Chancellor George Osborne is understood to be considering a spending review in the autumn of next year, to set out the government's programme of cuts for two years beyond the 2015 general election.
The move could put Labour on the spot by forcing Ed Miliband to be more explicit about his tax and spending plans if he wins power, but might also provoke tensions with Liberal Democrats who are wary of going into the election in an enforced lockstep with their coalition partners on fiscal policy.
Following reports of plans for an autumn 2013 review in Friday's Financial Times, the Treasury would say only that: "No decision has been made."
But it is thought that next autumn is one of a few dates under consideration by Mr Osborne and his team for the review, which would set out detailed plans for 2015/16 and 2016/17.
The last spending review in November 2010 outlined an austerity package due to stretch until 2014/15. But Mr Osborne signalled that more cuts are on their way with his Budget comment that further reductions of £10 million in welfare payments will have to be found by 2017.
It is normal practice to hold a spending review a year or two before the end of the period covered by the previous one, to ensure that forward plans are in place.
This year would be very early for a new review, and autumn 2014 might be seen as dangerously close to the scheduled date for the election, making autumn 2013 or spring 2014 the most probable options.
At the time of the 2010 statement, it was thought that Mr Osborne would take advantage of a second review to rewrite plans for 2014/15 and deliver pre-election goodies for voters. However, his admission that austerity will have to stretch until 2017 makes this unlikely.
But the Tory chairman of the Commons Treasury Committee, Andrew Tyrie, said that a 2013 review would present opportunities for the Conservatives.
"Labour would have to respond," Mr Tyrie told the FT. "Having the coalition parties committed to the same spending path halfway into the next Parliament makes it very difficult for Labour at the election."
Suggested For You
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements. Learn more