The Commission uses a dual accounting system that includes:
- Financial statements (including balance sheet, statement of financial performance and explanatory notes) and Financial Statement Discussion and Analysis
- Budgetary implementation reports – giving a detailed record of budget implementation
The financial statements provide a picture of the EU budget's assets and liabilities because they are maintained using the accrual accounting principle: therefore, transactions are registered when they are incurred, not necessarily when cash is paid out or received.
Every year the Commission's Accounting Officer must produce the annual accounts for the EU and for the Commission.
The EU's annual accounts consist of
- the consolidated financial statements (and its notes)
- the aggregated reports on the implementation of the budget.
The consolidated EU accounts include the accounts of the European institutions and agencies.
The goal of these accounts is to provide a fair presentation of the financial situation for a given year. The annual accounts must also be clear, comprehensible and allow comparisons to be made between financial years.
When are the accounts presented?
The timetable for preparing and publishing the annual accounts is laid down in the Financial Regulation:
- Provisional accounts are prepared and sent to the Court of Auditors for audit by 31 March.
- The final accounts are then approved by the Commission and sent to the Court of Auditors and the discharge authorities - the Parliament and Council by 31 July.
Budgetary transparency report
Annual activity reports and Integrated Financial and Accountability Reporting
By the end of March every year each Commission Directorate-General must produce an activity report for the previous financial year which includes:
- results obtained and the corresponding amounts spent, compared with the intentions announced at the beginning of the year in the DG's annual management plan
- a report to the Commission on the performance of the Director-General as authorising officer by delegation. This report includes a declaration by the authorising officer providing assurance on the appropriate use of the resources, which may contain reservations.
- the DG's annual accounts and financial reports.
The annual activity reports are examined by the responsible Commissioners in their assessment of the implementation of the EU budget. They also look at the internal auditor's annual report and the documents on the operation of the internal control systems. The information contained in the annual activity reports is consolidated at Commission level in the Annual Management and Performance Report.
This report forms part of the Integrated Financial and Accountability Reporting together with the consolidated annual accounts and the report on the follow-up to the discharge. It is sent to the Parliament and Council, and is one of the main documents used by the European Court of Auditors to prepare its annual statement of assurance, which evaluates the EU's management of its resources.
The annual financial report reviews the way the budget has been spent and the results on the ground.
It contains four sections:
- overview of EU finances in a given year;
- EU revenue;
- Expenditure from the EU budget
- Annexes (Expenditure and revenue by heading, type of resource and Member State; Operating budgetary balances; Recoveries and financial corrections and Borrowing and lending activities).