Imparity principle

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The imparity principle in the broader sense means that in certain circumstances negative components of success are recorded at an earlier point in time than positive components of success (Latin "impar": "unequal"). The unequal treatment relates to the point in time at which it is recognized in profit or loss . In this way, the inherent uncertainties in accounting are overcome. The more pronounced the imparity principle, the more conservative a norm system is.

The imparity principle means that hidden reserves are created or released in the balance sheet .

German accounting law

In German accounting law, the imparity principle in the narrower sense is one of the concretizations of the principle of prudence, alongside the realization principle and the nominal value principle . In contrast to profits, which may only be shown when they are realized, losses must be shown when they are expected. The imparity principle is incorporated into tax accounting via the principle of relevance.

Section 252 (1) No. 4 1st half-sentence HGB : "In particular, all foreseeable risks and losses that have arisen up to the balance sheet date are to be taken into account, even if these only became known between the balance sheet date and the date on which the annual financial statements were prepared."

The imparity principle is concretized by various supplementary provisions, such as the lowest value principle in Section 253 Paragraphs 1 and 3 of the HGB and parts of the provisions on the formation of provisions in Section 249 of the HGB.

In order to do justice to the notion of creditor protection , which is essential for accounting under the German Commercial Code , losses should be anticipated , i.e. they should reduce the company's profit as an expense as early as possible in order to avoid excessive profit distributions. The aim is to ensure that enough financial resources remain in the company so that the foreseeable losses can be absorbed. The juxtaposition of the principle of realization and principle of imparity leads to a deliberate unequal treatment of profits and losses.


  1. On January 1, 2008, a company buys shares for a total of € 100 (cost). As they were acquired with speculative intent, these are capitalized as current assets. On December 31, 2008 ( balance sheet date ) the market value was € 120. The realization principle prohibits a valuation at the market value that exceeds the original acquisition costs. On December 31, 2009, however, the market value was only € 80. Because of the imparity principle (and because the shares are in current assets - strict lowest value principle), it is imperative that the value be devalued to € 80. Fixed asset securities, on the other hand, only have to be written off in the event of permanent impairment (hence the reference to the company's intention to speculate).
  1. On December 1, 2008, a company concludes a contract for the delivery (in January 09) of an item (in stock, book value: 100 €), the agreed purchase price is 200 €. Even if the customer has concluded a legally binding purchase agreement, the company is not yet allowed to post the profit as of December 31, 2008. If, on the other hand, the company has yet to procure the item and an unexpected price increase drives the company's purchasing costs to € 250, the expected loss of € 50 must be shown in the balance sheet as of December 31, 2008 before delivery.

Other systems of standards

Austrian UGB

The relevant provisions of the UGB correspond to those of the German HGB.


An accounting principle corresponding to the German imparity principle is not codified in the IFRS or its framework concept. Nevertheless, many individual regulations provide for an imparity performance delimitation (mandatory or as an option). Examples: The accounting of inventories largely corresponding to the German lower value principle (IAS 2); the posting of increases in value on dormant assets with no impact on income with simultaneous depreciation affecting income (revaluation model according to IAS 16, IAS 38); Possibility of creating provisions for pending losses. There is de facto an imparity principle in IFRS as well, although this is less pronounced than in the HGB.


The US GAAP see despite the lack of codification as accounting policy in many cases imparitätische success demarcation mandatory before.

See also: Principles of proper accounting