How many accounting standards

4. Accounting standards and regulations

a) Accounting standards / regulations

Due to the general reference to the general principles, the accounting regulations of the OR are inevitably imprecise in many details and leave the parties involved a great deal of leeway. This also means that OR accounts from different companies can often not be easily compared with one another.

In addition to the provisions of the OR, there are privately developed standards (so-called recognized accounting standards or sets of rules). However, the legislature sometimes refers to such private standards. With this reference, the legal nature of the private standard changes and it becomes part of the Swiss legal system. Examples of this can be found in Art. 962 et seq. OR, but also in Art. 47 para. 2 BVV 2.

On the one hand, the accounting standards are mandatory for companies that are listed on the stock exchange, if the stock exchange requires this, for cooperatives with at least 2,000 members and for foundations that are legally obliged to perform a regular audit (Art. 962 Paragraph 1 OR). On the other hand, they can be used on a voluntary basis for the individual and consolidated financial statements. Finally, at the request of shareholders who represent at least 20 percent of the share capital, financial statements in accordance with recognized accounting standards can be requested. Likewise, such a conclusion can be requested by 10 percent of the members of the cooperative or 20 percent of the association members as well as by shareholders or members who are subject to personal liability or an obligation to make additional contributions (Art. 962 Paragraph 2 OR). The accounting standards have a greater density of regulations and leave less scope for assessment. You are pursuing the goal of achieving more meaningful financial reporting.

Often these accounting standards are more precise than the rules of the OR, but do not contradict it, so that both standards can be applied in parallel. The provisions of the accounting standards also serve as an interpretation aid for the OR in various cases, insofar as they describe general principles in more detail.

Nevertheless, there are regulations, e.g. when valuing fixed assets above the purchase or production price, in which financial statements according to OR and accounting standards contradict each other. The provisions of the Swiss Code of Obligations are authoritative for financial statements under commercial law.

Financial statements according to accounting standards are, however, permitted and customary for consolidated financial statements, and in some cases also prescribed (for companies listed on the stock exchange).

Practically relevant are:

  • Swiss GAAP FER (The Swiss professional recommendations for accounting);
  • IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards, formerly these standards were called IAS (International Accounting Standards));
  • US-GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles of the USA).

The accounting standards Swiss GAAP FER and IFRS are particularly important and practical in Switzerland. For companies that are active on the US capital market, the regulations of the US Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) are also relevant, which has issued numerous accounting standards and other regulations that represent the main part of US GAAP.


b) Accounting standards as an aid to interpretation

Federal court decision 2C_897 / 2008 of October 1, 2009:

Apart from the tax consequences of foreign currency differences, this decision is a novelty insofar as the Federal Supreme Court explicitly allows the application of IFRS. In the absence of provisions of the Swiss legal system on balance sheet-related items, this accounting standard should appear as an aid to interpretation, as long as it does not contradict it. This step is justified by the fact that there is a general tendency in Switzerland and Europe to approach the standards of the IFRS and, due to the rudimentary rules of Swiss law, an aid to interpretation seems indispensable. In a further consideration, the Federal Supreme Court acknowledges the importance of the HWP regulations, which deviate from IFRS, as a source of knowledge, but does not see them as an obstacle to the application of an IFRS standard.