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Chart of accounts SKR 03 and SKR 04 | What are the differences?

Chart of accounts SKR 03 and SKR 04 | What are the differences?

Table of contents

Chart of accounts - what is it actually?

A chart of accounts is a structured plan that includes all the accounts and accounting principles of a company or institution.

The chart of accounts forms the basic framework of accounting, so to speak, and forms the basis for the annual financial statements and other business analyses.

Companies can customise the chart of accounts and adapt it to their specific needs and industry.

It is also based on the respective legal form of the company and the applicable tax regulations.

This is why there are various charts of accounts in Germany, such as SKR 03 or SKR 04 for small and medium-sized companies.

A proper chart of accounts should be clear and easy to use so that bookkeeping runs as smoothly as possible.

The DATEV chart of accounts for companies in accounting

Datev - what is that?

DATEV eG is the third-largest provider of business software in Germany (IDC ranking 2020) and one of the largest European IT service providers. Founded in 1966, the cooperative of the tax consulting profession achieved a turnover of 1.31 billion euros in the 2022 financial year.

The company provides software for tax consultants, certified accountants and auditors and their clients.

Datev Standard Chart of Accounts (SKR)

Charts of accounts

Due to the company's market-leading position in the field of accounting software and as a representative of the above-mentioned professional groups, the cooperative has set itself the task of standardising and continuously developing charts of accounts.

Datev charts of accounts serve companies as templates and guidance for designing a chart of accounts. They contain essential accounts that may be relevant for companies, social organisations or medical practices for accounting purposes. Company-specific charts of accounts can be created on the basis of the chart of accounts by deleting superfluous accounting accounts or adding missing ones.

The DATEV standard chart of accounts serves as a reliable and proven aid for companies. They are always adapted to legal changes.

In order to provide companies with charts of accounts that correspond to the specifics of their industry, solutions tailored to economic sectors and areas of activity are offered in addition to general SCRs.

What are the advantages of a chart of accounts?

A chart of accounts offers many advantages for companies.

Thanks to the structured presentation of all accounts and account groups, all financial accounting transactions are clear and standardised constructed.

This makes bookkeeping quicker and easier.

Standardised charts of accounts also facilitate the comparability of financial data and the preparation of balance sheets and annual financial statements. They also serve as a basis for the preparation of tax returns and ensure that all relevant information is recorded.

A company can also use a chart of accounts to establish internal control mechanisms, for example to prevent misuse and fraud.

It also facilitates collaboration with tax advisors and auditors, as they have access to a standardised basis. All in all, there are numerous advantages for companies in terms of transparency, comparability, control and collaboration.

Examples of DATEV standard chart of accounts

  • SKR 03 (for companies subject to disclosure requirements - trade and industry)
  • SKR 04 (for companies subject to disclosure requirements - industry)
  • SKR 14 (for agricultural and forestry businesses)
  • SKR 30 (retail chart of accounts)
  • SKR 45 (Homes and social institutions)
  • SKR 49 (association chart of accounts)
  • SKR 51 (motor vehicle trade)
  • SKR 70 (joint chart of accounts for Austria and Germany e.g. hotel and catering)
  • SKR 80 (dentists)
  • SKR 81 (Doctors)
  • SKR 99 (so-called free SKR for self-processing)
  • Austrian standardised chart of accounts

Which chart of accounts should I choose for my company?

The choice of chart of accounts for a company is an important decision that must be made carefully. There are usually several to choose from, which differ in terms of scope and level of detail.

Before deciding on one, you should first consider the company's business activities and size.

Some are more suitable for small companies, while others are better suited to larger organisations. The sector in which the company operates also plays a major role.

As a rule, you are already predetermined via the obligation with parent and other companies or through cooperation with the tax consultant.


"What am I supposed to do with hundreds of accounts?" - The chart of accounts

Don't worry - each chart of accounts can theoretically contain from 0001-9999 ten thousand accounts. As a rule, however, only a few hundred of the relevant accounting accounts are used in companies.

By subdividing into more and more finely structured sub-accounts, for example, different cost types can be differentiated and analysed in a more targeted manner.

However, such an extensive chart of accounts is often unnecessary for small businesses and leads to a high administrative burden.

It therefore makes sense for such companies to simplify their chart of accounts by creating fewer accounts.

Here too, as so often in life, less is more!

How is a chart of accounts organised?

The structure is explained in the following video using the example of SKR 03 and 04. These are the most widely used in Germany.

Account class comparison using the example of SKR 03 and 04

Account class comparison using the example of SKR 03 and 04

Account classes of the SKR 03 chart of accounts and in the SKR 04 chart of accounts

Account class 03 04
0 Investment and capital accounts Fixed assets
1 Financial and private accounts Current asset accounts
2 Accrual accounts Equity accounts/debt accounts
3 Goods receipt and stock accounts Borrowed capital accounts
4 Expense accounts Operating income
5 Expense accounts Operating expenses
6 Expense accounts Operating expenses
7 Inventories of products Other income and expenses
8 Proceeds At your free disposal
9 Carryforward, capital, adjustment and statistical accounts Presentation and statistical accounts

What are the areas of application for the SKR 03 and SKR 04 charts of accounts?

The standard chart of accounts SKR 03 and SKR 04 in detail

The two most common standard charts of accounts do not differ at all in the account designations used.

But the sorting of the accounts differs.

The SKR 03 follows the process classification principle, the SKR 04 the financial statement classification principle.

What does the finalisation principle mean? | What is the process organisation principle?

Organisational principles

Principle Chart of accounts Explanation
Process organisation principle 03
  • The SKR 03 is orientated to the course of business.
  • The accounts are sorted according to the operating procedures.
  • The sequence of the individual accounts should correspond to the sequence of processes in the company.
Finalisation principle 04
  • The SKR 04 is based on the financial statements
  • The accounts are sorted according to the structure of the annual financial statements (balance sheet and income statement).


DATEV charts of accounts SKR03 and SKR04 - 2023

Both are important charts of accounts that are used by both accountants and companies.

The SKR 03 is suitable for companies that work according to double-entry bookkeeping, while the SKR 04 is suitable for companies with revenue-surplus accounting (EÜR), e.g. for freelancers.

Both enable structured and systematic accounting. There are various options for downloading them.

Download SKR 03 and SKR 04 | Where can I find a chart of accounts in Excel or as a PDF?

The safest place to find what you are looking for is on the Datev website, where you will find the most common SKR for download.

Conclusion | Which is the right one | SKR 03 or SKR 04 ?

The topic of charts of accounts is not so easy to answer in general terms. Both charts of accounts are equally good.

As a rule, the course is already set by the accountant or tax consultant and the choice is often determined by industry-specific requirements.

And it is true - account numbers are not decisive.

In practice, accountants only throw the account number at each other and outsiders are completely overwhelmed.

The account designation is much more important, as accounting accounts usually have different numbers in all plans, but almost always the same names.

So the motto is - learn vocabulary - practice makes perfect.

Change to another frame - no problem!

Ralf Hundertmark
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