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Debt and Deficits

Updated September 10, 2014

What's the difference between debt and deficit? The Bureau of the Public Debt website defines deficit as "the fiscal year difference between what the U.S. Government takes in from taxes and other revenues...and the amount of money the Government spends" and defines debt as "accumulated deficits plus accumulated off-budget surpluses."

What does the "fiscal cliff," a combination of tax increases and spending cuts, mean for deficit reduction? The CFR.org Backgrounder on What Is the Fiscal Cliff? explains that the fiscal cliff will "automatically slash the federal budget deficit by $503 billion between FY 2012 and FY 2013," based on Congressional Budget Office data.

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