Transaction (economy)

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In economics, transaction is the transfer of economic objects between economic subjects .


Economic objects are property rights to goods and claims . These are transferred between the economic subjects ( private households , companies , the state and public administration ). This transfer process is called a transaction. In economics , it is assumed that a transaction only takes place if both transaction partners expect an advantage or benefit from it. The concept of economic transaction, together with the division into service and financial transactions, is fundamental for the description of the economic process . Service transactions are transactions of economic objects that cause a change in the amount of financial assets (purchase of a consumer or investment good ) or imports / exports between home and abroad. Both transactions increase the seller / exporter's financial wealth and decrease it for the buyer / importer. Financial transactions are transactions in which the amount of financial assets remains unchanged and only its structure changes (e.g. purchase of securities for cash , taking out or lending, paying an invoice, paying off debts). Receivables and liabilities change in the same amount, so that the balance of both sizes - the financial assets - remains unchanged. There are also one-sided economic transactions, the so-called transfer payments , which are not matched by any direct economic consideration . These economic objects are exchanged by economic agents with or without consideration.


There are five types of transactions in total:

  1. Good for good: exchange , real exchange / exchange in kind
  2. Good versus demand : buying / selling goods
  3. Receivables against receivables: Buying / selling receivables ( loan trading , loan repayment , debt rescheduling , forfaiting , etc.)
  4. Good versus transfer: real transfer / real gift
  5. Receivables against transfer: Receivables transfer / granting of receivables (also tax payments , subsidies , pensions , child benefit : state transfer payments )

1./2. and 4th / 5th represent performance transactions that change the amount of the net financial assets of the participants. The transactions summarized under 3 are pure financial transactions. They do not change the amount, but only the structure of the net financial assets of the participants.

In economics, money is not a good, but always a requirement or a liability . The payment as one of the most important forms of transaction is in the position receivable from receivables included: the payee loses a claim against the payor and receives a claim on a bank, while the balance of the payer is shortened (active: - cash, passive: -Verbindlichkeit ). A transaction can take place with or without consideration . A service without consideration is called a gift or transfer free of charge.

These five economic transactions can be transferred to a synoptic table , which shows the completeness of the list:

Economic property good Economic object claim
Well Nature Swap (1) Buying / selling goods (2)
Advancement Buying / selling goods (2) Purchase / sale of receivables (forfaiting / assumption of debt) (3)
no consideration Natural transfer (4) Receivables transfer (5)

The majority of today's transactions consist of trading in goods / services or receivables (economic objects) and fall under the type of transaction (2). This includes above all the business of everyday life. The transfer of claims (5), which also includes forms of development aid, is also important. The transfer in kind (4) hardly plays a role today; it still occurs in agriculture , the food and luxury goods industry , coal mining and transport , where employees receive part of their income as deputate wages in the form of food , coal or free travel . The international compensation and barter trade is also a transfer in kind.

Transactions and transaction costs

Transactions only do not trigger transaction costs if transactions come about with the transaction partners fully informed about a transaction. Since complete knowledge ( degree of information : 100%) is seldom available and there are therefore imperfect markets , transaction costs are usually incurred. With regard to transactions, they are the effort that a transaction partner has to put in to carry out a transaction. This effort can consist of quantifiable costs of obtaining information ( information costs such as telephone charges , subscription to a trade journal ), processing costs ( lawyer fees for drawing up contracts , transport costs , broker fees ) or taxes ( real estate transfer tax , sales tax ). In addition, there are also unquantifiable expenses such as the time required to win a customer or a loss of benefit . The dimension of a transaction influences its transaction costs

  • The factor specificity ( English asset specificity ): it is based on the degree of specialization of operational business relationships , whereby the transaction costs can decrease if they are accompanied by specialization effects.
  • The level of uncertainty under which a transaction takes place can increase transaction costs.
  • The frequency of a transaction with a business partner can result in economies of scale that can lower transaction costs.

If at least one of the influencing factors is present, this can affect the transaction costs.

Transactions and the economic cycle

The importance of the transaction concept for economic analysis lies in the abstraction from the physical exchange process . As early as 1931, John Rogers Commons distinguished between a physical level of exchange and a level of transaction. From the perspective of economic transaction is economic cycle the total of all economic transactions in which business objects merge with or without consideration, by a business entity to another. In the economic cycle with regard to the “foreign” sector, what matters is not the nationality of economic subjects, but the focus of their economic activities. A foreign employee resident in Germany is then considered a resident, analogously to a company resident in Germany, even if it is a subsidiary of a foreign parent company . The transactions of both are therefore taken into account in the domestic economic cycle.

Individual evidence

  1. Werner Ehrlicher (Ed.), Kompendium der Volkswirtschaftslehre , Volume 1, 1975, p. 19
  2. ^ Artur Woll, Wirtschaftslexikon: Jubiläumsausgabe , 2008, p. 485
  3. ^ Artur Woll, Wirtschaftslexikon: Jubiläumsausgabe , 2008, p. 243
  4. ^ Alfred Stobbe, Economics Accounting 8th Edition, 1994, Springer, Berlin 1994, ISBN 978-3-540-57851-2 . P. 15
  5. ^ Alfred Stobbe: Economics 1: Economical accounting. Berlin: Springer 1976, p. 90f. ( online ); Peter Bofinger: Fundamentals of Economics: The Exercise Book. Munich: Pearson 2011, p. 164 ( online )
  6. ^ Alfred Stobbe, Volkswirtschaftslehre I , 1980, p. 13
  7. ^ Alfred Stobbe, Economics Accounting , 1994, p. 15
  8. Klaus Peter Kaas / Marc Fischer, Der Transaktionskostenansatz , in: Das Wirtschaftsstudium, Heft 8/9, 1993, p. 688
  9. Oliver E. Williamson, The Economic Institutions of Capitalism , 1990, pp. 59 ff.
  10. ^ John R. Commons, Institutional Economics , in: American Economic Review, vol. 21 (1931), pp. 648-657, p. 652
  11. Wolfgang Cezanne, Allgemeine Volkswirtschaftslehre , 2005, p. 257