Preliminary figures show the deficit stands at $23.5 billion for the 2011-12 fiscal year, despite a final month that pushed the shortfall higher by $9 billion.
Still, the year's tally represents a big improvement over 2010-2011 and is a lower deficit than projected both in the March budget and in last fall's economic update.
The Department of Finance cautioned that the total is preliminary and that a final number won't be known for months.
"The final results will also reflect end-of-year adjustments that will be made once further information becomes available, including the accrual of tax revenues reflecting assessments of tax returns and valuation adjustments for assets and liabilities," the department explained.
"Overall, the results to date are in line with the deficit of $24.9 billion projected... in the March 29, 2012 budget."
All the improvements for the year were on the revenue side, suggesting the government benefited from improved economic conditions.
Revenues improved by $11.4 billion as personal income tax returns rose 7.2 per cent and business tax receipts increased by 8.9 per cent, offsetting a 3.8 per cent decrease in GST taxes.
Program expenses were mostly flat, rising 0.2 per cent over last year.
March's $9-billion deficit, following two consecutive months of surpluses, occurred even though revenues increased by $1.6 billion, or 6.8 per cent, from last year. Program expenses, however, rose an even bigger $4.3 billion, or 16.3 per cent, as a result of increases in major transfers to the provinces.
The department gave no explanation for March's large shortfall, but timing factors in terms of tax collections and payouts are likely responsible.
Last year also saw a large deficit of $6.2 billion in the final month of the year.