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Through Power BI, USAFacts Explores Government Financial Data In Latest Report

Headshot of article author Vera Chan

Now that tax season is over, are you ready to see how your contributions are helping the government run?  As it did in 2017 and 2018,  USAFacts  published a 10-K Report using Microsoft Power BI to show a comprehensive view of US federal, state and local governments’ revenues and expenditures.

The not-for-profit, non-partisan institute—funded by former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer— dug through how much we Americans earn and spend at the governmental level. The data comes from multiple government sources, including the Treasury Department, Office of Management and Budget, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Census Bureau, and Federal Reserve.

Part of USAFacts’ mission is to “advocate for transparency of and ease-of-access to public data.” There’s always lag time to gather and deliver all data, up to two years for some agencies. That delay might be stretching longer these days, which USAFacts addresses in its FAQ:

We publish the most up-to-date numbers available from the government. Due to funding or staffing levels, collection and release of data can have a significant delay. For example, the Department of Homeland Security has only published figures on the unauthorized immigrant population through 2015. Financial data is also slow to publish – we currently have federal financial data through 2017 and state & local financial data through 2016.

Luckily, building the interactive data visualizations is the (relatively) straightforward part. Because Power BI allows a repeatable process, the team from USAFacts won’t need to start from scratch to create the visualization: The team cleans and ingests the numbers to publish the visualizations directly to the web, without writing any code. Visitors to the site, across web and mobile, can click through the visualizations to explore various aspects of the government budget.

Here’s how the reports leverage some of our favorite Power BI features:

  • The Revenues report showcases the popular Bookmarking feature to allow toggling between Table and Chart or Summary View and Detail View.


  • The Combined Income Statements report features clean tables with a drop-down filter on the top right to offer inflation-adjusted data, and breaking the numbers to Per Capita. USAFacts includes inflation-adjusted information, for more accurate insights into numbers such as the federal government’s net surplus or deficit.


  • The Federal Land Ownership in the U.S. Total report’s toggle buttons provide choices for table vs. maps. The interactive maps display only the state data selected. The government hasn’t yet released data beyond 2015.


Crunching the numbers

USAFacts is empowering its audience, journalists, academics, think tanks, and analysts alike to be able to use the visualizations as is, mash them up with different data sets, or re-visualize the data to uncover new angles. People who have a Zebra BI license can download the visuals from its website. Otherwise, USAFacts shares Power BI content as embeddable links and the underlying Power BI files via email requests at

The data for each dashboard can also be found on this Excel spreadsheet here. Leveraging interactive reports in online stories can be done in just a few clicks. A growing number of newsrooms have been using Power BI on their own as a simple and scalable solution to discover, create and share data stories. Together, through sources like USAFacts, journalists are showing how Power BI is democratizing data journalism.

Using a Power BI interactive visualization in your data story

To use a Power BI embed code, follow the options below to use the report in your own public story, blog or website. To get started with Power BI and build your own reports, download the latest version of the free Power BI Desktop and sign up for the cloud service.

Option 1: An “embed code”  enables you to feature an interactive graphic on your own site and offer your readers the ability to “explore” the data and see how the numbers relate to them personally. To include the interactive report on your site, copy and paste the Web code into your site’s content management system. Note that the embed code should be sized to fit the iFrame on your site; when implemented correctly, the graphic will appear without any extra grey borders.

Option 2: A “Power BI” file contains the data and interactive graphic in a single, editable “.pbix” format for use in Power BI Desktop. If you are interested in publishing the interactive graphic, but would like to make modifications to it first – perhaps changing style elements such as colors and fonts – download the .pbix file and make adjustments through Power BI Desktop. Once you’ve customized the report, it’s ready for your website. Follow these instructions to publish into your service, and then learn how to create an embed code to publish the report to the web.

Learn more about Power BI

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  • Data Journalism with Power BI – This packed site has gallery examples, tips and links step-by-step guided learnings in video and text format. Need a boost to get you or your newsroom going? Email us directly at

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