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Accounting representations of public debt and deficits in European central government accounts: An exploration of anomalies and contradictions

This article provides a theoretical view on European general government accounting, focusing on overarching accounting principles and models, as well as their consequences on the working and the very existence of public service activity. Our analysis applies to illustrative cases concerning: meaning of public deficit on accruals basis with a view to nature and use of public debt for redistributive purpose; the strange case of taxation on public sector employees’ remunerations and benefits; accounting for employees benefits pro-visioning; and measurement of public debt and deficit following European Union fiscal supervision of Member States, with specific attention to the Excessive Debt Procedure(EDP). This analysis develops a framework to assess the consistency of accounting models with non-lucrative missions of general interest that belong to public administration. It shows how budgetary accounting does (and should) complement accruals-based accounting in public sector accounting systems, asking to embed public sector accountability in a public service institutional order that is specific to public administration.