Contingent Liability: Definition & Meaning Leave a comment

In contrast, the wine supplier considers the money it is owed to be an asset. So if a company has a strong cash flow position and can experience rapid growth earnings, it can probably avoid the impact being too large. Properly managing a company’s liabilities is crucial to avoid a solvency crisis, or in a worst-case scenario, bankruptcy.

  • Rules specify that contingent liabilities should be recorded in the accounts when it is probable that the future event will occur and the amount of the liability can be reasonably estimated.
  • They are that the liability is probably, possible, and remote.
  • Prepare the journal entry to record payment of the note at maturity.
  • A contingent liability is an amount that you might own in the future depending on certain events.
  • For most households, liabilities will include taxes due, bills that must be paid, rent or mortgage payments, loan interest and principal due, and so on.

Expenses and liabilities should not be confused with each other. One is listed on a company’s balance sheet, and the other is listed on the company’s income statement. Expenses are the costs of a company’s operation, while liabilities are the obligations and debts a company owes.

The reason is that the event (“the injury itself”) giving rise to the loss arose in Year 1. Conversely, if the injury occurred in Year 2, Year 1’s financial statements would not be adjusted no matter how bad the financial effect. However, a note to the financial statements may be needed to explain that a material adverse event arising subsequent to year end has occurred. There are sometimes significant risks that are simply not in the liability section of the balance sheet.

Most new cars, for instance, are sold with a warranty covering parts for a specified period of time. Ford Motor Company reported more than $15 billion in “dealer and customer allowances and claims” in its annual report. To comply with the full disclosure and matching principles, the seller reports the expected warranty expense in the period when revenue from the sale of the product or service is reported. The seller reports this warranty obligation as a liability, although the existence, amount, payee, and date of future sacrifices are uncertain. This is because such warranty costs are probable and the amount can be estimated using, for instance, past experience with warranties. This entry reduces the balance of the estimated warranty liability.

The Prudence Principle

The most common liabilities are usually the largest like accounts payable and bonds payable. Most companies will have these two line items on their balance sheet, as they are part of ongoing current and long-term operations. Contingent liabilities are potential liabilities that have a possibility of occurring sometime in the future. These liabilities get recorded in the financial statements of a company if the contingency is likely to happen and the amount can be reasonably estimated.

Warranty expense was previously recorded in 2011, the year the car was sold with the warranty. Finally, what happens if total warranty expenses are more or less than the estimated 4%, or $640? The answer is that management should monitor actual warranty expenses to see whether the 4% rate is accurate.


An example might be a hazardous waste spill that will require a large outlay to clean up. It is probable that funds will be spent and the amount can likely be estimated. If the estimated loss can only be defined as a range of outcomes, the U.S. approach generally results in recording the low end of the range.

Learn accounting fundamentals and how to read financial statements with CFI’s free online accounting classes. For a contingent liability to become an actual liability a future event must occur. Jan knows there’s been a change in the market value of ABC’s property since the last balance sheet was created. She also read the property tax percentages may go up, so she accesses the tax agency’s website to see that they have in fact increased. Property taxes are taxes a business owes on property it owns. ABC’s properties include commercial buildings, trucks, and inventory.

Property taxes are considered estimated liabilities because a property’s value can change, which causes the local government to adjust tax rates. Estimated property tax liability refers to the amount a property holder forecasts to pay in tax, subject to changes in property value. A property holder should multiply the property’s estimated market value by its tax rate to determine the amount they will owe in property tax. Although these taxes are a little easier to estimate than pension fund obligations, there is no guarantee that current rates will continue to stay the same in the future. The assessed property value could be changed or the local government could raise or lower the mill rate. Property taxes must be estimated in the same way that benefits plans are.

what is an estimated liability

It would be impossible to calculate exactly how much the company will be on the hook for with all of these conditions. When warranty work is performed, the estimated warranty payable is decreased. Accruals are revenues earned or expenses incurred which impact a company’s net income, although cash has not yet exchanged hands.


If both of those conditions cannot be met, the contingent liability could be inserted in the footnote of a financial statement. Some common examples of contingent liabilities are product warranties and pending lawsuits because they both have uncertain end results, but still pose a potential threat. A liability is created when a company signs a note for the purpose of borrowing money or extending its payment period credit. A note may be signed for an overdue invoice when the company needs to extend its payment, when the company borrows cash, or in exchange for an asset. An extension of the normal credit period for paying amounts owed often requires that a company sign a note, resulting in a transfer of the liability from accounts payable to notes payable.

He is a CFA charterholder as well as holding FINRA Series 7, 55 & 63 licenses. He currently researches and teaches economic sociology and the social studies of finance at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. There are three primary conditions that need to be met for a contingent liability to exist. They are that the liability is probably, possible, and remote. Liabilities are future sacrifices of economic benefits that a company is required to make to other entities due to past events or past transactions. Postgame SpoilsBaseball was the first pro sport to set up a pension, originally up to $100 per month depending on years played.

A contingent liability is a specific type of liability that could happen in the future. Contingent liabilities are a special category of liabilities. They are possible liabilities that may or may not arise, depending on the outcome of an uncertain future event.

what is an estimated liability

One for our revenue and one for our related warranty expense. And we had our equity going up for those revenues of two million. This is what is an estimated liability the warranty expense made our uh equity go down right expenses. So the warranty payable is a liability and we stay balanced here, right?

The company’s lawyer might feel the other party’s case is fairly strong, which is a situation that’s going to lead to damages. The company would then post an entry on their accounting budget to increase legal expenses. For example, pension liabilities to employees are long term to workers who will not retire within the next period. For employees who are retired or will retire within the next period, a portion of pension liabilities is current. Other examples include employee health benefits and warranties.

How do Contingent Liabilities Affect An Audit?

Notes payable are classified as current liabilities when the amounts are due within one year of the balance sheet date. The portion of the debt to be paid after one year is classified as a long‐term liability. An estimated liabilityObligation of an uncertain amount that can be reasonably estimated.

What is an Estimated Liability?

Estimated life is the length of time an asset will be productively used in the operations of a business. It is the number of years in which a fixed asset is expected to be used. The outstanding money that the restaurant owes to its wine supplier is considered a liability.

Estimated liabilities, such as liabilities for income taxes, property taxes, and product warranties, definitely exist, but the amounts must be estimated and record properly. Depending on the way that event unfolds, financial obligations might arise in which the company that holds the liability would be accountable to see it through. If the contingency is probable with a reasonably estimated amount, it is recorded in a financial statement.

Business Case Studies

For instance, a company may take out debt in order to expand and grow its business. Or, an individual may take out a mortgage to purchase a home. A liability is something that is borrowed from, owed to, or obligated to someone else. It can be real (e.g. a bill that needs to be paid) or potential (e.g. a possible lawsuit). As a practical example of understanding a firm’s liabilities, let’s look at a historical example using AT&T’s balance sheet.

On a balance sheet, liabilities are listed according to the time when the obligation is due. When a liability is disclosed in footnotes, the firm can determine whether the likelihood of occurrence is more remote than probable, and if so, does not have to disclose the potential of it. Estimated liabilities involve an obligation to pay which of these? An uncertain but reasonably estimated amount owed on a known obligation or A known amount to a specific entity on an uncertain due date.

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