Balance sheet clarity

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Balance clarity is Accounting a principle of orderly accounting , according to which the financial statements certain has formal (external) classification and design principles to correspond and to be expressed in an optically correct, clear and unambiguous record image.


This principle is aimed in particular at groups outside of the accounting company that are interested in its annual financial statements ( shareholders , competitors , credit institutions , tax authorities ). It should not be made even more difficult for you to gain an insight into the already difficult subject due to confusion. For this purpose, the legislature has provided regulations with which the principle of balance sheet clarity is to be enforced. The point of reference in the law is the recipient horizon ("The annual financial statements ... must ... convey"; Section 264 (1) sentence 1 HGB ). The wrong designation and classification of a balance sheet item (provided that it is legally permissible and objectively justified) violates the classification rules, but does not lead to the invalidity of an annual financial statement if its clarity and clarity are only insignificantly impaired. However, a significant impairment of the clarity and clarity usually leads to the invalidity of the annual financial statements in accordance with Section 256 (4 ) AktG .

Balance sheet clarity criteria

Minimum structure and clear allocation

For corporations there are precise classification rules for the balance sheet ( §§ 266 to 274a HGB) and for the income statement ( §§ 275 to 277 HGB), but not for partnerships . For these, § 247 HGB only states that a distinction must be made between fixed and current assets at least on the assets side and between equity and liabilities on the liabilities side. This gradation of the structure requirements shows that the legislature is imposing more precise regulations on public companies in order to increase their publicity. Partnerships are mostly family-owned and therefore do not require increased publicity. The classification rules are intended to help ensure that within a clearly named classification item, the same content that is factually related to this item is regularly accounted for, regardless of the company. The items must be designated in the annual financial statements as specified in the classification rules.

Completeness and prohibition of offsetting

The completeness requirement requires the accounting of all operational processes and leads to an accounting requirement ( Section 246 (1) HGB). Corresponding assets and liabilities may not be combined or offset against each other ( prohibition of offsetting ). If these minimum requirements are not met, there is a breach of the principle of balance sheet clarity, which is punishable according to § 331 HGB, § 400 AktG. If the clarity and clarity are significantly impaired, this leads to the annulment of the annual financial statements in accordance with Section 256 (4) AktG.

Clarity and individual evaluation

The postulate of clarity requires that the individual items are included in the structural items of the annual financial statements in a meaningful order that corresponds to their material content. The balance sheet clarity requires a clear description of the balance sheet items as well as a clearly arranged and structured balance sheet ( § 265 HGB). Section 238 (1) sentence 2 of the German Commercial Code (HGB) requires the bookkeeping to be such that it can provide an expert third party with an overview of the company's situation within a reasonable period of time.

Each subject to be assessed must be assessed individually ( Section 252 (1) No. 3 HGB). Individual valuation avoids the balancing of unrealized profits. An individual evaluation does not contradict the postulate of clarity, because it is allowed to combine similar individual items to form a statutorily prescribed item.

Income statement

The clarity of the balance sheet therefore relates to both the overall picture of the annual financial statements (clarity) and its details (clarity). Balance sheet clarity is achieved for the individual items in the balance sheet and income statement, if

  • there is a clear breakdown of items within and between the inventory and performance variables,
  • correct and unambiguous item designation and application of the legally required designations is available and
  • the gross principle has been observed through a general prohibition of balancing or offsetting .

See also

Individual evidence

  1. BGH ZIP 2003, 1498, 1501.
  2. Ernst Heymann / Norbert Horn, Commentary HGB , 1999, p. 460 f.
  3. Ernst Heymann / Norbert Horn, Commentary HGB , 1999, p. 53.