For example, a hang gliding manufacturer could be sued because their equipment was faulted and caused serious injuries to a small number of their customers. There is no way to know the outcome of the lawsuit or even when the suit will be settled. Since it presently is not possible to determine the outcome of these matters, no provision has been made in the financial statements for their ultimate resolution. Although it is not realized in the books of accounts, a contingent liability is credited to the accrued liabilities account in the journal.

These assets are only recorded in financial statements’ footnotes as their value cannot be reasonably estimated. However, sometimes companies put in a disclosure of such liabilities anyway. There is only one scenario where a provision will not be recorded in the books of accounts. If the liability is probable (more likely than not) but it cannot be measured or estimated with any reliability then such liability has to be recorded as a contingent liability. You cannot record it in the books of accounts if it simply cannot be measured. To further simplify, the loss due to future events is not likely to happen but not necessarily be considered as unlikely.

Here, it becomes necessary to notify it to shareholders and other users of financial statements because the outcome will have an impact on investment related decisions. If the negative lawsuit outcome is probable and the liability can be estimated, it must be recorded as a liability on the balance sheet. Another fantastic example of contingent liability would be product warranties. Let’s say a mobile phone manufacturer produces many mobiles and sells them with a brand warranty of 1 year. However, if there is more than a 50% chance of winning the case, according to the prudence principle, no benefits would be recorded on the books of accounts. The principle of materiality states that all items with some monetary value must be accounted into the books of accounts.

The key principle established by the Standard is that a provision should be recognised only when there is a liability i.e. a present obligation resulting from past events. A contingent liability is a liability that may occur depending on the outcome of an uncertain future event. A contingent liability has to be recorded if the contingency is likely and the amount of the liability can be reasonably estimated. Both generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) require companies to record contingent liabilities. In accounting, contingent liabilities are liabilities that may be incurred by an entity depending on the outcome of an uncertain future event[1] such as the outcome of a pending lawsuit. These liabilities are not recorded in a company’s accounts and shown in the balance sheet when both probable and reasonably estimable as ‘contingency’ or ‘worst case’ financial outcome.

Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting. Please see /about to learn more about our global network of member firms. Contingent liabilities may also arise from discounted notes receivable, income tax disputes, penalties that may be assessed because of some past action, and failure of another party to pay a debt that a company has guaranteed. As the name suggests, if there are very slight chances of the liability occurring, the US GAAP considers calling it a remote contingency. The full disclosure principle states that all necessary information that poses an impact on the financial strength of the company must be registered in the public filings.

Guidance on ASC 450 and ASC 460

Instead, only disclose the existence of the contingent liability, unless the possibility of payment is remote. There are three possible scenarios for contingent liabilities, all of which involve different accounting transactions. Contingent liabilities are those liabilities that tend to occur in the future depending on an outcome. It may or may not be disclosed in a footnote unless it meets both conditions.

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  • Two classic examples of contingent liabilities include a company warranty and a lawsuit against the company.
  • These scenarios are often referred to as types of contingent liabilities.
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For example, when a company is fighting a legal battle and the opposite party has a stronger case, and the probability of losing is above 50%, it must be recorded in the books of accounts. IAS 37 defines and specifies the accounting for and disclosure of provisions, contingent liabilities, and contingent assets. The accounting of contingent liabilities is a very subjective topic and requires sound professional judgment. Contingent liabilities can be a tricky concept for a company’s management, as well as for investors. Judicious use of a wide variety of techniques for the valuation of liabilities and risk weighting may be required in large companies with multiple lines of business. As a general guideline, the impact of contingent liabilities on cash flow should be incorporated in a financial model if the probability of the contingent liability turning into an actual liability is greater than 50%.

IFRIC 1 — Changes in Existing Decommissioning, Restoration and Similar Liabilities

In some cases, an analyst might show two scenarios in a financial model, one which incorporates the cash flow impact of contingent liabilities and another which does not. Under this scenario, contingent Liability is recorded only when it is probable that the loss will occur, and you can reasonably estimate the amount of loss. If the negative outcome is remote, the company can simply ignore the contingent liability without reporting it on the balance sheet or footnotes. We just know that if the company loses the suit to its customers, it will owe $10M in damages.

Often, the longer the span of time it takes for a contingent liability to be settled, the less likely that it will become an actual liability. According to the full disclosure principle, all significant, relevant facts related to the financial performance and fundamentals of a company should be disclosed in the financial statements. Examples of incremental analysis: a simple tool for powerful decision-making are the outcome of a lawsuit, a government investigation, and the threat of expropriation. Therefore, it is also important to describe the liability in the footnotes that accompany the financial statements. The most basic example of a contingent liability is a pending lawsuit from a previous event.


If the supplier makes the loan payments needed to pay off the loan, the company will have no liability. If the supplier fails to repay the bank, the company will have an actual liability. Contingent liabilities are liabilities that may occur if a future event happens. A business accounting journal is used to record all business transactions.

IAS 37 — Provisions, Contingent Liabilities and Contingent Assets

Contingent liabilities are defined as those potential liabilities that may occur in a future date as a result of an uncertain event that is beyond the control of the business. A contingent liability will only be recorded in the balance sheet when the probability of its occurrence is certain, and the extent of such liability can be determined. One can always depict this type of liability on the company’s financial statements if there are any. It is disclosed in the footnotes of the financial statements as they have an enormous impact on the company’s financial conditions. If any potential liability surpasses the above two provided conditions, we can record the event in the books of accounts.

Therefore, no accounting treatment exists for contingent liabilities. The existence of the liability is uncertain and usually, the amount is uncertain because contingent liabilities depend (or are contingent) on some future event occurring or not occurring. When liabilities are contingent, the company usually is not sure that the liability exists and is uncertain about the amount.

Such contingency is neither recorded on the financial statements nor disclosed to the investors by the management. This shows us that the probability of occurrence of such an event is less than that of a possible contingency. Two classic examples of contingent liabilities include a company warranty and a lawsuit against the company. Both represent possible losses to the company, and both depend on some uncertain future event. The outcome of a long-pending lawsuit, a government investigation into organizations affairs, a threat of expropriation etc.  some of the common examples of contingent liabilities.

If the negative outcome is reasonably probably but the liability can’t be estimated, it should be disclosed in the financial statement footnotes. These liabilities can harm the company’s stock price because contingent liabilities can negatively impact the business’s future profitability. The magnitude of the impact depends on the time of occurrence and the amount tied to the liability. These obligations result from previous transactions or occurrences, and they are contingent on future events and indeterminate in nature. Any liabilities that have a probability of occurring over 50% are categorized under probable contingencies. These liabilities must be reflected in the company’s financial statements.