Unexpectedly Intriguing!
April 24, 2014

On Tax Day 2014, the U.S. federal government owed its lenders over $17.577 trillion. Our chart below reveals who Uncle Sam's biggest creditors are:

Tax Day 2014: To Whom Does the U.S. Government Owe Money?

The biggest surprise in this edition of our chart (compared to the previous edition) is the appearance of Belgium on the list, which jumped ahead of several other nations by more than doubling the amount that is being lent to the U.S. government from the small European nation over the last six months. Since Belgium is a major international banking center, what this really represents is the accumulation of U.S. debt by other foreign entities through Belgium's banks in much the same way as London's banks have historically served this role for countries such as China.

Here though, it appears that Russia-based interests may be behind the apparent surge in the nation's holdings of U.S. government-issued debt, with the driving factor being the desire to avoid losing access to the holdings from economic sanctions. Much of the increase in holdings through Belgium took place in the several months preceding Russia's 23 February 2014 actions to seize control of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine, which indicates the very premeditated nature of the action.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Reserve continues to accumulate the share of the U.S. government's debt, having gone from accounting for 1 out of every 8 dollars lent to the U.S. government to now account for nearly 1 out of every 7 dollars.

Data Sources

Federal Reserve Statistical Release. H.4.1. Factors Affecting Reserve Balances. Release Date: 17 April 2014. [Online Document]. Accessed 23 April 2014. [Data through 16 April 2014].

U.S. Treasury. Major Foreign Holders of Treasury Securities. Accessed 23 April 2014. [Data through February 2014].

U.S. Treasury. Monthly Treasury Statement of Receipts and Outlays of the United States Government for Fiscal Year 2014 Through March 30, 2014. [PDF Document]. [Data through March 2014].


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