OTTAWA -- The federal government ran a deficit of $600 million in December, bringing the total for the first nine months of the current financial year to $13 billion.

The December deficit was $100 million higher than in the some month of 2011 but the nine-month total remains $3.1 billion lower thanks to savings in previous months of the current financial year.

The December deficit grew as program expenses increased by $700 million from a year earlier to $20.3 billion for the month.

Payments for benefits for the elderly increased by $200 million, while employment insurance benefit payments increased by $200 million. Children's benefits increased by $15 million.

Meanwhile, major transfers to other levels of government increased by $600 million, while direct program spending was down $200 million.

The federal government's revenue grew by $600 million to $22.2 billion, with personal income tax revenues up $1 billion and corporate income tax revenues were down $400 million.

Non-resident income tax revenues were down $200 million, while excise taxes and duties were up $400 million, due to an increase in GST revenue.

EI premium revenues were up $44 million and other revenues were down $200 million.

Public debt charges dropped by about $100 million.

For the first nine months of the 2012--13 fiscal year ending March 31, the federal deficit stood at $13 billion, compared with a deficit of $16.1 billion in the same period a year earlier.