Balance sheet continuity

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Balance continuity is accounting a principle of proper accounting . It states that several consecutive annual financial statements of a company must have the same structure ( formal balance sheet continuity ) and also have to follow the same valuation principles as possible ( material balance sheet continuity ).


The development of the company can only be identified from information about the asset, financial and earnings position of a company at different points in time if this information is comparable and all factors that impair comparability have been ignored. Shareholders , competitors , credit institutes and the tax office should not make it even more difficult to gain an insight into the already difficult subject due to a lack of comparability. Annual financial statements must be comparable with one another so that economic changes that have occurred can be clearly identified and assessed. If, on the other hand, changes are based on different material and / or formal accounting principles, a comparison is not possible and the annual financial statements cannot be used for analysis purposes.

Balance sheet continuity criteria

The legal basis in Germany is Section 252 (1) No. 1 HGB , in Austria Section 201 (2) No. 1 UGB . By changing the reporting and valuation methods, the balance sheet and profit and loss statement can be arbitrarily influenced, whereby economic changes that have occurred can be concealed or even suggested in the first place. The legal provisions want to prevent this as much as possible. In balance sheet continuity, a distinction is made between formal and material continuity.

Formal balance sheet continuity

The formal continuity stipulates that the same structural terms and schemes must always be used. In terms of balance sheet identity (balance sheet context ), it is required that the opening balance sheet for the accounting period corresponds to the closing balance sheet for the previous accounting period ( Section 252 (1) No. 1 HGB). The opening balance of an accounting period must then match the closing balance of the previous accounting period. In the opening balance sheet , the values ​​for a financial year must be identical to the values ​​used in the closing balance sheet for the previous year. This creates the basic requirement for comparability, both over time and between different companies at the same time.

However, the principle of formal balance sheet continuity is broken after a tax audit . If this tax audit leads to changes, the last still changeable balance sheet must be adjusted, while the previous year's balance sheet is no longer changed. As a result, the opening balance does not match the closing balance of the previous period as an exception.

Material balance sheet continuity

The material continuity requires that the individual items in the annual financial statements are always determined, delimited and compiled in the same way. With regard to the assessment ( § 252 Paragraph 1 No. 6 HGB), this has been a mandatory requirement in German law since May 2009 , from which deviations can be made in justified exceptional cases (see § 252 Paragraph 2 HGB). The principle is also a must in the Austrian UGB, however, in the last sentence of Section 201 UGB, a deviation is permitted if there are special circumstances.

In particular, the depreciation methods chosen once may not be arbitrarily changed ( Section 253 (2) HGB). If, in exceptional cases, the continuity of valuation is broken, the resulting changes in the income statement must be described and justified in the annual financial statements. An injury rating continuity is present as when in the manufacturing cost , the cost elements ( § 252 be included para. 2 sentences 3 and 4 HGB), contrary to previous practice in the manufacturing cost or removed from them. This does not immediately mean a violation of the material balance sheet continuity, as long as such valuation changes can be objectively justified.

Consistency of the balance sheet approach

In May 2009, the Accounting Law Modernization Act (BilMoG) raised the requirement of consistency as the accounting principle. If the law provides for option options, any option options that have been exercised must therefore be retained (continuity of approach; Section 246 (3) HGB). However, there are only a few options that are affected by this, namely discount ( Section 250 (3) HGB), the option to pass on pension commitments ( Article 28 (1) EGHGB) and the capitalization of self-created intangible assets ( Section 248 Paragraph 2 HGB). Deviations from this are only permitted in justified exceptional cases in accordance with Section 252 (2) HGB.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. RIS - Corporate Code Section 201 - Consolidated Federal Law, version dated August 31, 2020. Accessed August 31, 2020 .
  2. The justification for the law (Bundestag printed paper 10/4268 of November 18, 1985, p. 100) emphasizes that special depreciation and other tax benefits do not necessarily have to be used in every financial year just because they have been used once
  3. Bernd Heesen / Wolfgang Gruber, Balance Sheet Analysis and Key Figures , 2009, p. 25
  4. For the derivative goodwill , according to Section 246, Paragraph 1 of the German Commercial Code (HGB), the option to apply is no longer applicable and an obligation to capitalize has taken its place