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What Do Deficits Tell us About Debts? Empirical Evidence on Creative Accounting with Fiscal Rules in the EU

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  • von Hagen, Jürgen
  • Wolff, Guntram B.

Abstract

Fiscal rules, such as the excessive deficit procedure and the stability and growth pact (SGP), aim at constraining government behaviour. Milesi-Ferretti (2003) develops a model in which governments circumvent such rules by reverting to creative accounting. The amount of this creative accounting depends on the reputation cost for the government and the economic cost of sticking to the rule. In this Paper, we provide empirical evidence of creative accounting in the European Union. We find that the SGP rules have induced governments to use stock-flow adjustments, a form of creative accounting, to hide deficits. This tendency to substitute stock-flow adjustments for budget deficits is especially strong for the cyclical component of the deficit, as in times of recession the cost of reducing the deficit is particularly large.

Suggested Citation

  • von Hagen, Jürgen & Wolff, Guntram B., 2004. "What Do Deficits Tell us About Debts? Empirical Evidence on Creative Accounting with Fiscal Rules in the EU," CEPR Discussion Papers 4759, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:4759
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Kiewiet, D Roderick & Szakaly, Kristin, 1996. "Constitutional Limitations on Borrowing: An Analysis of State Bonded Indebtedness," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(1), pages 62-97, April.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    debt-deficit adjustments; ESA 95; excessive deficit procedures; fiscal rules; stability and growth pact; stock-flow adjustments;

    JEL classification:

    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H61 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Budget; Budget Systems
    • H62 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Deficit; Surplus
    • H63 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Debt; Debt Management; Sovereign Debt
    • H70 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - General

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