Fiscal law is of great interest to government lawyers who advise their clients on the use of appropriated and non-appropriated funds. A violation of the Antideficiency Act can have adverse consequences for the agency and for the individuals responsible for the violation.  The Principles of Federal Appropriations Law, commonly referred to as the Red Book, is a multi-volume treatise published by GAO concerning federal fiscal law.  The publication provides text discussion with reference to specific legal authorities to illustrate the principles discussed, their application, and exceptions. The legal authorities include GAO decisions and opinions, judicial decisions, statutory provisions, and other relevant sources.


Antideficiency Act Background

The Antideficiency Act prohibits federal employees from

  • making or authorizing an expenditure from, or creating or authorizing an obligation under, any appropriation or fund in excess of the amount available in the appropriation or fund unless authorized by law. 31 U.S.C. § 1341(a)(1)(A).
  • involving the government in any obligation to pay money before funds have been appropriated for that purpose, unless otherwise allowed by law. 31 U.S.C. § 1341(a)(1)(B).
  • accepting voluntary services for the United States, or employing personal services not authorized by law, except in cases of emergency involving the safety of human life or the protection of property. 31 U.S.C. § 1342.
  • making obligations or expenditures in excess of an apportionment or reapportionment, or in excess of the amount permitted by agency regulations. 31 U.S.C. § 1517(a).

Federal employees who violate the Antideficiency Act are subject to two types of sanctions: administrative and penal. Employees may be subject to appropriate administrative discipline including, when circumstances warrant, suspension from duty without pay or removal from office. In addition, employees may also be subject to fines, imprisonment, or both.

Reporting Requirements

If a violation of 31 U.S.C. §§ 1341(a), 1342, or 1517(a) has occurred, the agency head “shall report immediately to the President and Congress all relevant facts and a statement of actions taken.” 31 U.S.C. §§ 1351, 1517(b). The reports are to be signed by the agency head. The report to the President is to be forwarded through the Director of OMB. In addition, the heads of executive branch agencies and the Mayor of the District of Columbia shall also transmit “[a] copy of each report . . . to the Comptroller General on the same date the report is transmitted to the President and Congress.” 31 U.S.C. §§ 1351, 1517(b), as amended by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005, Pub. L. No. 108-447, div. G, title II, § 1401, 118 Stat. 2809, 3192 (Dec. 8, 2004).

OMB has issued further instructions on preparing the reports, which may be found in OMB Circular No. A-11, Preparation, Submission, and Execution of the Budget, § 145 (June 21, 2005). The report is to include all pertinent facts and a statement of all actions taken to address and correct the Antideficiency Act violation (such as administrative discipline imposed, referral to the Justice Department where appropriate, and new safeguards imposed). An agency also should include a request for a supplemental or deficiency appropriation when needed.

Source:  GAO

Comptroller General Decisions

Search GAO Comptroller General decisions

DoD Guidance on Fiscal Law

DoD Financial Management Regulation 7000.14-R

DoD Fiscal Law Overview (Oct 2013)

DoD DPAP Fiscal Law Primer

Principles of Federal Appropriations Law (Red Book)

Volume I, 3rd Ed., GAO-04-261SP, January 2004

Volume II, 3rd Ed., GAO-06-382SP, February 2006

Volume III, 3rd Ed., GAO-08-978SP, September 2008


Annual Update to Volumes I, II, and III, GAO-14-163SP, March 2014

U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s School

Fiscal Law Course Deskbook (2014) The correct citation for this book is Cont. & Fiscal L. Dep’t, The Judge Advoc. Gen.’s Legal Center & Sch., U.S. Army, Fiscal Law Deskbook (2014).