The U.S. government reported a $23 billion deficit in December, the Treasury Department said on Thursday.
That compared with a budget deficit of $27 billion in the same month last year, according to Treasury's monthly budget statement.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the Treasury recording a $40 billion deficit last month.
When accounting for calendar adjustments, the deficit last month was $1 billion compared with an adjusted deficit of $9 billion in the same month in the previous year.
The deficit for the fiscal year to date was $225 billion, compared to a deficit of $210 billion in the comparable period for fiscal 2017.
On an adjusted basis, the fiscal year-to-date deficit was $254 billion last month versus $231 billion in the prior year.
Receipts last month totaled $326 billion, up 2% from one year ago, while outlays were $349 billion, a 1% increase from the same month a year earlier.
The latest figures come as the Treasury department faces another looming deadline to increase its borrowing capacity.
It has a statutory cap on how much money it can borrow to cover the budget deficit that results from Washington spending more than it collects in taxes. It has been bumping up against that cap and only Congress can raise the limit.
Treasury has emergency means to continue to pay all its bills until late March or early April if Congress does not raise the debt ceiling before then, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office's latest estimate.
Last month President Donald Trump also signed into law a package of tax cuts that will add $1.4 trillion over 10 years to the $20 trillion national debt.
It has prompted criticism that it favors tax breaks for business and the wealthy but Republicans say it will further boost an already growing economy. (Reuters)