What does it mean that the Federal Reserve is "independent within the government"?

The Federal Reserve, like many other central banks, is an independent government agency but also one that is ultimately accountable to the public and the Congress. The Chair and other staff testify before Congress, and the Board submits an extensive report—the Monetary Policy Report—on recent economic developments and its plans for monetary policy twice a year. The Board also makes public the System's independently audited financial statements, along with minutes from the FOMC meetings.

The Federal Reserve does not receive funding through the congressional budgetary process. The Fed's income comes primarily from the interest on government securities that it has acquired through open market operations. After paying its expenses, the Federal Reserve turns the rest of its earnings over to the U.S. Treasury.

The Congress established maximum employment and stable prices as the key macroeconomic objectives for the Federal Reserve in its conduct of monetary policy. The Congress also structured the Federal Reserve to ensure that its monetary policy decisions focus on achieving these long-run goals and do not become subject to political pressures that could lead to undesirable outcomes. So, members of the Board of Governors are appointed for staggered 14-year terms, and the Board Chair is appointed for a four-year term. Elected officials and members of the Administration are not allowed to serve on the Board.

Related Information

Press Release
January 10, 2017
Federal Reserve Board announces Reserve Bank income and expense data and transfers to the Treasury for 2016

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Last Update: March 01, 2017