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Inventory in companies or schools in the GDR was identified as public property by such a sticker with an inventory number.

In accounting, the inventory ( Latin inventarium "totality of what is found") is an inventory of all assets and debts of a company on a specific date .


The inventory was preceded by the inventory . The work results of the inventory are recorded in writing in a directory called the inventory. A prerequisite for proper bookkeeping and accounting is an inventory of the company's assets and debts at the beginning and end of the financial year . They prove that assets and debts actually exist. Evidence of physical assets is provided as part of the inventory by counting , measuring or weighing . For example, the number of items (number of cars in a vehicle fleet ) is counted, liters ( drinks ) or lengths ( elliptical goods ) are measured and weights ( meat ) are weighed .


In Roman law , Justinian I introduced the privilege of inventory creation ( Latin beneficium inventarii ) to protect the heir against over-indebtedness of the estate in AD 531 , after heirs had unlimited liability for inheritance debts. The new law gave the heir the opportunity to limit his liability for debts of the testator to the estate. For this purpose, the heir had to start drawing up the inheritance ("inventory") within a period of 30 days after delation . It was a statutory period within which the heirs had to exercise this right.

The inventory appeared for the first time in the late Middle Ages of Germany in the Nuremberg city law reformation from 1479/1484, which declared it to be a “name and description of the have”. The Worms Reformation from 1498 onwards chose to “make an inventory”, the Reformation in Frankfurt am Main (1509) and the city law of Freiburg im Breisgau (1520) used the term “make an inventory”. In 1526 the word “inventari” appeared for the first time as a list of the “haab und guet”. The inventory contained in this form the entire inheritance of a citizen.

The previous exclusive use as a list of estates changed in 1494 when the Italian mathematician Luca Pacioli demanded that every merchant must begin his business with a careful inventory ( Italian inventory ) by “first writing it on a sheet of paper or in a special book what he thinks he has in real estate and movables in the world ”. In the third chapter of his treatise, Pacioli presented an exemplary sample of an inventory with all its requirements ( Italian forma exemplare con tutte sue solennité in l'inventario requisite ). It also included debts and receivables , the latter separated into debtors “of good money” and debtors “of bad money”. Pacioli already recognized that the inventory could disrupt business .

The concept of inventory appeared in Germany for the first time in connection with merchants in 1624, when the arithmetic master and accountant Christoph Achatius Hager (1584–1657) assumed that "the conclusion of an invoice after the inventory was held ..." had to be carried out. Georg Nicolaus Schurtz demanded in 1692 that “before the net profit can be seen, all goods must first be balanced, the profit or loss written off, the existing goods or the entire trading capacity inventoried, weighed, measured, counted and estimated [valued, d. Ed.]… Will ”. He also recognized the inventory as an essential basis of the final balance, although he did not consider the inventory to be necessary every year because of the effort involved.

In France , the merchant Jacques Savary worked out the French commercial law ( French Ordonnance de Commerce ) in March 1673 , which for the first time in Chapter III (“keeping the books, drawing up the inventories”) the requirement of a two-year inventory ( French inventaire ) as a supplement to the double Accounting taken into account. It already spoke of the balance sheet effect of this inventory ( French balance de cet inventaire ), every trade must begin with an inventory. Savary's legal commentary on the "Ordonnance de Commerce" from 1675 explained the purpose of taking an inventory and thus a materially meaningful account closing. According to Savary, the balance was the end of the inventory.

In 1721, Samuel Oberländer understood the inventory to be a written register in which items subject to inheritance are recorded. In 1751 the lawyer Christian Gottlieb Buder defined the inventory as “a complete list of the entire legacy of the deceased, his belongings, lying down and driving, including a register of letters, debts and counter-debts, which in beyseyn the co-heirs, legatariorum [legatee , d. Ed.] And believers, or through a notary and witness, must be set up ”. Only the General Prussian Land Law (APR) of June 1794 took over the inventory in I 2 §§ 103 ff. APR (as an inventory for the balance sheet ) and the "legal benefit of the inventory" in I 9 § 420 APR (for inheritances) and thus took it into account both forms of meaning. The Austrian General Civil Code from June 1811 also knew the inventory. The linguistic transition from inventory to inventory took place for the first time in March 1865 in the civil code for the Kingdom of Saxony . The conviction of the state of the property and its change is obtained by taking an inventory; its written record in 1872 was still called "Inventarium".

In legal history, the concept of inventory was given two different contents , namely the characteristic of the estate and the corporate assets. With the upcoming redesign of German civil and commercial law , it made sense to give the term inventory a different content in both areas of law . In the motives for the BGB of 1888 it was stated that the term "inventory" used in the lease law in § 535 BGB was generally understandable and did not need any clarification. A definition should also be avoided because it is associated with great difficulties. Therefore there is no legal definition . The BGB took over the inventory in January 1900 in connection with the inheritance as an estate register. According to § 1993 BGB, the heir is entitled to submit a list of the estate (inventory) to the estate court (inventory creation) . It contains all estate items and estate liabilities ( Section 2001 Paragraph 1 BGB). The Commercial Code (HGB), which came into force at the same time as the BGB in January 1900, required in Section 40 (4) HGB a. F. for all companies that "when drawing up the inventory and the balance sheet, all assets and debts [are] to be stated according to the value that is to be attached to them at the time for which the list takes place".

In 1932 the business economist Heinrich Nicklisch linked the “calculation for determining the net worth” to the inventory, but the net worth was not part of it.

Legal issues

Commercial and civil law use different terms for the term inventory .

Commercial law

In business literature, the inventory is viewed as the work result of the inventory, while commercial law is based on the inventory and leaves it up to those subject to inventory how to create a directory that meets the legal requirements. According to Section 240 (1) and (2) of the German Commercial Code (HGB), every merchant has to precisely record his property , his claims and debts , the amount of his cash as well as his other assets at the beginning of his trade and afterwards on the balance sheet date of each financial year and the value of the individual assets and to indicate debts. “Exactly” means the complete and correct inventory of all balance sheet items , as they result from § 266 HGB. In this respect, the statutory rules for structuring the balance sheet can be adopted for the inventory. The inventory must meet the requirements of Section 239 of the German Commercial Code (HGB); in particular, records must be complete, correct, timely and orderly. This regulation, which applies to trading books, is to be applied analogously to inventories. Since inventories are part of the balance sheet documents, the inventories stored as printed matter or on data carriers must be kept for ten years in accordance with Section 257 (1) No. 1 HGB .

If the inventory contains not only minor defects in formal or material terms, the bookkeeping is not to be regarded as proper (Section R 5.3, Paragraph 4 of the Income Tax Regulations ), and the accounting based on this is void .

Civil Law

An inventory is also understood to mean the entire inventory of objects in a room (inventory of books), on a property (property inventory) or the accessories of companies. If a property with inventory is leased , then, according to § 582 BGB, the lessee is responsible for maintaining the inventory items and returning them after the lease has ended ( § 582a (3) BGB). In § 98 BGB it is made clear that the inventory of a commercial enterprise and the equipment and livestock intended for the agricultural enterprise, the agricultural products as well as the existing fertilizer obtained on the estate belong to the accessories.

Inventory insurance

Inventory insurance is property insurance for companies and is also known as commercial insurance , content insurance or bundled business insurance . The scope of insurance can cover all or part of a company's inventory. Cash and valuables, data carriers and samples are also insured to a specified extent if they are stored properly. The property of the employees or third-party property that is stored in the business premises or on the company property can also be insured. The inventory insurance replaces insured damage at replacement value so that the policyholder can obtain a replacement in the event of an insured event. The insurance covers the dangers of fire , tap water , storm / hail , burglary, including vandalism and broken glass .


In Austria , Section 191 (1) of the Austrian Commercial Code requires the assets and debts to be recorded, including for the end of the financial year (Section 191 (2) of the UGB). According to this, the inventory is a list of all assets belonging to the operation of the company, including liabilities, stating all values.

In Switzerland , Art. 958c Para. 2 OR requires companies that are obliged to submit accounts to provide evidence of the individual items in the balance sheet and in the notes by means of an inventory or, alternatively, in some other way. Carrying out the inventory and drawing up the inventory follow the principle of proper accounting in accordance with Art. 662a OR, in particular according to the principles of completeness, clarity and caution.

The IFRS do not mention the inventory and require it when accounting for inventories, they focus on their valuation . IAS 8.10 also provides for the adoption of pronouncements from other accounting standards in the event that a situation is not regulated by any IAS standard or interpretation . The inventory is also recognized in the IFRS through this opening clause .


  • Siegfried Schmolke, Manfred Deitermann u. a .: Industrial accounting ICR. Financial accounting - analysis and criticism of the annual financial statements - cost and performance accounting. 38th edition. Winklers Verlag, Darmstadt 2009, ISBN 978-3-8045-6652-1 .

Web links

Wiktionary: inventory  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Norbert Horn / Rainer Walz, Commentary Commercial Code , Volume 3, Third Book, §§ 238–342a, 1999, § 240 Rn. 4th
  2. Ulrike Köbler, Werden, Wandel und Wesen des German private law vocabulary , 2010, p. 530
  3. ^ Karl Kaufmann, The establishment of the public inventory in inheritance law , 1959, p. 21
  4. ^ Lower Austrian Land Law Draft , Book III, Title 17, 1526, p. 430
  5. Luca Pacioli, Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalità , 1494, p. 90
  6. Carl Peter Kheil, over some older edits of accounting tractates of Pacioli: A contribution to the history of accounting , 1896, p 10
  7. Christoph Achatius Hager, Bookkeeping on Proper Commission and Compagnia Actions , 1624, p. 212
  8. Georg Nicolaus Schurtz, Usable Guideline of the Praiseworthy Kauffmannschaft , 1692, p. 7
  9. Zeitschrift für Buchhaltung, Volumes 27–28, 1918, p. 7
  10. ^ Jacques Savary, Le Parfait Négotiant , 1675, pp. 319 ff.
  11. Jacques Savary, Le Parfait Négotiant , 1675, p. 384 ff.
  12. ^ Samuel Oberländer, Lexicon Juridicum Romano-Teutonicum , 1721, p. 388
  13. Christian Gottlieb Buder, Des Heiligen Römischen Reichs Staats- und Lehn-Recht , 1751, p. 593
  14. Ulrike Köbler, Werden, Wandel und Wesen des German private law vocabulary , 2010, p. 531
  15. August Schiebe / Carl Gustav Odermann, The Teaching of Bookkeeping , 1872, p. 13
  16. Motives for the BGB, Motives for the drafts of the Civil Code for the German Reich , Volume II, 1888, p. 426
  17. ^ Heinrich Nicklisch, Die Betriebswirtschaft , 1932, p. 323
  18. Peter Ulmer / Uwe Hüffer, HGB-Bilanzrecht, 1st part volume: §§ 238–289 HGB , 2002, § 240 Rn. 28
  19. Raimund Suckro, Accounting and Accounting in Industry and Wholesale , 1993, p. 17