E-Bilanz: What is the e-balance sheet in Germany?

From 2013, anyone required to prepare a balance sheet must submit it electronically to the tax authorities and the Federal Gazette. This article tells you what you need to know about the e-balance sheet, how to submit it and what you need to include.


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What is an E-Bilanz (e-balance sheet)?

An E-Bilanz (e-balance sheet) is an electronic method of filing balance sheets. The content and procedure are identical to the paper form. Depending on the company’s size category, all mandatory information must be included. The e-balance sheet must be sent to the tax office and the Bundesanzeiger (federal gazette) for publication (as was previously the case with the paper balance sheet).

How is E-Bilanz (e-balance sheet) filed?

The data can be submitted using accounting software or online at bundesanzeiger.de or ebilanz-online.de. Alternatively, the data can be transferred by a tax adviser. The Finanzamt (tax authorities) will confirm the receipt of an electronic balance sheet by sending you the ELSTER-TransferID (identification number). This ID serves as proof of successful filing with the tax authorities.

The electronic transmission of the balance sheet is intended to reduce the workload of the tax authorities for companies and also for tax auditors. The tax office can use the data available in the system to more systematically select the companies to be audited.

Who has to submit an E-Bilanz (e-balance) sheet?

Since 2013, all enterprises that are required to prepare a balance sheet must submit their balance sheet to the tax office electronically as an E-Bilanz (e-balance sheet):

  • Kaufleute (merchants/registered traders) unless they’re exempt because they generate sales under the statutory thresholds.
  • Gewerbetreibende (commercial traders), farmers and foresters who are required to keep accounts under the AO (fiscal code) or who do so voluntarily.
  • Freiberufler (liberal professionals) who do double-entry accounting voluntarily.


Various events trigger the balance sheet obligation:

  • Unternehmensgründung (Eröffnungsbilanz)
    Company formation (opening balance sheet)
  • Wechsel der Gewinnermittlungsart (Eröffnungsbilanz)
    Change in the method of determining profits (opening balance sheet)
  • Geschäftsaufgabe/-veräußerung (Aufgabebilanz)
    Closure/sale of business (closing balance sheet)
  • Jahresabschluss (Schlussbilanz)
    Annual accounts (closing balance sheet)

The obligation to file an e-balance sheet does not apply to businesses that only have to prepare an EÜR (income surplus statement). However, they are still obliged to file an electronic tax return and therefore cannot completely avoid the electronic management of their accounts.

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What does the E-Bilanz (e-balance sheet) look like?

Generally, the E-Bilanz (e-balance sheet) structure does not differ from the paper balance sheet. However, companies must adapt their balance sheet to the so-called Taxonomie (taxonomy) of the e-balance sheet, which is specific to each industry.


What are E-Bilanz (e-balance sheet) taxonomies?

Taxonomy, in the context of the e-balance sheet, relates to the organisation of financial data into specific categories or classes (elements). These categories help to structure information like a filing system. For e-balance sheets, this means organising the content of a company’s financial statements and essential information into industry-specific categories.

A standard framework called the core taxonomy applies to all industries, with some exceptions. Industry-specific taxonomies build on this core framework to include details relevant to each sector.

Before creating an e-balance sheet, business owners choose the industry taxonomy that best suits their business. This will ensure that they provide a complete financial report with all the necessary data required by the tax authorities. In this case, tax authorities are the Finanzamt (tax office) and the Bundesanzeiger (federal gazette)

The following industry taxonomies are available:

  • Krankenhäuser (KHBV)
  • Land- oder Forstwirtschaft (BMELV-Musterabschluss)
    Agriculture or forestry
  • Pflegedienstleister (PBV)
    Care service provider
  • Wohnungswirtschaft (JAbschlWUV)
    Housing industry
  • Verkehrsunternehmen (JAbschlVUV)
    Transport company
  • Kommunale Eigenbetriebe (EBV)
    Municipal enterprises

The industry-specific taxonomies are also available for download at esteuer.de.

E-balance sheet modules

The digital balance sheet sends various modules to the tax office, such as the Stammdatenmodul (master data module) and the Jahresabschlussmodul (annual financial statement module), which must be sent by all companies required to submit a balance sheet.

The Bundesfinanzministerium (federal ministry of finance) expands the information that must be submitted every year, so the mandatory fields that must be completed also change or expand every year. The esteuer.de website provides an overview of the taxonomies and mandatory fields.

What are the mandatory components of the E-Bilanz (e-balance sheet)?

  • Handels-/steuerrechtliche Bilanz (inklusive Überleitungsrechnung oder Steuerbilanz)
    Commercial/tax balance sheet (including reconciliation or tax balance sheet)
  • Gewinn- und Verlustrechnung (GuV) nach HGB
    Profit and loss account (P&L) per HGB (commercial code)
  • Ergebnisverwendungsrechnung
    Profit appropriation statement
  • Kapitalkontenentwicklung
    Capital account development (only for commercial partnerships and joint enterprises)
  • Steuerliche Gewinnermittlung
    Determination of taxable profit (only for sole proprietorships and associations)


How to avoid follow-up questions from the tax authorities

Business owners can decide whether to voluntarily fill non-mandatory fields and provide the tax authorities with more detailed information. Although this often involves considerable extra work, it may make sense for some entrepreneurs to provide more information than required. In this way, queries from the tax authorities can be avoided in advance. (You can also post this voluntary data to the tax office).

The following report components are often sent voluntarily to avoid later queries:

  • Anlagespiegel
    Schedule of fixed assets
  • Kostennachweise
    Cost statements
  • Anhang
  • Gesellschafterbeschlüsse
    Shareholder resolutions
  • Lagebericht
    Management report
  • Eigenkapitalspiegel
    Statement of changes in equity
  • Haftungsverhältnisse
    Contingent liabilities
  • Kapitalflussrechnung
    Cash flow statement


Can you legally get out of creating an E-Bilanz?

Suppose it is economically impossible for you to prepare an e-balance sheet, and it is unreasonable for you personally to comply with the legal requirements. In that case, you can apply for a hardship exemption. The hardship scheme protects founders and entrepreneurs who struggle to comply with the tax office’s annual accounts requirements. The hardship scheme was mainly used in 2013 during the transition from paper to electronic annual accounts and was used primarily in the following cases:

  • Founders do not have the appropriate financial reserves to convert (or have converted) the balance sheet.
  • Entrepreneurs want to give up their business shortly
  • Companies have no staff or appropriate financial resources
  • Sole traders who lack technical expertise and time

Entrepreneurs whose accounts were prepared by a tax adviser before applying cannot benefit from the hardship scheme.

In the meantime, hardship requests from the self-employed are being granted less frequently, as the switch to e-balance sheets was made several years ago to give people more time to go digital.

However, companies can outsource the preparation and submission of the Jahresabschluss (annual accounts) to a tax adviser. Getting an accountant to take care of your annual accounts is generally recommended for all limited companies and partnerships.

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