term investments by the government in future-oriented projects or industries, the current fiscal deficit might be higher. 

Therefore, both income and expenditure components must be comprehensively analysed in order to interpret the meaning of a given fiscal deficit figure.

What are the causes of the fiscal deficit?

A fiscal deficit occurs when a government’s total expenditures exceed the revenue that it generates, resulting in borrowing to cover the shortfall. Several factors can contribute to the emergence of a fiscal deficit:

Government spending dynamics

The dynamics of government spending play a crucial role in calculating fiscal deficit. When governments opt for heightened expenditures on public goods, infrastructure, social welfare, or defence, it can result in an elevated fiscal deficit. These decisions reflect the government’s priorities and its commitment to addressing societal needs and fostering economic growth.

Taxation policies and revenues

The choices governments make in their taxation policies significantly influence the revenue available for public spending. Policies that have lower tax rates or tax cuts have the potential to reduce government revenue, thereby widening fiscal deficits. Conversely, initiatives focused on raising tax rates or expanding the tax base can generate additional funds, and increase fiscal deficits.

Response to economic conditions

Government responses to economic conditions can contribute to fiscal deficits. In times of economic downturns or recessions, governments may adopt expansionary fiscal policies, involving increased spending or tax cuts, to stimulate economic activity. While these measures can jumpstart the economy, they may also lead to larger fiscal deficits if not carefully managed.

What is the difference between fiscal deficit vs revenue deficit?

Fiscal deficit is the excess of total government expenditure over total income, excluding borrowings, in a fiscal year, measuring the government’s total borrowing needs and representing additional financial resources required. 

On the other hand, revenue deficit is the excess of revenue expenditure over revenue income in a financial year, indicating the government’s inability to meet regular expenditures. 

Fiscal deficit reflects government borrowing including interest payments, while revenue deficit focuses on borrowing needs for managing budgetary expenditure. A fiscal deficit occurs when the government spends more than it earns, while a revenue deficit occurs when realised income is less than expected.

What are the implications of the fiscal deficit?

A high fiscal deficit can have several implications, including:

  • Inflation: Increased government spending, often funded by borrowing, can lead to higher inflationary pressures.
  • Interest rates: High fiscal deficits may lead to increased government borrowing, potentially raising interest rates.
  • Crowding out private investment: Excessive government borrowing can crowd out private investment, limiting economic growth.
  • Debt accumulation: Persistent fiscal deficits contribute to the accumulation of government debt, impacting long-term fiscal sustainability.


The fiscal deficit serves as a critical indicator of a government’s financial health, representing the imbalance between its expenditures and revenues. It reflects the extent to which a government must borrow to meet its spending obligations, potentially leading to increased debt burdens and economic instability if left unchecked. To learn more about such concepts, subscribe to StockGro!


What is a fiscal deficit?

A fiscal deficit occurs when a government’s total expenditures exceed the revenue that it generates, excluding money from borrowings. In simpler terms, it’s the shortfall between what a government spends and what it earns through taxes and other sources.

How is fiscal deficit calculated?

Fiscal deficit is calculated by subtracting the government’s total revenue (taxes, fees, and other income) from its total expenditure (including spending on infrastructure, social programs, debt servicing, etc.). 

What are the implications of fiscal deficit?

A fiscal deficit can have various economic implications. It may lead to increased borrowing, which can result in higher debt levels and interest payments, potentially crowding out funds for essential services or investments. 

How does a fiscal deficit differ from a budget deficit?

While both terms refer to shortfalls in government finances, they are calculated differently. The fiscal deficit includes all government expenditures and revenues, excluding borrowings, over a specified period (usually a fiscal year). On the other hand, the budget deficit specifically refers to the difference between government revenues and expenditures, including borrowings, planned for a particular budget period.

What measures can be taken to reduce a fiscal deficit?

Governments can employ various strategies to reduce fiscal deficits, including increasing taxes, cutting spending, implementing austerity measures, improving tax collection efficiency, promoting economic growth to boost revenues, and reducing wasteful expenditures. However, the choice of measures depends on the country’s economic conditions, political landscape, and policy objectives.

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