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Under liabilities ( singular passive voice, from Latin pati be idle, 'suffering ) is the sum of a company provided capital , which on the right side of a balance can be found. They reveal which sources of capital were used to finance the company's assets. These are listed on the left side of the balance sheet and form the assets .

In terms of balance sheet and company law, the sum of all liabilities forms the capital of a company.


One speaks of passivation when a balance sheet item is posted on the liabilities side. A distinction must be made here as to whether the liabilities are subject to a passivation obligation, a passivation option or a passivation ban. Basically, there is a liability requirement, i.e. the statutory obligation of a company preparing the balance sheet to include all equity and debt capital items on the liabilities side of the balance sheet. As an exception, there are options (for certain pension provisions ) and passivation prohibitions (for all provisions not listed in Section 249 HGB ).

The bookkeeping merges the final balances of the passive and asset accounts , the comparison of the liabilities with the assets to a single account is called the balance sheet. Here, the sums of assets and liabilities ( balance sheet total ) are formally identical, this is an essential feature of a balance sheet. The balance sheet term so defined differs from the account term only in that one speaks of debit and credit in the account .

The three balance sheet principles of balance sheet truth , balance sheet clarity and balance sheet continuity apply to both assets and liabilities. Due to the principle of prudence and the associated protection of creditors , certain parts of the liabilities (especially provisions ) can be overvalued under the lowest value principle , while assets are undervalued. Overvaluation means that a higher repayment amount can be assigned to the provisions to be regarded as liabilities within the limits of a reasonable commercial assessment , which corresponds to the probable claims against the company by a third party.

Subdivision of liabilities

The term liability side is a specific legal term that is mentioned in the structure of Section 266 (3) HGB . According to this, the liabilities side on the first level consists of equity and liabilities, which include provisions, liabilities, prepaid expenses and deferred tax liabilities.


The equity is calculated as balance between the carrying amounts on the asset side and those on the liabilities side. It represents the capital provided and left in the company, to which the company owners have residual claims . In the case of sole proprietorships , equity is shown in the balance sheet as a total item; in partnerships , a distinction can be made according to the nature of liability. Partnerships without personally liable partners (see Section 264a HGB) and corporations break down the equity as follows:

position Sub-item designation
I. Subscribed capital ( GmbH : share capital , AG : share capital )
II. Capital reserve
III. Retained earnings
III. 1. legal reserve
III. 2. Reserve for own shares
III. 3. statutory reserves
III. 4th other retained earnings
IV. Profit carryforward / loss carryforward
V. Annual surplus / annual deficit .

Often, items IV. And V. are also combined into one item called retained earnings / retained losses .



Prepaid expenses

Other items

Under certain circumstances, additional items can or must be added to the liabilities side. New items may be added if their content is not covered by a prescribed item. The structure and designation of certain items in the balance sheet are to be changed if this is necessary due to special features (of the corporation) for the preparation of a clear and concise annual financial statement ( Section 265 (5) and (6) HGB).

Special items with a portion of reserves had both debt and equity character and were only allowed to be created until December 2009.

Balance sheet analysis

The balance sheet analysis is interested in the composition of the liabilities, their relationship to other balance sheet items and determines business indicators that deal with the vertical capital structure of the liabilities side. These include the equity ratio and the debt ratio , while the horizontal capital structure deals with the ratio of assets to liabilities on a balance sheet as part of asset coverage . The return on equity and debt capital reflects the return on the equity capital or debt capital employed, while the level of debt makes statements about the ratio of debt capital to cash flow .

The division of debt into short-term and long-term obligations is also important. For this purpose, corporations, for example, have to provide corresponding information about the maturities of their liabilities in the notes ( Section 285 sentence 1 no. 1 HGB). It is particularly relevant here whether the company can meet its short-term liabilities with the existing or short-term available liquid funds . Consolidated financial statements must therefore u. a. contain a cash flow statement ( Section 297 (1) HGB).

National accounts

In the balance sheets of the national accounts , the liabilities consist of the liabilities . The assets are offset against the liabilities to the net worth .

See also


  • Adolf G. Coenenberg , Axel Haller, Gerhard Mattner, Wolfgang Schultze: Introduction to accounting: basics of bookkeeping and accounting. 8th edition. Schäffer-Poeschel Verlag, Stuttgart 2010, ISBN 978-3791028088
  • Gerhard Scherrer: Accounting according to the new HGB. 3rd edition, Vahlen 2010, ISBN 978-3800637874
  • Harald Wedell, Achim A. Dilling: Fundamentals of accounting: bookkeeping and annual accounts. Cost and performance accounting. 13th edition, NWB-Verlag 2010, ISBN 978-3482547836

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Horst-Tilo Beyer: Finanzlexikon. 1971, p. 276.
  2. ^ Tim Eckert: Restrictions on distribution as an instrument of capital maintenance. 2010, page 1.
  3. Dagobert Soergel / Joachim Fudickar, on the structure of the business balance sheet. 1971, p. 23.