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In accounting, the balance is the difference between the debit and credit side of an account .


The verb saldo means “fix, combine, balance” ( Italian saldare ), from which the adjective is formed ( Italian saldo , “fixed”). It is also used colloquially as a synonym for a difference amount or payment balance. The balance ( plural balance , balances or balances ) is a neutral term, it is actually a requirement or a liability , a gain or a loss , an income or expenditure , a surplus or deficit.

If the debit (= left side of the account) transactions are greater than the credit (= right side of the account), there is a debit balance , otherwise a credit balance . The balance is named after the larger account side and is used as a balancing item on the smaller account side, so that all accounts are always formally balanced; the term balance sheet ( Latin bilancia , "scales") indicates this. The balance indicates the value of an account with which it is carried over to the balance sheet or profit and loss account . In the latter case, success is defined as the balance between expenses and income .

Legal issues

In the current account under Section 355 of the German Commercial Code ( HGB) - which is also the basis for current accounts - the balance is referred to as the surplus to which one or the other contracting party is entitled ( Section 355 (1) of the German Commercial Code ). The debit balance is accordingly a debit balance , the credit balance a credit balance. The balance must be determined at least once a year by the financial statement .

In the case of the current account, the general terms and conditions of the credit institutions provide for quarterly financial statements. The account statement that the banks create for their customers is therefore not legally a recognition of the balance, but only to be assessed as an informational daily balance. In the account statement are loads ( bank fees , cash withdrawals , direct debits , debit interest , transfers , real-time bank transfers ) and credits ( cash deposits , deposit rates , bank transfers) charged to a balance; this offsetting process is also called "offsetting". The legal nature of these individual transactions to be entered in the current account does not change, but it is no longer possible to assert them in isolation. Accordingly, they can no longer be the subject of an assignment , pledging , attachment or offsetting individually . If, however, a claim is filed independently, the objection of the current account commitment stands in the way of this. With the balance determined by offsetting, which has to be recognized by a legal transaction ( balance recognition ), an independent claim arises that can be assigned, pledged or attached independently. Only the recognized balance is therefore subject to disposal .

While a credit balance of the bank customer on the current account represents a claim from irregular custody according to § 700 BGB , the debit balance is a loan liability within the meaning of § 488 BGB. Payments into and out of the bank account are therefore usually also acts to establish or fulfill the specified obligations or individual obligations arising from them. In the case of a credit balance (credit balance), cash payments represent the return of the money held for the customer ( § 688 BGB) and cash deposits represent the surrender of the money to be kept (§ 700 BGB), in the case of a debit balance (debit balance), on the other hand, cash payments are credit payments, cash deposits are View loan repayments (§§ 488 ff. BGB).

Banking balances

A distinction is made between the value balance, book balance and misleading balances:

Value date balance or value date balance

The current or valutary balance includes all account movements, with an interest rate effect linked to the date of balance determination, not any account book with a later value date such as checks and debit entries or open securities - foreign exchange -, varieties or precious metal accounts whose interest effect only occurs later. This value-based balance is the balance with which the account holder actually has to calculate.

Book balance

The balance, on the other hand, which records all postings regardless of their interest effect, is often referred to in everyday language as the book balance or account balance. This balance includes all existing account transactions, even if they do not yet have an interest effect. From the accounting perspective, the balance is understood to be the accounting balance, i.e. H. the balance of all bookings currently made. This means that all account transactions known up to that point are listed, even if the value date occurs later and the interest effect therefore only occurs when the value date is reached.

Misleading balance

The above distinction between the types of balances shows the complexity of this topic, which is difficult for the average bank customer to understand. If a balance is displayed in online banking or at an ATM , the question arises as to which balance it is. In any case, with a credit balance, the customer can assume that he can dispose of it immediately. However, this does not have to be the case with a displayed book balance. In 2002, the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) had a case for decision in which a pensioner received an account balance information on her current (book) balance on September 29, which already contained her future pension credit with a value date October 1. In this regard, the BGH ruled that it was inadmissible for the bank to display the book balance at the ATM. This leads to the fact that the customer withdraws funds that have already been booked, but not yet credited to the account on a value date basis. In doing so, the credit institutions violated their contractual obligations under a giro contract if they provided account holders with incorrect information about the status of their giro accounts on account balance inquiries at the ATM in the last days of the month (§ § 676f , § 675 Paragraph 1 BGB in conjunction with § 666 BGB ). This misleading customers can be avoided without further ado, either by providing information or by (partially) doing without the additional customer service of automated information about the account balance. According to the BGH, the account balance information at the ATM is set up by showing pension payments as credit before their value date in such a way that a large number of customers can be misled when checking their account balance. This account balance information could induce customers to take credit from the banks through unwanted account overdrafts that they would not have taken if the account balance was correct. In continuation of this case law, the Federal Court of Justice ruled in 2007 that account statements are also misleading, the account balance of which includes amounts that have not been valued (which cannot be accessed without debiting interest until the value date ), even if the individual transactions show the different value dates .

Deviations between the booking date and the value date, which cannot be taken directly from the daily balance shown, often occur in mass payment transactions. However, the BGH also found that the account balance indicated was not incorrect. This is because it accurately reflects the daily credit available to the customer, which is to be distinguished from the intermediate balances that are relevant for calculating the interest. However, objectively correct information could also be misleading if a considerable number of the account holders addressed associate it with an incorrect idea. In the opinion of the BGH, in any case, a significant number of bank customers do not recognize the difference between the available account balance and interest-free available credit due to the lack of a corresponding note , so that these customers have incorrect ideas about the extent to which they can dispose of without interest.

Due to this case law, the credit institutions have largely stopped disclosing the book balance or are no longer charging debit interest for these so-called hidden overdrafts .

Financial accounting

An active stock account with debit balance is shown under the assets of the merchant's balance sheet on the left, a passive stock account with a credit balance under the liabilities on the right. The terms credit balance and debit balance are derived from this assignment. L accounts with debit balance ( expense accounts ) flow into the profit and loss account for the expenses one, with credit balance ( income accounts ) in income . To clear a debit balance, the same amount must be posted on the credit side. The opposite is to be done with the credit balance.

The transfer of balances takes place at the end of the year or when an account is closed. If the open items that make up the balance are not known, a balance reconciliation must usually be carried out beforehand, as uncleared balances do not comply with the principles of proper accounting .

Within the balance sheet - which also represents an account - the net worth (net assets = equity ) is the most important balance. It is the result of the difference between gross wealth (assets) and debts (liabilities). A second important balance within the balance sheet is the net financial assets , which result from the cash and cash equivalents plus other receivables and minus liabilities. In a different perspective, net assets (equity) also result from real assets plus the balance of net financial assets. The balance sheet is in stock sizes assembled, while the income statement of flows there; the balance is always a stock quantity.

Budget balance

The cameralistic public budget consists of the comparison of government revenues and government expenditures . The difference between the two is the budget balance . If the income is higher than the expenditure, it is a budget surplus , otherwise a budget deficit . The deficit ratio measures the share of the budget deficit in the gross national product . If one subtracts the net borrowing from the income and the lending interest (on the national debt ) from the expenditure , one obtains the primary balance , an important economic figure . The fiscal balance results in accordance with § 13 para. 4 no. 3 BHO from a comparison of revenues (excluding receipts from loans from the credit market ), the withdrawals from reserves , revenues from cash terms surpluses and Münzeinnahmen one hand and expenditure (excluding the expenses for debt repayment on the credit market), the additions to reserves and the expenses to cover a cash deficit on the other hand.

Economic balances

In contrast to the financial accounting balance sheets , the economic balance sheets contain flows. The balance of payments consists of the main balance of current account (including the main balance of trade balance , services balance , income and assets balance sheet ), capital account and financial account (sub-accounts: foreign exchange account and capital account ). These balances compare different economic flows. A balance is the difference between payments received (from abroad ) and payments made (abroad) of the transactions assigned to a partial balance sheet. If this balance is positive (i.e. the difference> 0) it is a surplus or an active partial balance, if the balance is negative (<0), one speaks of a deficit or a passive partial balance. Depending on which side of the balance is larger, the balance is referred to as a balance of payments surplus or deficit (active or passive balance of payments), current account surplus or current account deficit (active or passive current account), trade surplus or trade deficit (active or passive trade balance), etc. From the balances of trade - and the balance of services results in the external balance . The EU Commission assumes an economic imbalance if the current account surplus or deficit exceeds the threshold of 6% of gross domestic product within 3 years .

Balance acknowledgment

The balance acknowledgment is a legal transaction in which one party carries out the offsetting at the end of a period (the claims are offset) and offers the determined balance for acceptance. According to the prevailing view today, the acknowledgment of balance is an abstract acknowledgment of debt within the meaning of § 781 BGB. The regular notification of the balance also represents an application for the conclusion of an abstract acknowledgment of debt contract for the notified balance. This application is accepted by the other contracting party by declaring the recognition of the balance. Since the balance acknowledgment according to § § 780 BGB, § 350 HGB is not formal, the approval can also be implied. This effect should not be confused with a legal approval of all postings on which the closing of accounts is based. Debit entries , such as from direct debits , to which no claim by the paying agent corresponds, are neither legally nor readily approved by the acknowledgment of debt. Even if the debtor has not objected to the debit entries for several months, this does not constitute an implied approval.

With the conclusion of this new contract, the previously existing claims expire by way of novation , and the abstract balance claim takes its place, which is interest-bearing due to the express arrangement of Section 355 (1) HGB. It can be assigned , pledged or attached .


The balance ( English balance , French équilibre , Italian balance ) has the same economic and legal significance internationally as in Germany.

Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. Gerhard Köbler , Etymological Legal Dictionary , 1995, p. 351
  2. ^ Duden, the German orthography, 2006, ISBN 978-3-411-04014-8 .
  3. Verlag Dr. Th. Gabler, Gablers Wirtschafts Lexikon , Volume 5, 1984, Sp. 1104
  4. ↑ e.g. No. 7, Paragraph 2 of the GTC Sparkassen
  5. BGHZ 80, 172 , 175
  6. BGH WM 1970, 184 , 186
  7. a b BGH, judgment of November 30, 1993  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Az .: XI ZR 80/93 = BGHZ 124, 254 , 257@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  8. This is an average informed and understanding consumer who pays attention to the situation; see. BGHZ 156, 250 , 252
  9. BGH, judgment of June 27, 2002 , Az .: I ZR 86/00, full text.
  10. ^ BGH, judgment of January 11, 2007 , Az .: I ZR 87/04, full text.
  11. Both of the above judgments come from the Competition Senate of the BGH because it was about misleading according to § 3 UWG and not from the Senate, which is responsible for banking law.
  12. BGH, judgment of October 23, 1997 , Az .: I ZR 98/95 = GRUR 1998, 1043, 1044.
  13. Peter Paic / Julian Schopp, Practical Business Administration for Information Systems , 2016, p. 74
  14. ^ Rolf-Dieter Grass / Wolfgang Stützel, VWL - an introduction also for non-specialists 1988, p. 53 ff.
  15. Jürgen Faik, Wiley-Schnellkurs Volkswirtschaftslehre , 2014, p. 216
  16. Arnold Heertje / Heinz-Dieter Wenzel, Basics of Economics , 2002, p 468
  17. Torsten Bleich / Meik Friedrich / Werner A. Halver / Christof Röme / Michael Vorfeld, Volkswirtschaftslehre , 2016, p. 14
  18. BGHZ 103, 143
  19. The case law accepts as implied acknowledgment, for example, the continuation of current account transactions after the accounts have been closed (BGH WM 1958, 620) or the disposal of the credit (BGH WM 1956, 1126).
  20. BGH, judgment of October 18, 1994  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Az .: XI ZR 194/93, WM 1994, 2273, 2274.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  21. ^ BGH, judgment of June 6, 2000 , Az .: XI ZR 258/99, full text.