U.S. Department of Commerce

Federal, State, and Local Governments
Government Finance and Employment Classification Manual
Chapter 7 - Revenue


Contents and Abstract:

7.1 Revenue Definition
7.11 Refunds and Correcting Transactions

7.2 General Revenue
7.21 Taxes (and the Visibility Test)
7.22 Intergovernmental Revenue
7.23 Current Charges
7.24 Miscellaneous General Revenue

7.3 Liquor Store Revenue

7.4 Utility Revenue
7.41 Intergovernmental Revenue Codes for Utilities

7.5 Insurance Trust Revenue

Description Sheets:

Descriptions of Tax Categories

Descriptions of Intergovernmental Revenue Categories

Descriptions of Current Charges Categories

Descriptions of Miscellaneous General Revenue Categories

Descriptions of Liquor Store and Utility Revenue Categories

Descriptions of Insurance Trust Revenue Categories

This chapter explores the various types of revenue sources available to governments and how they are classified for Census Bureau purposes.

7.1 Revenue Definition

Revenue includes all amounts of money received by a government from external sources during its fiscal year (i.e., those originating "outside the government"), net of refunds and other correcting transactions, other than issuance of debt, sale of investments, and agency or private trust transactions. Under this definition, revenue excludes amounts transferred from other funds or agencies of the same government.

Revenue comprises amounts received by all agencies, boards, commissions, or other organizations categorized as dependent on the government concerned (see Chapter 3). Stated in terms of the accounting procedures from which these data originate, revenue covers receipts from all accounting funds of a government, other than intragovernmental service (revolving), agency, and private trust funds.

Revenue of business-type activities of governments (utilities and other commercial or auxiliary enterprises) is reported on a gross basis. That is, related expenditures are not deducted from their revenues to derive net revenue amounts (see Note 1).

The following types of receipts are excluded from revenue:

  • Taxes and other amounts paid under protest and held in suspense accounts subject to possible refund. Such amounts are not reported as revenue unless and until the protest is decided in the government's favor (see Section 6.71 on Suspense Transactions).
  • Proceeds from borrowing, whether short- or long-term, except contingent loans and advances which are reported as intergovernmental revenues (see Section 6.41).
  • Recoveries or refunds of amounts spent in the same fiscal year, which are deducted from expenditures (see Section 6.54).
  • Proceeds from the sale of investments and the repayment of loans, except for contingent loans as mentioned above. Any recorded profit or loss from the sale of investments, however, is reported as revenue or expenditure, based on the situation.
  • Transfers from agencies or funds of the same government (see Section 6.6).
  • Agency or private trust transactions, where the government is acting on behalf of others (see Section 6.5).
  • Noncash transactions, such as receipt of technical services, commodities, property, noncash gifts or bequests, and other "receipts-in-kind."

Government revenues are categorized according to the nature of their source. All revenue falls into one of the four sectors of government described in Chapter 3.

7.11 Refunds and Correcting Transactions

Revenue data are adjusted for refunds and other correcting transactions. The rules for refunds of taxes are different than those for other revenues. See Section 6.54 for details.

7.2 General Revenue

General revenue comprises all revenue except that classified as liquor store, utility, or insurance trust revenue. Generally, the basis for this distinction is not the fund or administrative unit established to account for and control a particular activity, but rather the nature of the revenue source involved.

Within general revenue are four main categories: taxes, intergovernmental revenue, current charges, and miscellaneous general revenue. Each is described in detail below.

7.21 Taxes (and the Visibility Test)

Taxes are compulsory contributions exacted by a government for public purposes, other than for employee and employer assessments and contributions to finance retirement and social insurance trust systems and for special assessments to pay capital improvements. Tax revenue comprises gross amounts collected (including interest and penalties) minus amounts paid under protest and amounts refunded during the same period. It consists of all taxes imposed by a government whether the government collects the taxes itself or relies on another government to act as its collection agent (see below).

The visibility test. One important feature of tax revenue is the need to pass a "visibility test." That is, the tax levy must be visible to the taxpayer as being a tax and not buried under the guise of another revenue. Take, for instance, a tax on utility services provided by the government levying the tax. If the utility bill does not itemize the tax but incorporates it into its user charge rate (therefore being invisible to the customer as a tax), then that so-called "tax" is reported as a utility revenue for Census Bureau purposes.

Assignment of tax revenue. The classification of tax revenue sometimes gives rise to the issue of which government should be credited with the tax. This situation occurs whenever one government collects taxes imposed by another.

In determining the assignment of taxes, the Bureau gives primary consideration to the government that actually imposes the tax and usually credits that government with the tax collection. The government imposing a tax is the jurisdiction whose governing body adopts the legislation or ordinance specifying the type of tax, scope, and rate and requiring its payment. Generally, if another government collects a tax for the levying unit, then that government is considered to be acting as a collecting agent and is credited only with any amount it retains as reimbursement for administration or other costs. These guidelines apply to all taxes, whether levied under general municipal powers, charter powers, or specific state legislative authority.

A locally-imposed tax whose ordinance or statutory authorization specifies a distribution of funds to other jurisdictions (either mandatory or optional) is credited to the imposing government; payments to the other units are treated as intergovernmental transfers. Taxes adopted by a government in response to requests from other jurisdictions who may then share in the proceeds also are credited to the imposing government, the distribution being treated as intergovernmental transfers.

State government provisions also affect the assignment and classification of local taxes. A state-mandated tax required to be levied by a local government is credited to the local government imposing the tax. Similarly, that portion of a state-enacted tax which is locally collected and retained is credited as a tax of the collecting agency; if there is a mandatory distribution to other local governments of the taxes collected, each of the participating governments is credited with the amounts received as tax revenue. On the other hand, if there is a voluntary sharing of funds, these transactions are classified as intergovernmental transfers. State or local government legislation which provides that the imposing government waive credit for part or all of the amounts transferred to other jurisdictions does not alter these guidelines.

The examples below illustrate the various types of arrangements and how they are handled in this classification scheme:

  • For a state government, local collection of state-imposed taxes is classified as state tax revenue*.

  • State government distribution of its tax proceeds to local governments (e.g., on a formula basis) is treated as intergovernmental expenditure of the state and as intergovernmental revenue of the local governments. This is true even for amounts designated as the "local share" of state-imposed taxes so long as the tax proceeds are collected by the state or transferred to the state by local government collection agents before their distribution.

  • On the other hand, if the state collects a tax imposed by local governments, the collection and distribution to the imposing local governments is treated as an agency transaction; that is, the receipts are reported entirely as tax revenue of the local governments and not as either a state tax or state intergovernmental expenditure*.

  • Proceeds from taxes imposed by one local government but collected for it by another are reported as tax revenue of the imposing government, not the collecting one*.

  • In some cases a state government mandates that a specific tax be imposed by local governments, sets a tax rate, and mandates how the proceeds from the tax are to be redistributed locally. Such tax revenue is classified as a state tax with subsequent intergovernmental payments to the local governments receiving the revenue. This type of situation occurs where a state mandates countywide levies for local schools, for example. The proceeds are redistributed to local schools in a manner designed to equalize educational spending, but without regard to the county wherein the tax is originally collected.

* Monies retained as a collection fee, however, are reported as tax revenue of the collecting government.

Refunds of taxes. Refunds for taxes originally paid in either the current or prior fiscal years are deducted from gross collections in the same year refunded. Discounts to taxpayers for prompt payment or for collecting consumer taxes also are deducted from gross tax revenue. The cost of collecting and administering taxes, however, is reported as an expenditure (for Financial Administration, code 23), not as an offset to taxes.

Taxes on government utilities. Taxes are often imposed on publicly-owned utilities as on private ones. These amounts are reported as tax revenue for Census Bureau purposes. Payments-in-lieu-of-taxes from a utility operated by another government, however, are treated as intergovernmental revenue. (Payments-in-lieu-of-taxes from a private utility are reported under Miscellaneous General Revenue, NEC, code U99.) Both taxes and payments-in-lieu-of-taxes received by a government from a utility which it operates are treated as an interfund transfer and are not reported as either revenue or utility expenditure.

Taxes are classified according to the type of tax imposed. Unlike most other finance statistics, they are not categorized along any functional lines.

7.22 Intergovernmental Revenue

Intergovernmental revenue comprises monies from other governments, including grants, shared taxes, and contingent loans and advances for support of particular functions or for general financial support; any significant and identifiable amounts received as reimbursement for performance of governmental services for other governments; and any other form of revenue representing the sharing by other governments in the financing of activities administered by the receiving government. All intergovernmental revenue is reported in the general government sector, even if it is used to support activities in other sectors (such as utilities).

Intergovernmental revenue excludes amounts received from the sale of property, commodities, and utility services to other governments (which are reported in different revenue categories). It also excludes amounts received from other governments as the employer share or for support of public employee retirement or other insurance trust funds of the recipient government, which are treated as insurance trust revenue (see Section 6.45).

Intergovernmental revenue is classified by function and by the level of government where it originated (i.e., Federal, state, or local). The transfer of Federal aid through the state government is reported as intergovernmental revenue from the state at the local level.

7.23 Current Charges

This category comprises charges imposed for providing current services or for the sale of products in connection with general government activities. Amounts designated as current charges are reported on a gross basis without offsetting the cost to produce or buy the commodities or services sold. Utility service charges are excluded here and reported under Utility Revenue.

For the Federal Government, this category included revenue from premiums related to non-social insurance programs such as crop and farm mortgage insurance, home mortgage insurance, and the like.

7.24 Miscellaneous General Revenue

This category comprises all other general revenue of governments from their own sources (i.e., other than liquor store, utility, and insurance trust revenue).

A classification change effective with 1987-88 data had a major effect on this category. Interest revenue necessary to pay the interest expenditure on all public debt for private purposes is now reported under Interest Earnings, code U20. Previously, this treatment was limited to mortgage revenue bonded debt and was classified under Rents, code U40.

7.3 Liquor Store Revenue

Liquor store revenue comprises only receipts from sales and associated services or products of liquor stores owned and operated by state and local governments. It excludes any application of general revenue for liquor store operations as well as receipts from licenses or other liquor taxes collected by liquor stores or systems (including general sales tax collections). All taxes collected through liquor store operations are classified as tax revenue.

7.4 Utility Revenue

Utility revenue comprises receipts from sales and directly related services and by-products of the four types of state and local government utilities recognized by the Census Bureau: water supply, electric power, gas supply, and public mass transit systems. Utility revenue is reported on a gross amount without deducting its related expenditures.

Utility revenue excludes any identifiable amounts received from sales to the parent government. Assessments or contributions of utility employees that are received by public employee retirement systems are classified as insurance trust revenue.

Utility revenue also does not reflect any application of general revenue to utility purposes nor does it include any of the following receipts even when received by utility agencies or funds: interest on investments; rents from leases and other earnings from nonoperating property; grants, shared taxes, or any other form of intergovernmental aid (not to be confused with sales to other governments as customers); taxes imposed by public utilities; and special assessments for utility capital improvements. These are classified in other revenue categories.

Utility revenue includes contributions from other governments for construction of a joint utility project ("payments-in-aid of construction") or for debt service of a utility consortium IF the contributions are treated as part of the utility's basic rate structure. (These situations generally arise when a government's electric power utility is a major provider of electricity to other utilities who redistribute it to the ultimate consumers.) If not, then the revenue is reported under intergovernmental revenue.

Utility revenue is categorized according to the type of utility involved.

7.41 Intergovernmental Revenue Codes for Utilities

Effective with fiscal year 1987-88 data, the Bureau created intergovernmental revenue codes for utilities. Despite the fact that these categories possess utility function codes (B91, C92, D93, etc.), they are classified as general revenues. Note that these categories are used to record intergovernmental transactions that were being reported previously under other intergovernmental revenue codes (i.e., B47, B89, C47, C89, D47, or D89).

Sale of utility services or commodities to other governments continues to be recorded as a utility revenue (i.e., A91, A92, A93, or A94).

7.5 Insurance Trust Revenue

Insurance trust revenue consists of contributions distinctively imposed for the support of public employee retirement and social insurance systems plus net earnings on their investment assets. Insurance trust revenue excludes (as interfund transfers) contributions from the government which administers the system, whether they are paid on behalf of its employees covered by the plan or for supplemental support (see Note 2). Also excluded from insurance trust revenue and classified as general revenue are tax receipts credited directly to insurance trust funds and intergovernmental aid, such as grants and shared taxes for support of insurance trust activities (see Note 3). Excluded entirely as revenue (insurance trust or general) are proceeds from borrowing for insurance trust purposes.

Insurance trust revenue is classified according to the major types of insurance trust systems recognized by the Census Bureau and by type of receipt (contribution or investment earnings).

  1. Exception is Net Lottery Revenue (code U95), for which the costs of prizes are deducted from gross receipts. See Section 12.2 for details. citation.

  2. Such contributions by the administering government, however, are recorded under special exhibit codes and included in insurance trust revenue when data are published solely for insurance trust systems. See Chapter 11 for more information on these exhibit codes. citation.

  3. On the other hand, funds from other governments which represent the latter's employer share of contributions to an insurance trust system to which their employees are members are classified as insurance trust revenue. citation.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Governments Division
Created: November 16 2000
Last revised: October 31 2011