Accounting ability

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Under the accounting ability is understood in the Accounting Law the ability of assets or liabilities on the assets or liabilities in the balance sheet as a balance sheet item added ( fachsprachlich scheduled to be).


The term accounting ability suggests that not every property right or every liability item can or may not be included in a balance sheet. The accounting ability is closely related to the principles of balance sheet truth , balance sheet clarity and balance sheet continuity . Because the principle of completeness requires that the annual financial statements contain all items “unless otherwise stipulated by law” ( Section 246, Paragraph 1 of the German Commercial Code ). It is precisely this restriction that indicates that not all items are covered by the principle of completeness. Rather, there are also accounting options and accounting prohibitions in addition to the basic accounting obligation. If the accounting merchant decides not to make use of an accounting option or is faced with a ban on accounting, there is no accounting eligibility. The new HGB also does not contain any fundamental rules on accounting eligibility and accounting obligations.


For the suitability test for the position as assets or liabilities, a distinction is made between abstract accounting eligibility and concrete accounting eligibility . Only if the abstract eligibility for accounting is affirmed can a further check be made as to whether the item can actually be accounted for and whether it can be recognized in the balance sheet.

Abstract accounting ability

On the basis of the abstract accounting ability , items are first checked for their fundamental suitability as a balance sheet approach, abstracting them from specific individual regulations.

An abstract accounting ability is given according to § 246 HGB if the item to be accounted for falls into one of the following categories


  • in tax law
    • positive asset ,
    • negative asset or
    • Accruals (prepaid expenses, special items) or auxiliary items (accounting aid such as goodwill)

can be assigned.

Since there is no explicit definition of the terms assets and debts in commercial law , their meaning is in accordance with the principles of proper accounting , cf. Section 238 of the German Commercial Code and is therefore the subject of discussion.

Currently recognized test modalities to determine whether it is an asset are described in detail in the article Asset .

To debt is when the reporting entity creates a future benefit waiver through them, which can be enforced under applicable law against the reporting entity.

Concrete accounting ability

Once the abstract accounting eligibility has been determined, it must be checked whether the item to be accounted for is actually eligible for accounting in the specific individual case.

The following criteria must be met for specific accounting eligibility in German commercial and tax law :

  • subjective accountability
From an economic point of view, the property to be accounted for must be attributable to the accounting party. This also includes objects that do not belong to legal ownership , but are to be assigned to beneficial ownership . Essential criteria for subjective attribution are the right of use and the risk bearing .
  • objective attribution to a business asset
The property must be attributable to the company's operations. Based on objective standards, it is decided whether the position supports the company.
In commercial law there is disagreement as to whether private assets of sole traders and partnerships can also be recognized. Sole proprietorships and partnerships subject to disclosure requirements may only show business assets in accordance with Section 5 (4) of the Publicity Act, and only business assets may be shown in the tax balance sheet .
For the specific accounting ability, there must finally be an accounting obligation or an accounting option for the property to be accounted for. According to Section 246 (1) of the German Commercial Code (HGB), all assets and debts must be included in the balance sheet , unless otherwise stipulated by law (through accounting prohibitions). An actual balance sheet approach results from the special legal accounting regulations.

Accounting options

  • An activation can be made in the following cases, but it can also be omitted:
    • Internally generated intangible assets of the fixed assets may be included in the balance sheet as an asset ( § 248 para. 2 sentence 1 HGB).
    • There is an activation option for low-value assets . They have to be kept separately in the asset accounting , but do not have to be shown in the balance sheet, but can be written off in full in the year of acquisition ( Section 6 (2) EStG). Under commercial law there is no special regulation on low-value assets. According to the principle of materiality, the capitalization of low-value assets is not required under commercial law. The tax formation and depreciation of a compound item for low-value assets ( Section 6 (2a) EStG ) is, in the opinion of the IDW, also possible in the annual financial statements under commercial law . The immediate depreciation of assets with a useful life of no more than one year, as required by tax law, is an option under commercial law.
    • Accounting aid for deferred tax assets ( Section 274 (1) HGB) or for discount ( Section 250 (3) HGB).
An activation option under commercial law leads to an activation obligation in the tax balance sheet .

Accounting prohibitions

According to Section 248 (1) and (2) of the German Commercial Code (HGB), expenses for setting up a company , expenses for raising equity and expenses for the conclusion of insurance contracts may not be included as assets. Self-created brands , printed titles, publishing rights , customer lists or comparable intangible assets may also not be included .

According to the prevailing opinion, there is a ban on accounting for pending transactions due to the so-called non- accounting principle for pending transactions . This principle is not legally codified, but is derived from the principles of proper bookkeeping ( accounting ).

See also

Individual evidence

  1. Wolfgang Hilke, Accounting according to commercial and tax law , Part 1, 1991, p. 56
  2. ^ IDW-Fachnachrichten No. 10/2007, 2007, p. 506
  3. Michael Kozikowski / KlausRoscher / Marianne Schramm, Beck'scher balance sheet commentary . 7th edition, § 253 marginal number 275
  4. Dieter Schneeloch, Business Taxation Volume 2: Company Tax Policy , 2011, p. 124