Decisive factor

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The principle of relevance is to be observed in the accounting and states that the principles of proper bookkeeping applicable in the preparation of the commercial balance sheet are also to be taken into account in the preparation of the tax balance sheet . In Germany, it is anchored in Section 5 (1) sentence 1 EStG .

With the coming into force of the Accounting Law Modernization Act (BilMoG) in 2009, the sentence ... Tax law options for determining profits are to be exercised in accordance with the annual balance sheet under commercial law supplemented by ... unless in the context of exercising a tax option or was another approach chosen . Thus, the relevance of the trade balance for the tax balance is limited; When preparing the tax balance, you are not necessarily bound by the approaches and assessment of the trade balance. The following principles apply when preparing the tax balance sheet:

  • Binding regulation under commercial law, not regulated under tax law (or with the same wording): tax balance sheet corresponds to trade balance sheet (example: valuation simplifications).
  • Binding regulation under commercial law, binding regulation deviating from tax law: Tax balance sheet must differ from the commercial balance sheet.
  • Commercial law option, tax law binding regulation: Exercise of the option right in the commercial balance sheet regardless of the accounting in the tax balance sheet.

According to the case law of the Federal Fiscal Court, the principle of relevance does not apply to commercial law options. Rather, activation options under commercial law lead to activation requirements under tax law and passivation options under commercial law lead to passivation prohibitions.

A uniform balance sheet is often sought (especially by small companies) , i.e. the tax balance sheet and the trade balance sheet should be identical. This is only possible if the accounting in the commercial balance sheet and tax balance sheet is not regulated differently by binding regulations. An example of this is the creation of a provision for potential losses , which is binding under commercial law ( Section 249 (1) HGB), but has no longer been permitted under tax law since the Tax Relief Act (StEntlG) ( Section 5 (4a) EStG).

Abolition of the reverse authority

Reversed relevance meant that the exercise of purely tax options (including special depreciation ) was also permissible in the commercial balance sheet and required from the point of view of tax law. However, since the BilMoG came into force, these so-called opening clauses (Section 254 HGB old version, i.e. until 2009) have been omitted. Since then, the recognition of tax options is no longer dependent on an identical accounting under commercial law.

The consequence of the reversed relevance that has now been abolished was that the commercial balance sheet contained tax values that could be far below the actual values. This made it considerably more difficult to obtain an insight into the assets and earnings situation, as required by commercial law.

Today, deviations between the commercial balance sheet and the tax balance sheet occur less in the accounting as such (approach), but in the amount of the accounting (valuation). The tax rules ( § 6 to § 7g EStG) are more detailed than those of commercial law.