Maximum value principle

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The maximum value principle is a principle of proper bookkeeping that must be observed when accounting for debt as a valuation method. The counterpart on the assets side of the balance sheet is the lowest value principle .


The highest value principle is applied to the liabilities side of the balance sheet and is the reciprocal principle of the lowest value principle for liabilities and provisions . The maximum value principle also states that the higher value must be applied for short-term liabilities ( strict maximum value principle ) and for medium and long-term liabilities only if the price increase is likely to be permanent ( moderate maximum value principle ). The optional determination for long-term liabilities is a valuation option . In contrast to a decrease in the value of assets , the other way around, debt capital may increase in value.

Legal issues

The maximum value principle results from the principle of prudence , the principle of imparity and the principle of realization and relates exclusively to the subsequent valuation of borrowed capital, which was valued at the settlement amount upon receipt in accordance with Section 253 (1) HGB . The imparity principle , which specifies the principle of prudence, requires an increase in liabilities or the formation of provisions if losses to be realized in the future are expected on the balance sheet date . At the same time, the under- valuation of liabilities would lead to the disclosure of unrealized profits , which is prohibited by the realization principle. In the case of provisions, pursuant to Section 253 (1) sentence 2 of the German Commercial Code (HGB), the principle of prudent business judgment applies , according to which the accounting company is given a margin of appreciation. However, if the probability that a higher settlement amount can be expected in the case of provisions is over 50%, a higher provision must be established. A foreign currency loan has a higher value on the reference date if it can become a higher liability due to a higher exchange rate . According to the principle of maximum value under commercial law, the addition value (= original book value ) of a provision may not be below, but may be exceeded. Accordingly, provisions are to be recognized on the following balance sheet dates either at the addition value or the higher of the balance sheet date value.

In the subsequent valuation, according to § 256a HGB, the maximum value principle must be observed as long as the remaining term of the liabilities is more than 1 year. Exchange rate changes that have occurred are therefore only to be taken into account insofar as they lead to an approach above the original acquisition costs. For balance sheet items with a remaining term of less than one year, however, the acquisition cost principle (Section 253 (1) sentence 1 HGB) and the imparity and realization principle (Section 252 (1) No. 4 half-sentence 2 HGB) no longer have to be observed when converting. Corresponding regulations should, however, also apply to the valuation of provisions and deferred taxes - even if not expressly mentioned in the law. Here, German accounting law has adapted to international accounting standards and the principle of prudence has been suspended. For credit institutions and financial services institutions , § 340h HGB applies , according to which valuation gains from currency conversion are only to be shown in the case of congruently covered , short-term debts in accordance with § 256a HGB.

In a letter dated July 16, 2014, the Federal Ministry of Finance commented on the problem of foreign currency liabilities. Foreign currency liabilities are to be valued analogously, taking into account the principles set out in the BMF letter cited for assets. A long-term increase in the market value of a liability is therefore only present in the event of a sustained increase in the exchange rate compared to the rate when the liability arises. If an increase in the exchange rate in connection with a liability in ongoing business transactions continues until the balance sheet is drawn up or the previous repayment date , it must be assumed that the increase in value is likely to be permanent (marginal no. 35).


The principle of prudence is not the primary goal of the IASC and FASB , which is why the maximum value principle is unknown in the accounting standards IAS and US-GAAP. Obligations - an unlimited period - are carried at present value ( English present value of each), so foreign currency liabilities economically fact as are recognized at the closing rate. Subsequent valuation at the closing rate is mandatory in accordance with IAS 21.23. Changes in exchange rates are therefore regularly reflected in the income statement , while according to HGB, profits or losses with terms of up to one year are to be recorded imparity.

Individual evidence

  1. Manfred Groh, Commercial balance sheet law in the case law of the Federal Fiscal Court , in: BB 1980, p. 642.
  2. Andreas Daum / Jürgen Petzold / Matthias Pletke, BWL für Juristen , 2016, p. 118.
  3. a b Marc Pisoke, Uncertain Liabilities in International Accounting , 2004, pp. 142f.
  4. Dirk J. Lamprecht / Burkhardt Liebich, Currency conversion , in: Bilanzierung aktuell - Praxishandbuch für das Accounting, 2008, p. 2.
  5. BMF letter of July 16, 2014, Az .: IV C 6 - S 2171-b / 09/10002, 2014/0552934
  6. Claudia Demming, US-American accounting , 1996, p. 121.