What Is a Contingent Liability?


Spread the Wordde!

4.7k shares, 30031 points

Both represent possible losses to the company, and both depend on some uncertain future event. The analysis of contingent liabilities, especially when it comes to calculating the estimated amount, is sophisticated and detailed. To make sure a business’s financial reports comply with regulations, a public accounting firm must assess these reports. A probable liability or potential loss that may or may not occur because of an unexpected future event or circumstance is referred to as contingent liability. These liabilities will get recorded if it has a reasonable probability of occurring.

Below are examples of metrics that management teams and investors look at when performing financial analysis of a company. Accounting and reporting of contingent liabilities are regulated for public companies. Companies may also need to report them on private offerings of securities, too. When determining if the contingent liability should be recognized, there are four potential treatments to consider. The liability won’t significantly affect the stock price if investors believe the company has strong and stable cash flows and can withstand the damage.

Business leaders should heed these liabilities during strategic decision-making to ensure a well-informed path forward. FASB Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 5 requires any obscure, confusing or misleading contingent liabilities to be disclosed until the offending quality is no longer present. Each business transaction is recorded using the double-entry accounting method, with a credit entry to one account and a debit entry to another.

Why Is Contingent Liability Recorded?

Since the precise number of seats that may need replacement under warranty remains uncertain, the company must estimate this potential liability. By analyzing historical data and industry trends, the company approximates the number of seats that might be returned under warranty each year. Possible contingent liabilities include loss from damage to property or employees; most companies carry many types of insurance, so these liabilities are normally expressed in terms of insurance costs. Suppose a lawsuit is filed against a company, and the plaintiff claims damages up to $250,000.

Contingent liabilities, although not yet realized, are recorded as journal entries. The accrual account permits the firm to immediately post an expense without the need for an immediate cash payment. If the lawsuit results in a loss, a debit is applied to the accrued account (deduction) and cash is credited (reduced) by $2 million. An estimated liability is certain to occur—so, an amount is always entered into the accounts even if the precise amount is not known at the time of data entry.

  • A contingent liability hinges on uncertain future events and is recognized when both likelihood and estimated amount conditions are met.
  • It is probable that funds will be spent and the amount can likely be estimated.
  • Examples of contingent liabilities are the outcome of a lawsuit, a government investigation, or the threat of expropriation.
  • These obligations have not occurred yet but there is a possibility of them occurring in the future.
  • Companies may also need to report them on private offerings of securities, too.
  • Initially, when the customer had reported it to, the company refused to accept the claim and therefore, the customer has filed a legal claim against them.

Do not record or disclose the contingent liability if the probability of its occurrence is remote. It all depends on the type of liability and the event that ends up occurring. The basic nature of contingent liability is important to know, recognize, and understand. A provision is measured at the amount that the entity would rationally pay to settle the obligation at the end of the reporting period or to transfer it to a third party at that time.

Warranty Costs

This can come with estimated liability or a need to determine contingent liability legitimacy. The materiality principle outlines that any and all important financial information and matters must be disclosed in a company’s financial statements. For an item or event to be considered to be material, it means that having knowledge of it occurring could change certain economic decisions for those that use the company’s financial statements. Based on this estimation, the company can prepare for potential future expenses by accounting for the potential warranty claims in its financial records. This proactive approach ensures that the company is well-equipped to manage its financial obligations and maintain accurate financial reporting. These liabilities become contingent whenever their payment contains a reasonable degree of uncertainty.

About the IFRS Foundation

On a balance sheet, liabilities are listed according to the time when the obligation is due. Say an employer pays an employee “off the books” in cash and doesn’t report the income or the taxes, or pay the unemployment insurance for this employee. If the employee is laid off and tries to file an unemployment claim, the case may come before a state unemployment board. This creates a contingent liability, because the employer may have to pay an unknown amount for the claim, in addition to fines and interest. This second entry recognizes an honored warranty for a soccer goal based on 10% of sales from the period. As the name suggests, if there are very slight chances of the liability occurring, the US GAAP considers calling it a remote contingency.

Contingent Liability: What Is It, and What Are Some Examples?

Likewise, a note is required when it is probable a loss has occurred but the amount simply cannot be estimated. Normally, accounting tends to be very conservative (when in doubt, book the liability), but this is not the case for contingent liabilities. Therefore, one should carefully read the notes to the financial statements before the 10 best payroll software for small business in 2021 investing or loaning money to a company. If the contingent liability is probable and inestimable, it is likely to occur but cannot be reasonably estimated. In this case, a note disclosure is required in financial statements, but a journal entry and financial recognition should not occur until a reasonable estimate is possible.

Under GAAP, the listed amount must be “fair and reasonable” to avoid misleading investors, lenders, or regulators. Estimating the costs of litigation or any liabilities resulting from legal action should be carefully noted. Definition of Contingent Liability
A contingent liability is a potential liability that may or may not become an actual liability. Whether the contingent liability becomes an actual liability depends on a future event occurring or not occurring.

How to Tell If a Contingent Liability Should Be Recognized

Modeling contingent liabilities can be a tricky concept due to the level of subjectivity involved. The opinions of analysts are divided in relation to modeling contingent liabilities. One of their customers has filed the legal claim against the company for delivering the product which was defective. Supposing the new technology developed by a certain tech company is used or launched by another company without prior permission, it is counted as stealing one property. This may lead to serious legal problems and the company that developed the technology can press charges against the other party.

Supposing a business is selling a certain kind of product, any damage that it can be caused to the buyer before and after it leaves the manufacturing unit is the full responsibility of the owner. If the owner is reluctant to take responsibility for their product, the customer can sue the company. To understand the concept of legal liability, let us take an example of a business owner. The liquidated damages are written as legal contracts and are bound by the law. Contingent liability is coverage for losses to a third party for which the insured is vicariously liable. Contingencies may be positive as well as negative, but accounting practices only consider negative outcomes.

Remote (not likely) contingent liabilities are not to be included in any financial statement. Now assume that a lawsuit liability is possible but not probable and the dollar amount is estimated to be $2 million. Under these circumstances, the company discloses the contingent liability in the footnotes of the financial statements. If the firm determines that the likelihood of the liability occurring is remote, the company does not need to disclose the potential liability. Based on an analysis of both these factors, the company can know what’s required for including the contingent liability in its financial statements. In some cases, the accounting standards require what’s called a note disclosure (a footnote) in the company’s reports.

Like it? Share with your friends!


Spread the Wordde!

4.7k shares, 30031 points

What's Your Reaction?

Love Love
Whoa! Whoa!
Scary Scary
Nice job! Nice job!
Nice job!
Right in the feels Right in the feels
Right in the feels


Leave a Reply

Choose A Format
Formatted Text with Embeds and Visuals
Youtube, Vimeo or Vine Embeds
Photo or GIF
GIF format