Total assets

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In accounting, the balance sheet total is the sum of the assets on the assets side or the sum of the total capital on the liabilities side of a balance sheet as of the balance sheet date .


The total assets on the assets side and the liabilities side of the balance sheet are always identical. This is due to the fact that both sides of the balance sheet are balanced through equity (through profits or losses). The balance sheet total is an aggregate that is composed of fixed assets and current assets on the asset side of a balance sheet and equity and debt on the capital side :

assets liabilities
Capital assets Equity
+ Current assets + Outside capital
= Total assets = Total assets

In Section 266 (2) and (3) of the German Commercial Code ( HGB) , the individual balance sheet items (“items”) are finally listed, without the balance sheet total being mentioned as the result of the addition. In terms of balance sheet law, the balance sheet total is not a balance sheet item .

Active exchange / liability exchange, balance sheet extension / balance sheet shortening

Individual balance sheet items can change as a result of business transactions and must therefore be assigned differently, newly or no longer within the balance sheet. This can lead to an asset swap or a liability swap or a balance sheet extension or balance sheet shortening. While asset and liability swaps are balance sheet total neutral, balance sheet lengthening and shortening have an effect on the amount of the balance sheet total.

Active exchange

Active exchange is a process in which positions within the active site will be redeployed a balance, not allowing thereby the total assets changed.


Passive swap

Passive exchange is a process in which positions within the passive side are shifted a balance sheet, without thereby changing the total assets.


Balance sheet extension

A balance sheet extension occurs when the assets and liabilities side of a balance sheet increase by the same amount; the balance sheet total increases. An increase in the balance sheet is also referred to as an increase in assets and liabilities .


  • A company finances a warehouse on credit: On the assets side, the balance sheet item tangible assets increases the balance sheet total; on the liabilities side, the credit increases the balance sheet item liabilities and thus also the balance sheet total. This does not change the total assets of the company.
  • For a lending bank, lending represents a balance sheet extension. The amount of money credited to the borrower increases the bank's debit balance (liabilities), the debt of the borrower increases the credit balance by the same amount (credit claims). As soon as the borrower has the credit amount credited (cash withdrawal or) by transfer to another bank, the balance sheet of the lending bank is reduced (minus central bank balances [assets] / minus liabilities [liabilities]). Likewise, each loan repayment shortens the respective bank balance sheet (also central bank balance sheet). The assets of the borrower and lender remain unchanged.

Balance sheet shortening

A balance sheet shortening occurs when the assets and liabilities side of the balance sheet are reduced by the same amount (both sides are "shortened"), the balance sheet total shrinks. This happens when funds on the assets side leave the company and the delivery liabilities decrease by the same amount. A reduction in the balance sheet is also referred to as a reduction in assets and liabilities.

The same is true of the bank balance sheet for loan repayments , and to this extent the shortening of the balance sheet is also to be understood as " money destruction " in contrast to deposit creation (by the banking sector) - the money volume from lending minus loan repayments thus results from total sector net borrowing .

Balance sheet total as a key figure

The balance sheet total itself is a key business figure . For other key figures, it serves as a basis for calculation, such as for asset coverage , equity ratio or return on total capital .

Total assets as a measure of size

For the subdivision into different size classes, the law divides corporations according to § 267 HGB into small, medium-sized and large corporations; The law uses the balance sheet total as a benchmark. This also applies to so-called small capital companies under Section 267a of the German Commercial Code. Various laws are based on the balance sheet total when measuring company size as well as when measuring company size .

In business administration , however, the balance sheet total is only a measure of magnitude in the context of bank accounting for credit institutions and financial services institutions , usually increased by the contingent liabilities of the business volume . Here, the total assets is considered representative measure that allows comparison of banks and rankings of banks allows.

In the case of non-banks , the total assets are usually not used as a representative size criterion; here, rather, the sales revenues or the number of employees are used; the balance sheet total is just one of many quantitative criteria.


  • Ernst Heymann, Norbert Horn: Commercial Code (without maritime law): Comment . Walter de Gruyter, 1999. Google books
  • Hilmar J. Vollmuth: Reading balance sheets correctly, understanding them better, designing them optimally: Balance sheet analysis and balance sheet criticism for practice. Haufe Verlag DE, 2009, Google books

Individual evidence

  1. Hans Gestrich : Kredit und Sparen , 1944, p. 78
    "If at that time the granting of the investment loan extended the
    bank balance sheet and accordingly reduced the bank's liquidity, the issue loan is now repaid through the purchase of securities , the bank balance sheet shortened and the bank's liquidity increased." . "
  2. Wolfgang Stützel (Ed.) / Wilhelm Lautenbach: Zins, Kredit und Produktion , 1952, p. 84: “Bank loans decrease, the liabilities on the balance sheet decrease by the same amount, regularly the deposits. The balance is getting shorter! "
  3. Andreas Eiselt / Thomas Kaspereit: Sustainability reporting as an instrument of capital market communication, in: Capital market oriented accounting (KoR) 2010, pp. 379–384 (381)
  4. Kai Schumacher / Tobias Rauss: valuation of banks - a case study , in: The Bank, No. 01/2011, pp 44-51
  5. critical of this Sebastian Jost, The “balance sheet total” has little informative value in Welt online , accessed on June 21, 2011
  6. ^ Sönke Peters / Rolf Brühl / Johannes N. Stelling: Betriebswirtschaftslehre: Introduction , 2005, p. 62