The “accounting view” of money: money as equity (Part I)

Coins circulating as legal tender in national jurisdictions are treated as debt liabilities from the issuing states and reported as a part of public debt under national accounting statistics (ESA 2010). Similarly, banknotes from central banks and central bank reserves are taken into account as central bank debt for their holders.

Even though the law states that cash is “debt,” a proper use of the overall concepts of accounting raises doubts about this type of conception of cash. Debt involves a duty between loan provider and customer as contracting parties. Yet, for that condition, which obligation stems from the legal rights entertained through the holders of coins? Or, for any central bank, which obligation stems from the legal rights entertained through the holders of banknotes or even the banks holding reserves?

Cash is not debt

Not so long ago, sovereigns guaranteed the coins issued contained specific levels of gold and silver. Later, banknotes gave holders the authority to claim conversion into gold or silver. An identical obligation committed central banks for their reserve liabilities issued to commercial banks. The 3 types of money thus originated true debt obligations which were legally binding on their own issuers.

Today, convertibility has basically disappeared for that three monies. Coins have forfeit many of their relevance and largely been substituted with paper money. Convertibility of banknotes was suspended lengthy ago, and also the abandonment from the gold exchange standard (about fifty years ago) marked the demise of “debt” banknotes even in the worldwide level. Finally, the reserve deposits held by commercial banks and national treasuries at central banks are today delinked from obligations of conversion into goods or third-party liabilities. 1

Therefore, although these monies continue to be allotted as debt in public places finance statistics and central bank fiscal reports, they aren’t debt meaning of transporting obligations that imply creditor legal rights.

Cash is equity

Issuing legal tender involves transactions whereby cash is offered in return for other assets (even when it’s exchanged against credit claims under lending contracts). The arises from money sales represent a kind of earnings, particularly a “revenue earnings.”2 Issuing legal tender thus generates earnings towards the issuer. Under current accounting practices, this earnings is (incorrectly) unreported within the earnings statement from the central bank and rather (incorrectly) put aside underneath the central bank’s “liabilities.”

When cash is from an open sector entity, the connected earnings should accrue towards the entity’s proprietors: the citizens. When, rather, cash is from a independently owned central bank, the earnings accrues towards the central bank’s private proprietors. If it’s not given to the proprietors, the earnings is going into retained earnings and be equity.

The assimilation of cash to equity requires moving past the among equity and liabilities as requested investigating the character of monetary instruments.3 A proper use of the overall accounting concepts sees that money recognized as legal tender isn’t a financial instrument and for that reason can’t be debt. Worldwide Accounting Standard (IAS) 32 defines a “financial instrument” as “a contract that brings about an economic asset of 1 entity along with a financial liability or equity instrument of some other entity,” as well as an “equity instrument” as “any contract that evidences a residual curiosity about the assets of the entity after deducting all its liabilities” (componen. 11). Under these definitions, legal tender cash is neither “credit” because of its holders nor “debt” because of its issuers. It’s rather internet insightful the holders and internet worth (equity) from the issuers.

Money accounted because the issuer’s equity implies possession legal rights. These legal rights tendency to slack money holders possession within the entity issuing the cash (as shares giving investors possession of the company or residual claims around the company’s internet assets). Rather, they contain claims on shares of national wealth, which money holders may exercise anytime. Individuals who get money acquire purchasing turn on national wealth, and individuals issuing money enter exchange a kind of gross earnings that is equivalent to its nominal value. The earnings calculated because the distinction between the gross revenue from money issuance and the price of producing money is called “seigniorage” and it is appropriated by individuals who hold (or are granted) the ability to issue money.

The “Accounting View” of cash

This discussion sets an extensive outline for which we here describe as the “Accounting View” of cash, which requires understanding money by properly signing up to it the concepts of general accounting. Several implications follow in the approach. Two are touched upon underneath the third, concerning commercial bank money, is the topic of parts II and III of the blog.

First, rents from seigniorage are systematically hidden, and seigniorage isn’t allotted towards the earnings statement (where it naturally belongs), even though it is documented on the liabilities side from the balance sheet, thus originating outright false accounting.

Second, primary seigniorage ought to be distinguished from “secondary” seigniorage, which stems from the eye earnings received on money that’s issued and loaned. The condition doesn’t get any secondary seigniorage from coins (they aren’t loaned). Central banks receive seigniorage from banknotes and reserve issuances but account just for the previous, and not the latter.

Preliminary conclusions

An essential conclusion is the fact that seigniorage is basically underappreciated under current accounting rules. It will likely be essential to identify and estimate such seigniorage, the proportion of seigniorage that’s came back to the legitimate “owners” (the citizens), and it is effects on business activities and also on the economy’s incentive structure and also the distribution of national wealth across society.

For public finances, the brand new approach should result in “cleaning up” fiscal budgets and central bank balance sheets in the false practice of thinking about legal tender as “debt.”

Finally, if cash is accounted as debt, rather of regarded as equity from the issuing entities and wealth for that society utilizing it, it inevitably introduces a deflationary bias throughout the economy, which deserves analysis.


ESA (European System of Accounts). 2010. ESA, Eurostat, European Commission, The city, Belgium.

Maheswari, S. N. 2013. Concepts of monetary Accounting. New Delhi, India: Vikas Publishing House.

PAAinE (Pro-Active Accounting in Europe). 2008. “Distinguishing between Liabilities and Equity.” Discussion Paper, PAAinE, European Financial Reporting Advisory Group, The city, Belgium.

PWC (Cost Waterhouse Cooper). 2017. “Distinguishing Liabilities from Equity.” PWC, London.

Schmidt, M. 2013. “Equity and Liabilities: Attorney At Law of IAS 32 along with a Critique from the Classification.” Accounting in Europe 10 (2): 201-22.

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