State assets

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The Treasury (also: public property ; English state assets , French domaine privé de l'Etat ) is in the public finance of the rated inventory of tangible and intangible assets that are in the property of a state are. In federal states like Austria or Germany it is also known as federal property.


The Treasury is especially in times of periodic state financial crises in the sale of state assets as a way to generate additional government revenues in the public interest. In particular, the public debts that are in contrast to the state assets come to the fore, the appropriateness of which also depends on the level of the state assets.

In Germany, the state ( public sector ) includes the federal government , the federal states , municipalities , associations of local authorities and social security funds . Assets , according to Wilhelm Kosegarten either private property or public property, depending on whether its holder is a legal entity under public law or a private business entity is. In negative terms, according to Friedrich Wilhelm August Murhard , state assets include everything “that is located within the national territory and is not acquired as property by citizens under private law”. The constitutional lawyer Josef Isensee understands state assets as the "totality of the monetary goods and rights of the state". Private assets are usually used more intensively for commercial purposes than state assets. Since the public economic entities only prepare public budgets in which government revenues and government expenditures are recorded without exception , there is no balance sheet in which government assets and debts are recorded.


The Roman law knew for the various areas of life which the gods dedicated things ( Latin res divini iuris ), things in public use ( Latin res publica ) as streets, theaters, squares and all commonly owned stuff ( Latin res communes omnium ) as the air , flowing water in rivers or the sea and the beach. The latter two embodied the basis of what is now considered to be state assets ( Latin res publicae ). The res divini iuris, in turn, were divided into the things consecrated to the supernatural deities ( Latin res sacrae ) such as temples and altars and the burial sites occupied by a corpse ( Latin res religiosae ).

In France , the Edict of Moulins created in February 1566 under Charles IX. the inalienable property of the king ( French domaine du roi ), which took on the role of state property . The law of the Constituent Assembly of December 1790 took over the king's property in the state property ( French domaine de l'État ) and created the concept of public property ( French domaine public ). The king was only granted a right of use and the state assets were declared alienable. The Civil Code (CC) of February 1804, in Art. 538 CC, subordinates objects for public use (roads, rivers, ports) to state property and excludes them from private property. According to Art. 539 CC, the state inherits in favor of state property if there is no legal succession . According to Section 1936 of the German Civil Code (BGB), this has also been the case in Germany since January 1900 .

In his book The Wealth of Nations of March 1776, the economist Adam Smith criticized the fact that in England the lands belonging to the crown "do not even bring in a quarter of the rent that they would probably produce if they were privately owned". He considered state assets to be uneconomical. Therefore he pleaded for the privatization of this state property, except for parks, gardens and walking paths. During the French Revolution , in December 1789, the state issued the first assignats , which represented shares in the French state's assets and served as legal tender . Specifically, the state property was the church property confiscated by the state and declared national property . In the literary newspaper published by the historian Johann Georg Meusel in December 1799, an article considered it correct that “state assets, and therefore also state power, depend on national assets” and that the purpose of the state must be determined.

In 1807, Jean Baptiste Say assumed that private wealth increased through savings , while state wealth grew through production . Today we know that an increase in state assets occurs through state acquisition of assets or their increase in value. The State domains were Carl von Rotteck According initially the supply of sovereign court and the military. The constitutional charter for the Electorate of Hesse of January 5, 1831, defined state assets in Section 139 “primarily the buildings, domanial (chamber) estates and forests, which were previously administered by the financial and other state authorities or were transferred to state administration after these assets were established , Hunts and fisheries, mines, smelters and salt works, also factories, usable regalia and rights, capital and other valuables which, by their nature and purpose, are to be regarded as state property ”. According to Section 140, it had to be fully recorded in the state budget .

In their communist manifesto , published in February 1848, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels demanded the use of state finances to transform the entire economic and social order. The classic form of acquiring state assets using state power is expropriation , which Marx  propagated in 1867 as the expropriation of the expropriators - the expropriation of the owners of the means of production through economic or political violence in the interests of a social class . The constitutional lawyer Lorenz von Stein announced in 1860 the entire state assets in state-owned and state domains one. While he understood state property to mean all unprofitable goods, he referred to state domains as the "totality of state goods intended for primary production and agriculture" (ie agriculture and forestry , mining and fishing ). He called all income from state domains, that is, fiefs and leases, “Gesallen” . The terminology used today goes back to Paul Laband , who in 1891 coined the terms "administrative assets" and "financial assets" as components of state assets. He summarized the administrative assets as the "inventory of the state".

In England the actual state assets belong neither to the Crown nor to the English state, because the latter is not a legal person and therefore not a legal subject. Rather, it belongs to a number of authorities who use it as administrative assets ( English trust for the people ). However, it only belongs to them in their capacity as trustees for and for the benefit of the nation ( English trustees ). Many states made state assets the subject of separate laws or took them into account in existing laws. In Austria , since January 1812, the ABGB has designated things used by the citizens as public goods , which is used to cover the needs of the state ( coin shelf , Austrian post , mines , taxes and customs duties ) is called state assets (Section 287 ABGB). In Switzerland , in May 1895, a “law on state property, communal property and direct taxes” came into force, which, in Section 16, exempted all state property from taxation. In 1932, the legal scholar Edgar Tatarin-Tarnheyden defined state assets as “the totality of material assets which find their legally defined unit in one and the same sovereign subject - here the state - as the person authorized to dispose of these material values”. Until the late 19th century, there was the state owned public domain and owned by kings , emperors or princes standing Kammergut . In February 1951 Israel passed the "State Property Law 5711-1951", which among other things also transferred all land with unclear ownership to the state.

State property ("national property") played a decisive role in the distribution of wealth in communism after 1945 , because the entire Eastern Bloc and other socialist states increased the nationalization of all means of production, thus had the most essential assets and left little private property to the non-state economic subjects ( Private assets such as household effects , small plots). Private property was a residual there. During this time, state goods were widespread in the Eastern Bloc and existed there alongside cooperative companies , for example in the Soviet Union as sovkhozes ( Russian Soviet farms ) alongside the cooperative kolkhozes ( Russian collective farms ) or in the GDR as nationally owned goods (VEG) alongside the cooperative agricultural production cooperatives (LPG) ).

Administrative and financial assets of the former GDR

In the 1980s, for example, around 98% of all productive assets in the GDR were publicly owned , including around 8,000 state- owned enterprises (VEB) and combines . In the GDR, natural resources , mines , bodies of water , power plants , banks , insurance companies , means of transport , traffic routes , aviation , shipping , post and telecommunications as well as all industrial companies were completely transferred to public ownership . About 50% of the properties were in direct public ownership. There were also other areas, often used for agriculture, which were the subject of other socialist property. In this way, state assets advanced in socialist economies as a means of economic power , which the state saw as the origin of political power .

Unification Agreement

The distinction between administrative and financial assets also became important with regard to the distribution of the formerly nationally owned assets of the GDR according to Art. 21 (administrative assets) and Art. 22 (financial assets) of the Unification Treaty (EV). According to Art. 22 Para. 1 EV, the financial assets of the former GDR are to be divided by federal law between the federal government and the states named in Art. 1 EV so that the federal government and the new states each receive half of the total asset value.

Final regulation on financial assets

After years of negotiations, the federal states are assuming a net value of approx. € 3.5 billion, the federal government a deficit of approx. € 4 billion. At the end of 2012, the federal government and the federal states agreed on a “ State Treaty on the final division of financial assets in accordance with Article 22 of the Unification Treaty between the federal government, the new federal states and the State of Berlin (State Treaty on Financial Assets)”. On March 6, 2013, the Federal Government adopted the “Draft of a law on the State Treaty of December 14, 2012 on the final division of financial assets in accordance with Art. 22 of the Unification Treaty between the Federal Government, the New States and Berlin (State Treaty on Financial Assets) and amending it of the Federal Budget Code ”. Art. 1 contains the approval of the State Treaty, while Art. 2 provides for an amendment to the federal budget order that is not related to the content. The State Treaty on Financial Assets came into force on July 4, 2013 according to Art. 9 Clause 2 of the Act.

Further development

In the market economy states, a countermovement emerged in the 1970s with privatizations , which led to a reduction in state assets and thus strengthened the non-state sectors. In Germany, the state privatized VEBA , Volkswagen AG , VIAG and Lufthansa between 1987 and 1989 . The Vienna Convention on State Succession in Assets, Archives and Debt of States (WÜStStV) of April 7, 1983 regulates the transfer of state assets and debts to a subsequent state. The state assets of the lost state are transferred to the receiving state as a whole. State assets are defined in Art. 8 WÜStStV as “ assets , rights and interests” that belong to the state in accordance with domestic law.


The entire state assets are composed of administrative and financial assets. The administrative assets is considered inalienable ( Latin Res specially commercium ) and consists of the direct fulfillment of public duties and public purposes serving systems such as roads , rivers , canals , marine units , islands , administrative buildings , schools or hospitals . The internal administrative assets are used internally by the state organization ( administrative buildings , vehicle fleet , military facilities), while the external administrative assets ( infrastructure , forest , authorities , schools, cemeteries ) are available to the population . The financial asset is made up of corporate assets , capital investments or claims ( currency holdings , gold reserves , SDRs , securities ). The administrative capacity is a commercialization deprived, especially since many of its components is no active market exists and a market value does not exist. The financial assets do not directly serve the purposes of the state, but enable the government to cover part of the costs arising from state tasks through its capital value or its income . The financial assets thus facilitate the fulfillment of state tasks.

With one exception, these state assets are located on the territory of the state as a legal entity. Exceptions are its embassies abroad, which are considered extraterritorial there and belong to the state property of another state.

Legal issues

After the three-element theory includes a state a common, through exerted territorial jurisdiction delimited territory , an associated state people and the exercise of power on this. The state property is thus not a defining element of the three-element theory, but it is implicitly contained in the state territory to which , according to the constitutional lawyer Johann Ludwig Klüber , the land area with its original essential components forest and meadow areas , deserts and other fallow land , rivers , lakes and parts of the sea and islands . The infrastructure such as roads , paths , canals or supply lines was created through construction . However, the state must constitute itself as a legal entity and identify itself as a legal person under public law in order to be able to participate in legal transactions and to be the owner of property rights as an asset holder.

In Germany, state assets are fundamentally bound as part of public authority. Two statutory provisions require the determination of the state's assets. After Art. 114 para. 1 GG has Finance Minister to the Bundestag and the Bundesrat about all government revenues and government spending to put in equity and the assets and liabilities during the next financial year to relieve the federal government. Since according to § 80 Abs. 3 BHO also an asset account has to be drawn up, the Federal Ministry of Finance defined in 2006 as follows: “Assets of the federal government basically include the totality of the property and monetary assets owned by the federal government, including rights and claims with the exception of to understand only cash and budget to be processed stocks ". According to the "Administrative Regulations for Bookkeeping and Accounting for the Assets and Debts of the Federal Government" (VV-ReVuS), all state property (see also: General real estate ), real estate in common use ( federal motorways , federal highways , canals / shipping routes ) is included in the German state property ; including bridges ), federal companies , holdings , receivables , securities and investments are taken into account. According to § 63 BHO, assets may only be acquired or sold insofar as they are necessary or not needed for the fulfillment of the tasks of the federal government in the foreseeable future. Otherwise, the GG deals only fragmentarily with state assets. Thus, Article 134.1 of the Basic Law determines that the realm's assets ( division of the Reich's assets according to the Basic Law ) are basically federal assets and also regulates the division between state and municipal assets (Article 134.2 and 3 of the Basic Law). In Art. 135 GG there are property regulations in the event of a change in the nationality of an area.

The budget only includes state assets to the extent that it is significant for the expected income , the expenses to be paid and the commitment appropriations that are likely to be required ( Section 26 (2) BHO). The state's assets are protected from access by creditors , because foreclosure against the federal government or a state due to a monetary claim requires notification by the creditor and a waiting period of four weeks ( Section 882a (1) ZPO). Objects and items serving the fulfillment of public tasks , the sale of which is contrary to a public interest (such as works of art , archives , libraries ; Section 882a (2) ZPO) enjoy enforcement protection . The protection of debtors also extends to corporations , institutions and foundations under public law ( Section 882a (3) ZPO). The federal government, states and municipalities are incapable of insolvency according to Section 12 (1) No. 1 and 2 InsO , so that no insolvency proceedings are permitted against state assets .

The state assets must be differentiated from the state debts , which are opposed to the assets as an independent category. In economic terms, state assets are always only related to the assets side of an imaginary balance sheet . Constitutionally, on the other hand, the liabilities according to Art. 134 GG are included in the state assets, even if the wording ("the assets of the empire is basically federal assets") does not clearly indicate whether the term "assets" also includes the debts.

Economic aspects

State assets represent material state power , especially in comparison to other states. Structurally, it is considered to be the expression of an elementary property of state power - its sovereignty . The state assets are offset by the state debt . From both variables (and the gross domestic product, which is not considered here ), economic indicators can be derived that reflect the debt sustainability of a state. State assets are unsuitable as an absolute value; only a comparison with the state debt leads to informative value. The net national debt results from subtracting the national debt from the national assets:

Worldwide there are some “heavily indebted countries” (see Greek sovereign debt crisis ), where the national debt is higher than the existing national assets; this is formally overindebted , which can lead to national bankruptcy :

Over-indebtedness occurs when creditors increasingly doubt the ability to service the national debt. This is often caused by an existing high level of debt and a persistent imbalance between government revenues that are too low and government spending that is too high .

The debt ratio is obtained by comparing government debt and government assets:

If this rate is over 100%, it is also overindebtedness. The sale of state assets ( ports , state railways ), for example by way of sale-lease-back or the controversial cross-border leasing, is a good way of reducing national debt . State assets are reduced by these privatizations (if there is no asset swap ) and increased by nationalization or state acquisition of assets (if this is done by borrowing ). However, the accuracy of these key figures fails because internationally there is only information on financial assets as part of state assets, so that the non-commercial part of state assets is not taken into account.

The fact that only the administrative and financial assets of the state institutions are usually listed as state assets is due to the difficulties that arise from the valuation of many common-use assets .


The federal and state governments report on their financial assets annually in the budget and asset accounts . Statistics on public wealth are only partially available. In the accounts of the Federal Statistical Office , the financial assets include cash on hand and deposits , securities , loans in the non-public sector and other receivables . Equity and financial derivatives are not included . Due to European requirements, the financial assets of all holding companies in the state sector have been included in the asset portfolio since 2015 .

It should be noted that the development at the federal and state levels was shaped by the portfolio reduction at the bad banks . Public financial assets (federal, state, municipal / municipal associations and social security including all extra budgets ) in the non-public sector amounted to 555.5 billion euros at the end of 2015 and were thus 3.1% higher than in the previous year. The non-public sector includes credit institutions and private non-banks as well as the other foreign sector. The federal government accounted for 39.7%, the states 24.1%, the social security funds 22.5% and the municipalities 13.7% of the public financial assets. The state assets of the Federal Republic of Germany (including special and trust assets ) amounted to EUR 262.7 billion in 2015, compared to national debts of EUR 1,817.7 billion.

See also


Individual evidence

  1. ^ Otto Depenheuer, Bruno Kahl (ed.): State property: Legitimation and borders . 2017, p. 82
  2. Wilhelm Kosegarten: Historical and systematic overview of the national economy or economics . 1856, p. 60
  3. ^ Friedrich Wilhelm August Murhard: The Hessian constitutional document . Volume 2. 1835, p. 530
  4. ^ Josef Isensee: Handbook of the constitutional law of the Federal Republic of Germany . Volume V, 2007, p. 1266
  5. Jürgen Ellenberger . In: Otto Palandt : BGB commentary . 73rd edition. 2014, trans. v. Section 90, no. 8th
  6. Amalie Weidner: Cultural goods as res extra commercium in international property law . 2001, p. 16 ff.
  7. ^ Ernst Engel (Ed.): France's real estate state property . In: Journal of the Royal Prussian Statistical Bureau , 1876, p. 246 f.
  8. ^ Adam Smith: An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations . Volume 4. 1843, p. 213 f.
  9. Friedrich Christoph Schlosser: Fr. Chr. Schlosser's world history for the German people . Volume 15, 1874, p. 37
  10. Johann Georg Meusel (ed.): Litteratur-Zeitung , July-December 1799, column 1899
  11. ^ Jean Baptiste Say: Treatise on the national economy . Volume 2. 1807, p. 300
  12. ^ Carl von Rotteck: Domains . In: Carl von Rotteck, Carl Welcker (Hrsg.): Staatslexikon . Volume IV. 1837, p. 459 ff.
  13. ^ Protocols of the German Federal Assembly, Volume 16, 1831, p. 94
  14. ^ Karl Marx: The capital . 1867, p. 790 f.
  15. Lorenz von Stein, Textbook of Public Finance: As a basis for lectures and for self-study , 1860, p. 113
  16. Lorenz von Stein: Textbook of Public Finance: As a basis for lectures and for self-study . 1860, p. 133
  17. ^ Paul Laband: The constitutional law of the German Empire . Volume II. 1891, p. 854
  18. ^ Herbert Broom, Edward Alfred Hadley: Commentaries on the Laws of England . vol. I. 1869, p. 352
  19. ^ Edgar Tatarin-Tarnheyden: The disposal of the state property . In: Gerhard Anschütz, Richard Thoma: Handbuch des Deutschen Staatsrechts . Volume II. 1932, p. 419
  20. ^ Josef Isensee: Handbook of the constitutional law of the Federal Republic of Germany . Volume V. 2007, p. 1296
  21. Manfred Lange: Who owns the former public property? - Basic questions of Art. 21 and 22 Unification Ordinance . In: Deutsch-Deutsche Rechtszeitschrift (DtZ), 1991, pp. 329–336
  22. ^ Website of the Federal Ministry of Finance. Accessed April 21, 2013 (PDF)
  23. BT-Drs. 17/12639 Bundestag printed paper 17/12639 of March 6, 2013, draft of a law on the State Treaty of December 14, 2012 on the final division of financial assets in accordance with Article 22 of the Unification Treaty between the Federal Government, the new states and Berlin (Financial Assets State Treaty) and amending the Federal Budget Code
  24. Federal Law Gazette I 2013 of 8 July 2013, p. 2236.
  25. Martin Alexander Ahnefeld: The performance of privatizations on the capital market . 2007, p. 61
  26. UN Doc. A./Conf. 117/14
  27. Uwe Andersen: Concise dictionary of the political system of the Federal Republic of Germany . 2000, p. 556
  28. ^ Josef Isensee, Paul Kirchhof: Handbook of the constitutional law of the Federal Republic of Germany . Volume V, 2007, p. 1268
  29. ^ Paul Laband: The constitutional law of the German Empire . Volume II. 1891, p. 854 f.
  30. Martin Kment: Cross-border administrative action . (= Jus Publicum, Vol. 194), 2010, § 3 B.III, p. 77 ff.
  31. ^ Josef Isensee: State and Constitution . In: Josef Isensee, Paul Kirchhof (ed.): Handbook of the constitutional law of the Federal Republic of Germany . Volume I. 1987, § 13 Rn. 30th
  32. ^ Karl Pohl: Handbook of State and Administrative Law for the Kingdom of Bavaria , 1898, p. 479, FN 25
  33. ^ Johann Ludwig Klüber: Public Law of the German Confederation and the Federal States . 1840, p. 515 ff.
  34. ^ Josef Isensee: Handbook of the constitutional law of the Federal Republic of Germany . Volume V. 2007, p. 1270
  35. BVerfGE 61, 82, 100 ff.
  36. Federal Ministry of Finance, budget account and asset account of the federal government for the financial year 2006 , annual account 2006, p. 1
  37. BVerfG, judgment of November 14, 1962, Az .: 1 BvR 987/58
  38. ^ Otto Depenheuer, Bruno Kahl (ed.): State property: Legitimation and borders . 2017, p. 110
  39. Degenhard Merkle: The concept of wealth and its position in economics . 1968, p. 166
  40. Public financial assets increased by 3.1% in 2015 . DE Statis, press release No. 375 of October 19, 2016
  41. Federal financial statements for the 2015 budget year . BMF, 2015, p. 4