Coins circulating as legal tender in national jurisdictions worldwide are treated as debt liabilities of the issuing states and reported as a component of public debt under national accounting statistics (ESA 2010). Similarly, banknotes issued by central banks and central bank reserves are accounted for as central bank debt to their holders.
Although the law says that money is “debt,” a correct application of the general principles of accounting raises doubts about such a conception of money. Debt involves an obligation between lender and borrower as contracting parties. Yet, for the state, which obligation derives from the rights entertained by the holders of coins? Or, for a central bank, which obligation derives from the rights entertained by the holders of banknotes or the banks holding reserves?