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Fiscal Data Revisions in Europe





  • We thank Werner Bier, David de Antonio, Gábor Kiss, Alfonso Novales, Gabriel Pérez-Quirós, Ad van Riet, Matteo Salto, Nikolai Stähler, Ernesto Villanueva, participants at several conferences and seminars, the Editor of the JMCB (Pok-sang Lam), and two anonymous referees for their comments. We also thank Richard Morris and Michal Slavik for sharing their real-time database on real GDP growth rates, and Mark Hallerberg for sending us his data set on fiscal rules and forms of governance. The views expressed in this paper are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of the Banco de España, the European Central Bank, or the Eurosystem. A previous version of this paper was circulated under the title: “Is Fiscal Data Reporting in Europe Reliable.”


Revisions of budget balances in Europe could be particularly worrisome as adherence to multilateral surveillance rules is judged upon initial data releases. We use a pool of real-time vintages of data for 15 EU countries over the period 1995–2008. Our main findings are: (i) preliminary releases are biased and nonefficient predictors of subsequent releases, (ii) such systematic bias in revisions is a general feature of the sample, (iii) Eurostat's decisions explain a significant share of the bias and provide some evidence of window dressing practices, and (iv) expected real gross domestic product growth, political cycles, and the strength of fiscal rules also contribute to explain revision patterns.