The total value of all outstanding Treasury bills, notes, and bonds that the federal government owes investors is referred to as the national debt.
The government holds some of this debt itself, in accounts such as the Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment Insurance, and Highway, Airport and Airway Trust Funds. The rest is held by individual and institutional investors, both domestic and international, or by overseas governments.
There is a debt ceiling imposed by Congress, but it is typically raised when outstanding debt approaches that level.
Interest on the national debt is a major item in the federal budget, but the national debt is not the same as the federal budget deficit. The deficit is the amount by which federal spending exceeds federal income in a fiscal year.
- Browse Related Terms: Back-up withholding, Custodial account, Estate, Estate tax, Gift tax, Income, Income in respect of a decedent, Income stock, National debt, Qualified domestic trust (QDOT), Revocable trust, Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA), Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA)