Swap group

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In a swap group or swap ring (also swap circle , time swap exchange, neighborhood help association, local exchange trading system - LETS, talent market, swap network) primarily services , occasionally goods, are exchanged between the participants without the use of legal tender .


First medium of exchange in the modern age

In addition to some attempts that go back as far as the 19th, sometimes as far as the 17th century, Silvio Gesell's “The Natural Economic Order” (1911) should be mentioned, with his free money theory. Some experiments in the wake of the global economic crisis and inflation then related to this free money theory. Hans Timm and Helmut Rödinger founded the Wära in Erfurt in the late 1920s . Further Wära experiments followed in Schwanenkirchen , and the municipality of Wörgl , Tyrol, decided in 1931 to introduce a so-called emergency money ( Wörgler money experiment ).

After the communities in which free money or emergency money was traded flourished economically within a very short period of time, the final end came very quickly: in 1931 in Germany through the Brüning emergency money ordinances and in 1933 through the Austrian central bank, which obtained a court order prohibiting emergency money.

In 1931 an attempt was made to counter the situation by establishing so-called compensation funds; in contrast to Wära and emergency money, cashless accounts were settled here. But in the end they too were banned.

LETS: Local Exchange Trading System

Vancouver Island, Canada, 1983: When unemployment soared after the air force and industry emigrated, bartering flourished. Michael Linton can be seen as the founder of modern exchange systems for the invention of the "Green Dollar" and the introduction of an exchange center that administered the accounts of the members as well as collected and published the offers and requests .

According to Michael Linton, the following 7 criteria must be met in order for a network to be called LETS:

  • It's a non-profit system.
  • Cash is neither deposited nor withdrawn.
  • Everyone starts their account with a zero balance .
  • There is no cost or income from interest .
  • There is no need to buy or sell anything.
  • The value of the local accounting unit is linked to the national currency (not mandatory).
  • The account balances and sales volume are disclosed within all participants.

Not all seven points are seen the same by all LETS networks today. Some initially give a credit as an incentive - when leaving the account must show this credit again. And it is precisely the pegging to the national currency in terms of value that is often rejected.

Evaluation of the work

  • Time exchange: Every activity is regarded as equivalent and therefore the accounting unit represents a reference to the time instead of the national currency. One hour of baby-sitting is therefore valued in the same way as one hour of programming. "An hour is an hour, is an hour, is an hour ..."
  • Performance exchange: more is credited for "higher" qualified jobs than for "simple" ones. However, the range is not as large as usual. It may be that a maximum range of e.g. B. 2: 1 is set.
  • Free negotiation: The exchange partners freely negotiate the value of the item or activity to be exchanged, without any specifications from the exchange ring.

Most common is a practice that is essentially the same as the time exchange. However, it is also common to negotiate relatively freely beyond this, in particular to accommodate individual swap partners who are more likely to represent the performance principle. Very strict requirements in terms of overregulation are generally extremely unpopular. Performance exchanges have so far had a greater chance of attracting more commercial participants.

Exchange rings and alternative economics

According to the proponents of barter rings, the self-organized form of trading in barter rings can often better meet the needs of the participants than the usual monetary economic system. Both proponents and critics of exchange rings point out that important areas of life such as living and gainful employment are practically not covered by exchange rings and the goals of alternative economic activity can only be achieved within an overall economic and social concept. A topic of discussion in this context is to what extent exchange currencies have advantages over ordinary money , for example due to the fact that they are free of interest and are localized .

Only the time spent by the participants is fundamental for billing in exchange rings with time currency. Exchange ring advocates see the equal evaluation of all activities as an advantage over the usual monetary economy. Critics claim that in time exchange circles the properties of a market structure of supply and demand are largely reproduced, so that there is not necessarily an equality of the participants. It is also criticized that most barter rings would organize an equivalence exchange , which, for example, does not do justice to those in need and does not represent a fundamental alternative to the capitalist economic system (see also criticism of capitalism ).


Customary procedures in Germany

Usually, exchange groups create a directory sorted by category with all offers and requests from members, which is regularly updated. The parties involved agree when, where and in what way an activity is offered. In the most common organizational form, services and considerations are offset in their own currencies. A fictitious account is kept for each member . If the member makes use of a service, the account balance is reduced; if a service is provided, it increases. Negative account balances are usually allowed. The central office of the exchange bank is the central clearing point for all debits and credits. This is often replaced by the independent management of so-called exchange booklets in which the activities are recorded. The complementary currency works completely interest-free and should not be confused with the work of a central bank. The currencies of the exchange circles are not simply a reflection of official national currencies, in that properties such as inflation , debt and deflation are regulated solely by administrative decisions. In a minority of these swap groups, a negative interest rate or a fee on credit is aimed at stimulating swapping (see circulation protection ).

Many exchange circles use currencies in which services rendered are booked in units of the time spent. This is primarily used to prevent abuse and less for accounting purposes . Some exchange rings make it up to the parties involved in an exchange whether and according to which standard an offsetting in the exchange currency takes place; however, sales activities or the offering of services against payment of money are rejected. In connection with the discussion about a free economy , user communities have been propagated for some time . In some practice models, these are organized similarly to the volunteer agencies that have been known for a long time. Together with forms of organized neighborhood help, they form a group of exchange groups in which there is no offsetting and no booking of services and considerations in an exchange currency.

Most of the exchange groups are locally bound. In addition to services such as “tutoring” or “babysitting”, goods (such as used children's clothing) are occasionally exchanged for the conversion unit. In rural barter rings, the exchange of goods can become more important. Only a few exchange groups limit the exchange exclusively to services.

legal form

  • Interest group : An IG often exists before the official establishment of a barter group; it is often continued with smaller barter groups or with barter groups that deliberately refrain from official accounting.
  • society
    • Non-registered association : This form of association can fulfill the necessary purpose with minimal effort, since it only needs two founding members but no written statutes. (It represents the original form of an association.) The unregistered association is also called an "association with no legal capacity", but according to current case law it is at least (partially) legally competent .
    • Registered association : Exchange rings, which, on the basis of a statute (the minimum number of 7 members for founding an association will always be fulfilled in the case of exchange rings) and the usual organs such as a board of directors, attach importance to being able to act externally as a legal person, can be entered in the register of associations . It is also called a "legal association".

Tax and association law aspects

Exchange ring as a tax-privileged corporation

Exchange rings in the form of associations cannot be classified as tax-privileged corporations i. S. d. § 51 ff. Tax Code are recognized because the mutual support - regardless of age or illness - primarily promotes the members' own economic interests and thus violates the principle of selflessness ( § 55 Paragraph 1 AO).

If the association only manages time accounts for its members and provides services, it also does not meet the requirement of immediacy ( Section 57 (1) sentence 1 AO).

If, on the other hand, the purpose of the association, according to the statutes and actual management, is limited to the promotion of youth and elderly care as well as the promotion of charitable purposes, it can be recognized as a tax-privileged corporation. In these cases, selflessness can i. S. d. Section 55, Paragraph 1, Clause 1 of the AO shall be retained without prejudice to the remuneration for the active members, as this provision does not require the association and its members to forego reasonable material benefits for services rendered within the scope of the statutory purposes. It is sufficient if one's willingness to sacrifice is not pushed into the background in favor of selfish interests. In order to meet the requirements of immediacy ( § 57 Paragraph 1 AO), the active members must perform their services as auxiliary persons of the association i. S. d. Exercise § 57 para. 1 sentence 2 AO.

Liability - compulsory insurance

Legal aspects of the barter ring members, such as product liability, compulsory insurance and tax, arise on the basis of friendship and neighborly help or from the legal situation of barter .

Sales tax liability

For entrepreneurs, the exchange represents a legal transaction that is relevant to sales tax and must be recorded in accordance with commercial and tax law principles (gross principle, individual valuation, completeness).

Cross-regional swapping

Swap rings can also swap nationally through clearing offices. There are two well-known clearing houses in Germany. The Ressourcentauschring (RTR) (the administration of the RTR ran from 2014 to 2018 via the online administration platform "Exchange without money") and the clearing house for exchange rings (VeSTa). (Website ended at the end of 2012)

Exchange rings are registered as members in such clearing houses and thus enable their members to take advantage of exchange activities that cannot be found or are not offered in their own exchange ring.

In addition, the 3-country clearing from zart has been in place since 2008. This means that connected exchange groups from Germany, Austria and Switzerland can exchange information with one another. The Cyclos software serves as the basis for this.

The Community Exchange System has also enabled local and national swaps since 2003 (since 2010 also in German).

The AcrossLETS online platform has also been available since 2010. Like RTR or VeSTa, this is used to bill exchange services, but uses its own billing unit, which also enables individual members of exchange groups or people who are not connected to a local exchange ring to be included in cross-regional exchanges.

The supraregional exchange activities are ideal for activities (such as proofreading, translations, etc.) that do not require a spatial reference. They can also be used for overnight stays or relocations of exchange ring members.

Management and accounting programs

Although no special software is necessary for the administration of member master data and advertisements as well as for the settlement of the respective exchange currency between the members of an exchange group, it makes the administrative tasks of an exchange group easier and provides a better overview.

In addition to standard accounting programs, there are programs specially developed or adapted for exchange groups. In Germany the following are mainly used:


  • Exchange frenzy - program developed in 1997


  • Cyclos - an open source banking software that can be adapted for exchange rings (supra-regional use via the 3-country clearing from zart )
  • Ebisu - An online management software for exchange rings, which is hosted decentrally (i.e. on a server managed by the respective exchange ring).
  • LETS software - an English-language content management system that provides tools for transactions and communication to a trading group, such as B. creating articles, organizing events, sharing comments and conducting auctions.
  • Obelio eLETS Service - Nationwide use via the AcrossLETS integrated there
  • Exchange network Elbe Valley - system previously used regionally
  • Exchange without money - formerly cross-exchange online platform for exchange advertisements, also served for member administration, accounting and as a website with an internal area and forum (website was discontinued at the end of April 2018)
  • Tauschring Online - A web-based member administration and accounting software with an advertising marketplace; originally proprietary, there is now at least one further developed free version that is used by the Cologne TalentSkulptur .


  • Günter Hoffmann: Swap jam for a tax return. Without any money. The practice of exchange rings and talent exchanges . Piper Verlag , Munich / Zurich 1998, ISBN 3-492-22603-5 .
  • Niklas Pieper: The legal structure of cashless clearing systems with special consideration of barter clubs and LET systems . Weißensee-Verl., Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-934479-70-7 (Zugl .: Köln, Univ., Diss., 2002).
  • Eva-Maria Hubert: Barter rings and market economy: an economic analysis of local complementary economies . Duncker & Humblot , Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-428-11501-5 (Zugl .: Hohenheim, Univ., Diss., 2003).
  • Norbert Kuhn: Exchange rings. Possibilities and limits of a "moneyless" economy . Inst. For cooperatives, Marburg 2002, ISBN 3-926553-29-4 .
  • Claus Offe, Rolf G. Heinze: Organized self-work. The model of cooperation ring . Campus-Verlag , Frankfurt / New York 1990, ISBN 3-593-34121-2 .
  • Heidemarie Schwermer : The Star Taler Experiment. My life without money . Riemann, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-570-50016-0 .

See also

Web links

Commons : Exchange circle  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. “Creating” and “collecting” capital. The exchange rings, the teaching of Silvio Gesell and anti-Semitism, by Peter Bierl , Context XXI, 2, Vienna April 2001 ISSN  1028-2319
  2. BGH, ruling v. July 2, 2007, Az. II ZR 111/05.
  3. http://www.urs-beratung.de/Download_PDF/Tausch.pdf
  4. http://www.ruben-schnelle.de/tauschrausch
  5. Archived copy ( memento of the original from December 26, 2009) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / project.cyclos.org
  6. http://tauschwiki.de/wiki/Benutzer:Tatsuhiro/Ebisu
  7. http://lets-software.github.io/lets/pages/download.html
  8. http://obelio.com
  9. http://www.acrosslets.org
  10. http://www.tauschnetz-elbtal.de/infos/tauschring-gruendung/
  11. http://www.tauschen-ohne-geld.de