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General Obligation Bond: Features, Works, Benefits & Types

Last Updated : 10 Jan, 2024
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What is a General Obligation Bond?

A General Obligation Bond (GO Bond) is a type of municipal bond issued by a state or local government in which the bonds are secured against the taxation revenue of that government entity. This means that the issuing government shall use both the taxation revenue and revenue generated from the project to pay off these bondholders. A GO bond is different from a revenue bond issued by the local government as the government pledges its general taxing power to repay the bondholders and GO bonds are issued without any collaterals.

The sale proceeds of GO bonds are used to finance a wide range of public projects, such as infrastructure development, schools, public buildings, and other capital improvements that promote the economic growth of the nation. GO bonds are also featured with a maturity date at which the principal amount is repaid. A GO bond also earns periodic interest and the rate of interest depends on the creditworthiness of the issuing government entity. Higher credit ratings can typically secure lower interest rates.

Geeky Takeaways:

  • A General Obligation Bond is a municipal bond backed by the tax-generating authority of the issuing government (Local or State government). The government can use both the tax revenue and operating revenue to pay off the GO bonds.
  • Go bonds are backed by the “full faith and credit” of the issuing government entity.
  • GO Bond is issued to finance the public projects directly linked with the development of the nation.
  • GO Bonds are issued to individuals, institutional investors, and mutual funds seeking stable and fixed income with lower risk.
  • The interest earned is often exempt from federal income tax, making these bonds attractive to certain investors seeking tax advantages.

How General Obligation Bond Works?

A GO bond is issued with a motive to finance some public projects of the government. The whole working of the GO bond can be understood as:

1. Issue and Authorisation: A GO bond is issued by a state government to finance some public projects undertaken. In many cases of GO bond issues, authorisation through a legislative process and voter approval are required. Only after such approval the government can incur debt for specific projects.

2. Sale of Bond: After all the legislative procedures, bonds are offered and sold in the primary market to individuals, institutions, and mutual funds. The terms of the bonds including the amount to be issued, interest rate, and maturity date, are all mentioned in the bond certificate.

3. Sale Proceeds: Sale proceeds from bonds are then used to finance the specific project undertaken by the missing government entity.

4. Interest Payment: Interest on GO bonds is paid periodically as per the terms of the bond generally half-yearly. The creditworthiness of the issuing government plays a crucial role in determining the interest rate.

5. Repayment: The principal amount is repaid at the arrival of the maturity date. The maturity period can range from a few years to several decades. These bonds are considered the safest financial instrument as it is backed by the total revenue (tax revenue + operating revenue) of the issuing government entity.

Features of General Obligation Bonds

GO Bonds have several key characteristics that make them different from other municipal bonds:

1. Full Faith and Credit: GO bonds are backed by the ‘Full Faith and Credit’ of the issuing government entity making it unique from other bonds. This means that the government uses its taxing power to repay bondholders.

2. Purpose of Issue: The GO bond is issued to finance public projects like the construction of schools, roads, public buildings, or other infrastructure projects that promote growth.

3. Voter Approval: In many cases of GO bond issues voter approval is required. The democratic process allows residents to decide whether their local government can incur such debt or not for specific projects.

4. High Security: GO bonds are secured by the total revenue of the issuing government including its tax revenue, making these bonds most secured.

5. Interest Payments and Maturity Period: GO bonds have a specified maturity date, at which the government repays the principal amount to bondholders. GO bonds also carry some interest that is paid periodically as per the terms agreed upon.

6. Marketability: GO bonds are generally considered a liquid and marketable instrument that can be easily bought and sold in the secondary market making them flexible and liquid.

Types of General Obligation Bonds

There are two types of GO bonds namely:

1. Limited Tax General Obligation (LTGO) Bonds

These bonds are backed by a specific limited tax source and instead of pledging the unlimited taxing power of the government, are secured by a designated revenue source or a certain tax rate that can be imposed. This limits the government’s flexibility to use full tax revenue to make payments to the bondholders.

2. Unlimited Tax General Obligation (UTGO) Bonds

UTGO Bonds are backed by the unlimited taxing authority of the issuing government hence providing the highest level of security for bondholders. This means that the government can raise taxes to whatever extent necessary to meet its debt obligations.

Benefits of General Obligation Bonds

1. High Security and Stable Income: GO bonds are highly secured and bear minimum risk as the government pledges its tax authority for the repayment of the amount. Besides this, GO bonds are a good source of stable and fixed income as they generate interest income at regular intervals.

2. Tax Benefits: GO bondholders enjoy a tax benefit as the interest earned on such bonds are exempted from income tax. This makes GO bonds a good investment source for investors seeking tax-efficient investment options.

3. Marketability: GO bonds are highly marketable and can be easily traded in secondary market. The liquidity and flexibility of these bonds make them more attractive.

4. Portfolio Diversification: Investing in GO bonds helps the investor to diversify their investment portfolio and spread the risk across different asset classes.

5. Economic Growth: GO Bonds are issued to generate finance for public projects that promote the economic growth of the country. These bonds bring infrastructural development within a nation.

Risk with General Obligation Bonds

1. Credit Risk: The credit risk of GO Bonds is associated with the financial health of the issuing government. Economic downturns, fiscal mismanagement, or significant budgetary challenges can adversely affect the government’s ability to meet its debt obligations.

2. Legislative Restrictions: Voter approval and legislative authorization is needed before the issue and sale of GO bonds as it is backed by the tax revenue of the government issuing such bonds.

3. Inflation: Inflation may affect the investment interest of the investors. The inflation may seem to increase the rate of interest on bonds but the real return of the investors is hampered due to the inflation.

4. Market Risk: Bond prices can be influenced by broader market conditions, including supply and demand dynamics, investor sentiment, and overall economic factors. Changes in market conditions can impact the market value of GO Bonds.

Difference between General Obligation Bonds, Revenue Bond and Moral Obligation Bonds


General Obligation Bonds

Revenue Bond

Moral Obligation Bonds


Backed by the taxation authority of the issuing government.

Backed by the operating revenue generated from a specific project.

Not legally binding as issued under moral commitment.


Sale proceeds are used to finance public projects like infrastructure, schools, and community initiatives

finances the revenue generating projects like airports, toll roads, and utilities.

Finances public projects aim to develop the nation.


Higly secured due to broad financial backing of the government

Security depends upon the revenue generated from the specific project.

Security depends upon the willingness of the government to appropriate funds if other revenues are insufficient.

Risk Level

Low risk associated

Risk level depends on the performance of the project.

More risky than GO bonds but more secure than revenue bond.

Type of Investors

Person who wants to earn stable income at minimum risk.

Person who wants to bear risk and earn high income.

Investors seeking a balance between security and potential return

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is a General Obligation Bond (GO Bond)?


GO bonds are municipal bonds issued by state government and are backed by the taxation power of the government.

2. Do General Obligation Bonds have tax advantages?


Yes, the interest income from General Obligation Bonds is often exempt from federal income tax. This tax advantage makes GO Bonds attractive to investors seeking tax-efficient fixed-income investments.

3. How are General Obligation Bonds different from Revenue Bonds?


While General Obligation Bonds are backed by the government’s overall taxing power, Revenue Bonds are backed by the revenue generated from a specific project, like tolls or user fees. GO Bonds are generally considered lower risk due to broader financial backing.

4. How do General Obligation Bonds contribute to community development?


GO Bonds finance projects that enhance public services and infrastructure. This can include building schools, improving roads, constructing public buildings, and other initiatives that contribute to the overall development and well-being of the community.

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