Economic asset (tax theory)

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In taxation , the legal term economic asset describes the valuation objects that form the business assets . The term is not defined within the tax laws . According to the jurisprudence, it includes every good that can be independently assessed according to the prevailing view of the economy, the details of which are of importance and are tangible when sold .

Use of terms

To determine the profit by comparing business assets , the business assets must be determined at the end of the current financial year and compared with the business assets at the end of the previous financial year. Only assets that can be accounted for can be included in the business assets .

The distinction between (immediately deductible) maintenance expenses and production costs that must be capitalized also depends on the definition of the term asset . The principle of the economic approach means that a building - depending on the context of use - can break down into up to four different economic goods.

In tax law, various distinguishing features have emerged for economic goods. A distinction is made between assets of depreciable or non-depreciable fixed or current assets , real estate and movables, and tangible or immaterial assets . Last but not least, there are special features with regard to low-value assets . Valuation, depreciation and the granting of investment grants are based on these delimitations .

Definition of terms

Although the tax laws often use the term economic good (since 1934 it has been in the Income Tax Act ), tax law has no legal definition. The case law of the Federal Fiscal Court has identified the following criteria:

  • Economic goods are all legal objects as well as all pecuniary advantages including actual conditions and specific possibilities
  • Recoverability: In order to obtain the asset, costs must have been incurred that will provide benefits for several financial years
  • Autonomy: According to the general public, the economic asset must be perceived as an independent individual and be of importance in this capacity
  • Marketability: the asset must be realizable through sale; In contrast to a widespread opinion in commercial law, tax law does not require individual sale, but considers the possibility of a transfer in the context of a company sale to be sufficient.


The valuation of the asset is intended for income taxes in accordance with the recognition and measurement requirements of the tax balance sheet , for property taxes , however, the Valuation Act.

A distinction is made between active and passive assets in the tax balance sheet . Expenditures that lead to the creation of an active asset represent either an asset swap or a balance sheet extension and are not recognized in profit or loss at this point in time.

Differentiation from commercial law

In contrast to commercial law , where the terms asset and debt predominate, tax law speaks of positive or negative assets. While the terms negative asset and debt largely correspond, certain differences can be found between assets and positive assets. These are shown when the tax jurisprudence in its interpretation of the asset and thus the commercial law concept of the asset comes to different results than the commercial law literature. This generally only accepts an asset if it can not only be valued independently, but also independently marketable. Because commercial law puts the condition that it is an individually salable good in the foreground, the concept of positive economic good is more extensive than that of property, since tax law does not set this condition. A (obsolete) Example according to the Commercial Code aF before the amendments introduced by the BilMoG was the derivative (Purchased) business or goodwill which is basically not from the perspective of commercial law activatable represented asset. Under the derogation of § 255 para. 4 HGB aF the merchant in was trade a capitalization option granted, while in the tax balance sheet in accordance with § 5 para. 2 Income Tax Act a capitalization requirement was (and is). Today, there is also an obligation to capitalize in the commercial balance sheet according to Section 246 (1) sentence 4 of the German Commercial Code.

Individual evidence

  1. BFH, judgment of March 2, 1970, Az. GrS 1/69, full text .
  2. BFH, judgment April 8, 1992, Az. XI R 34/88, full text