As a result, approaches to the accounting of intangible assets with EULER are “a grateful object for accounting religious wars.” The convergence of the markets and the sometimes restrictive design of the accounting rules require a targeted examination of the regulations for the presentation of intangible assets at national and international level.

Especially for technology-oriented, research-intensive companies, an activation ban on intangible assets or research and development costs means that they are not allowed to present their most valuable production factor on the balance sheet. By contrast, a markedly result-oriented capitalization of research and development costs can lead to a distorted and objectified presentation of the net assets, financial position and results of operations. In the field of intangible goods, software occupies a special position: “The development of computer software products takes on an increasing importance as our economy continues to change from a manufacturing process orientation (tangible outputs) to an information flow society (intangible outputs).”

The industrial sector embodies the discussion about technology, economic growth and education as concisely and comprehensively as the software industry. As a result, the accounting of software at the manufacturer is an urgent topic that has received little attention in German literature so far. In addition, almost all companies now use software for data processing, resulting – in addition to the accounting problems with the manufacturer – the cross-industry and significant question of the accounting of software at the user.

Problem The accounting of software involves a number of special problems, which in the accounting standards according to HGB, US GAAP and IFRS sometimes lead to very different solutions. Moreover, many accounting issues are left to the interpretation of the literature, case law and the accounting officer. In particular, the central questions include: Is the development process of software describable with the general understanding of research and development, or is there a manufacturing process that requires special accounting regulations? The growing importance of the Internet raises the question of whether pages on the World Wide Web for accounting purposes qualify as software and should be treated equivalently? Can software be treated as a tangible item due to its partial interconnection with its hardware? Software products may be intended for own or third-party use and may be purchased as original or derivative.

They can be developed as contract manufacturing or anonymous marketing. Does this multitude of variants have to find their equivalent in special individual regulations? Software is not subject to any physical, but only economic wear. How should the dynamic technological change in software development be considered when evaluating software? The delivery of software is often a hybrid of licensing, installation, consulting, maintenance and later updates. Are there any particular problems in determining the timing of revenue recognition? The aim of the work is to highlight the special features of accounting for software according to HGB, US-GAAP and IFRS.

The focus is on the manufacturer’s perspective on the manufacturer of software as well as on the user’s perspective. For the manufacturers of software, the capitalization of production costs of the intangible source program is of central importance; There are also questions of revenue recognition. The consideration of the user perspective, on the other hand, detaches itself from the software industry anddeals with the problem, which is relevant for almost every company, of the balance sheet mapping of the software used in the company, in particular of ERP software. The objective of external accounting is to provide the addressees with a reliable information base that allows them to assess the evelopment, profitability, future prospects and soundness of the company concerned. In addition, one of the goals of the financial statements may be to provide measures for the taxation and distribution of the business.


Whether this is guaranteed with regard to the treatment of software in financial statements according to HGB, US-GAAP or IFRS is examined here. The analysis focuses on the extent to which the respective accounting standards make it possible to assess the net assets, financial position and results of operations and to assess future economic development. It also examines whether the information finally reported is sufficiently objectified and ensures uniform application of the standards.