A basic tenet of Generally Accepted Accounting Principle (GAAP – the holy grail of business accounting) is that expenses are recorded when they are incurred, not necessarily when they are paid. This allows an accurate snapshot of the actual value of a business at any given time that is not inflated by deferred expenses. Many businesses keep two sets of books, not to be dishonest, but to record the available resources and the total resources concurrently, but for public disclosure, all reports must be based on the principle that expenses are recorded and considered money out of the bank when they are incurred.
The Federal Government apparently, though it requires businesses to comply with this rule or face scrutiny, litigation, and fines by the SEC, does not itself hold to these standards of accounting, as a USA Today article points out:
Bottom line: Taxpayers are now on the hook for a record $59.1 trillion in liabilities, a 2.3% increase from 2006. That amount is equal to $516,348 for every U.S. household. By comparison, U.S. households owe an average of $112,043 for mortgages, car loans, credit cards and all other debt combined.
Unfunded promises made for Medicare, Social Security and federal retirement programs account for 85% of taxpayer liabilities. State and local government retirement plans account for much of the rest.