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Window-dressing in German interwar balance sheets

  • Mark Spoerer

German accounting rules value assets and liabilities asymmetrically and thus lead to grossly distorted balance sheets. In the interwar debate on a reform of disclosure regulation, financial experts considered the (undisclosed) tax balance sheet, which had to be drawn up separately for the corporate tax assessment, as a paradigm for adequate financial disclosure. However, due to tax secrecy thay were barred from analyzing tax documents. Using archival evidence, we analyze tax balance sheets from which the reliability of disclosed balance sheets of the interwar period can be assessed. It emerges that companies overstated their profits in the middand late 1920s, but grossly understated them in the Nazi economy.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 305.

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Date of creation: Jul 1998
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Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:305
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.econ.upf.edu/

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  1. George J. Benston, 1994. "Universal Banking," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(3), pages 121-143, Summer.
  2. Jeremy Edwards & Sheilagh Ogilvie, 1996. "Universal banks and German industrialization: a reappraisal," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 49(3), pages 427-446, 08.
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