Can a checked balance sheet be revised

Principles of proper bookkeeping - GoB

The starting point in commercial law is Section 238 (1) HGB:

Every businessman is obliged to keep books and in these his commercial transactions and the situation of his property according to the Principles of proper accounting to make visible. The bookkeeping must be such that it can give an expert third party an overview of the business transactions and the situation of the company within a reasonable period of time. The business transactions must be traceable in their development and processing.

Section 140 AO adopts these provisions in tax law:

Anyone who has to keep books and records according to laws other than tax laws that are important for taxation must also fulfill the obligations that are incumbent on him under the other laws for taxation.

The principles of proper bookkeeping (GoB) are a legal term that has grown and maintained over centuries. This term is used several times by the legislator in both the HGB and the AO. Even so, it is nowhere explicitly defined. The GoB thus represent an indefinite legal term. With this regulation, rapid adaptation to changing environmental conditions can be achieved.

A division into two groups is recommended:

  1. Principles of proper accounting
    • Principle of clarity (clarity and verifiability)
      An expert third party must be able to find his way around the bookkeeping in a reasonable time and be able to get an overview of the business transactions and the financial position of the company (§ 238 HGB).
      Changes must be recognizable (§ 239 HGB).
      A living language must be used (§ 239 HGB).
      The annual financial statements must be prepared in German and in euros (Section 244 of the German Commercial Code).
      The prescribed retention periods must be observed (Section 239 HGB).
    • Principle of completeness
      All necessary records must be made complete, correct, timely and orderly (§ 239 HGB).
      Chronological and real-time booking.
    • Principle of correctness
      Record of all business transactions that are factually and computationally correct (Section 239 of the German Commercial Code).
    • Receipt principle
      No booking without receipt! Every business transaction must be based on a document.
      For business transactions for which no external documents are available, own documents must be created.
      Evidence must be factually and mathematically correct.
      The business transactions must be traceable in their creation and processing (§ 238 HGB).
      The filing of the receipts must be able to be found quickly and enable the tracing of business transactions (from posting to receipt, from receipt to posting). Storage (§ 257 HGB)
    • Principle of regularity
      Chronological and timely booking (§ 239 HGB).
    • Principle of security
      Organizational measures must be taken to secure all records and documents. In addition, security must be ensured against any loss. Even the loss of documents that are required to be retained through no fault of one's own renders the bookkeeping less correct.
  2. Principles of proper accounting
    • Principle of balance sheet truth
      Completeness of the annual financial statements according to § 246 HGB
      The valid regulations are to be applied for the assessment.
      A true and fair view of the company's asset, financial and earnings position must be conveyed.
    • Principle of balance sheet clarity
      The annual financial statements must be clear and concise (§ 243 HGB)
      Offsetting prohibition according to § 246 HGB (items on the assets side may not be offset against items on the liabilities side, expenses not with income, real estate rights not with encumbrances.)
    • Balance sheet continuity principle
      Correspondence between the opening balance sheet of a year and the closing balance sheet of the previous year (balance sheet identity according to § 252 HGB)
      Retention of the structure and item designation (balance sheet and income statement).
      Valuation continuity according to § 252 HGB (The valuation methods applied to the previous annual financial statements should be retained.)
    • Principle of prudence and protection of creditors
      Principle of caution according to § 252 HGB
      From a possible range of valuations, the lower value is to be applied on the assets side and the higher value on the liabilities side.
      Unrealized profits are not to be reported.
      Unrealized losses are to be reported.
    • Principle of determining the success of the accrual basis (principles of demarcation)
      According to Section 252 of the German Commercial Code (HGB), expenses and income for the financial year are to be taken into account in the annual financial statements regardless of the time of the corresponding payments.
      The necessary time delimitation of these items leads to prepaid expenses and deferred income or other receivables or other liabilities in the balance sheet.

GoBD - principles for the proper management and storage of books, records and documents in electronic form as well as for data access

Predecessor of the GoBDGoBD
  • The principles of proper IT-based accounting systems (GoBS) are rules for accounting by means of EDP established by the German tax authorities.
  • The principles for data access and the verifiability of digital documents (GDPdU) contain rules for the storage of digital documents and for the duty of taxpayers to cooperate in tax audits.
With the BMF letter of November 14, 2014 (IV A 4 - S 0316/13/10003; GoBD), the BMF letters of November 7, 1995 (IV A 8 - S 0316 - 52/95; GoBS) and of 16 July 2001 (IV D 2 - S 0316 - 136/01; GDPdU) expired with effect from January 1, 2015.
The Federal Ministry of Finance has published the principles for the proper management and storage of books, records and documents in electronic form and for data access (GoBD). With the GoBD, the financial administration is responding to the call for a modernization of the GoBS and merging of GoBS and GDPdU.
The BMF letter applies to assessment periods beginning after December 31, 2014. From the time of their validity, the GoBD will replace the previously applicable GoBS and the GDPdU.
In a letter dated July 11, 2019, the Federal Ministry of Finance presented a new version of the GoBD. It should take the place of the BMF letter of November 14, 2014 (BStBl I p. 1450). The Federal Ministry of Finance has withdrawn the revised GoBD due to the need for further coordination. The new regulations are to be revised again.
On November 28, 2019, the Federal Ministry of Finance published the changed principles for the proper management and storage of books, records and documents in electronic form as well as for data access (GoBD). The GoBD will be revised with the BMF letter. It replaces the BMF letter of November 14, 2014.

The correctness of electronic books and other necessary electronic records is to be assessed according to the same principles as the correctness of manually created books or records.
General requirements GoBD:

  1. Principle of traceability and verifiability (Section 145 (1) AO, Section 238 (1) sentence 2 and sentence 3 HGB)
  2. Principles of Truth, Clarity, and Continuous Record
    • Completeness (Section 146 (1) AO, Section 239 (2) HGB)
    • Correctness (Section 146 (1) AO, Section 239 (2) HGB)
    • Timely bookings and records (Section 146 (1) AO, Section 239 (2) HGB)
    • Order (Section 146 (1) AO, Section 239 (2) HGB)
    • Immutability (Section 146 (4) AO, Section 239 (3) HGB)

The receipt principle is highlighted. Extract from the BMF letter of November 14, 2014 (GoBD):

Every business transaction must be documented in the original or as a copy of the original. If there is no external receipt, an own receipt must be created. The purpose of the receipts is to provide reliable and clear evidence of the connection between the processes in reality on the one hand and the recorded or booked content in books or other necessary records and their authorization on the other (receipt function). The designation as "receipt" is irrelevant.
The document function is the basic requirement for the evidential value of the bookkeeping and other necessary records. It also applies when using a data processing system.

The GoBD require an internal control system (ICS).
The specific design of the control system depends on the complexity and diversification of the business activity and the organizational structure as well as the IT system used.

The taxpayer must secure his IT system against loss (e.g. undetectability, destruction, destruction and theft) and protect it against unauthorized entries and changes (e.g. through access controls).

Procedural documentation - Extract from the BMF letter of November 14, 2014 (GoBD):

Since the compliance with the electronic books and other necessary records also relates to the related procedures and areas of the IT system (see under 3.), a clearly structured procedural documentation must be available for each IT system, from the content , Structure, process and results of the IT process are completely and conclusively evident. The scope of the documentation required in individual cases is determined by what is necessary to understand the IT process, the books and records as well as the stored documents. The process documentation must be understandable and therefore verifiable for an expert third party within a reasonable time. The specific design of the process documentation depends on the complexity and diversification of the business activity and the organizational structure as well as the IT system used.

The GoBD stipulates that, as part of an external audit, at the request of the tax authorities - in addition to the data that must be recorded and stored - all structural information necessary for the evaluation of the data is also provided by the audited company in a form that can be evaluated by machine. However, the requested structural information is often not known, especially to small and medium-sized companies. Since data media transfer can cause considerable problems for the audited company, additional information on data media transfer is provided as an aid.

Sample procedural documentation for replacement scanning (Version: 2.0; Status: November 29, 2019) - Developed jointly by the Federal Chamber of Tax Consultants (BStBK) and the German Association of Tax Consultants (DStV)

On the initiative of and in close cooperation with numerous chambers of commerce and industry associations, the AWV (Working Group for Economic Administration) has developed a sample procedural documentation that companies and their tax advisors can use as a guide.

On the initiative of and in close cooperation with numerous chambers of commerce and industry associations, the AWV has developed a guideline in its working group "Interpretation of the GoB for the Use of New Organizational Technologies", which companies and their tax advisors can use as a guide.


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