What are Contingent Liabilities?


Liabilities that are contingent on future events are known as contingent liabilities. When it is possible to estimate their magnitude, such obligations are documented. If it doesn't satisfy both requirements, it might or might not be reported in a footnote. Examples of frequent contingent liabilities include product guarantees, open inquiries, and future legal actions.

The meaning of contingent liabilities also refers to the fact that they vary depending on the sum estimated and the possibility that they will appear in the future. The financial statement's readers are given enough information according to the accounting regulations.

What are Contingent Liabilities?

A liability that could materialize based on the result of an unknowable future occurrence is known as a contingent liability. If a potential liability can be calculated with reasonable accuracy and is likely to occur, it is recorded as a contingent liability. If neither of the conditions is true, the liability may be mentioned in a footnote to the financial statements.

A contingent liability is a commitment that could emerge in the future, such as paying out on product warranties or paying out on pending legal claims.

A liability should be recorded in a firm's accounting records if it is probable that it will materialize and if its value can be accurately calculated. They are documented to guarantee that the financial statements are truthful and adhere to IFRS or GAAP standards.

Types of Contingent Liabilities

There are two different categories of contingent liabilities −

Explicit Contingent Liabilities

These liabilities are particular kinds of legal or legally binding duties that have been imposed by the government.

Here are a few examples −

  • Court-ordered penalties for ongoing litigation in legal claims

  • Rates of currency conversion

  • Plans for government insurance on bank assets, retirement funds, and savings

  • Loans for education and mortgages.

Implicit Contingent Liabilities

These kinds of liabilities are responsibilities under the laws that are discovered after an event has taken place. In these situations, the government determines the liability's amount. They are not listed in the books since these things could happen or not.

Here are a few examples −

  • Central bank's failure to fulfill its duties, such as paying the balance of payments.

  • Funds for disaster aid for those impacted by natural disasters.

  • Public security.

Contingent Liabilities Recording

Contingent liabilities are not included in a company's financial statements. These are duties that have not yet happened but are likely to do so in the future. Therefore, contingent liabilities have no accounting treatment.

However, because accounting takes a cautious stance, disclosure is required; therefore, contingent liability must be updated in the company's final financial statements in the form of footnotes. Only in situations where there is a past-due obligation and a reasonable estimate of the liability's size is possible, is such disclosure disclosed.

What separates a Provision from a Contingent Liability?

A sum of money known as provisions is placed aside to pay for potential future expenses. Although the duty is already in place in this instance, its exact amount cannot be calculated.

To prepare for future uncertainties, businesses hold contingent liabilities, which are liabilities that represent uncertain expenses that could or might not occur in the future.

The accounts contain a record of provisions. While contingent liabilities are reflected as footnotes in financial statements, they are debited in profit and loss accounts.

Contingent Liability Accounting Principles

The statement of the financial situation should not include a contingent liability in and of itself.

A contingent liability should only be declared in the notes to the financial statements unless it is highly unlikely that any economic advantages would be transferred.

The many types of contingencies and how they are handled in the financial statement are summarized in the table below.

Probability of a change in the Flow of ResourcesLiability
Virtually certainFinancial statements should be provided or recognized.
ProbableProvide/recognize in accounting records.
PossibleDisclosure through financial statement notes.
RemoteNot acknowledged or made public


Therefore, contingent liabilities are defined as obligations that may or may not materialize due to a pending event. In general, organizations choose to make the contingent liability disclosure in the footnotes that are included with the company's financial statements. The disclosure of contingent liabilities helps investors assess the company's financial standing before committing money to the venture. A contingent liability will ultimately be an obligation that will or won't arise dependent on whether a specific occurrence takes place.

It is advisable to consult a business attorney if you're unsure whether anything qualifies as a contingent liability.


Q1. How are contingent liabilities treated in accounting?

Ans. As a result, contingent liabilities are not subject to any accounting treatment. However, due to the conservative approach used by accounting, disclosure is required. As a result, contingent liability must be updated in the company's final financial statements in the form of footnotes.

Q2. What information should be included in financial statements to show contingent liabilities?

Ans. In this case, the corporation highlights the potential liability in the financial statements' footnotes. The business is exempt from disclosing any prospective liabilities if it considers that they are unlikely to occur.

Q3. Why do we record a liability for a contingent event?

Ans. Since it is impossible to predict the outcome of contingent liabilities, the likelihood that the contingent event will occur is estimated, and if it is greater than 50%, a liability and accompanying expense are recorded. Understating liabilities and expenses are avoided by recording contingent liabilities.

Q4. What characteristics set a provision apart from contingent liabilities?

Ans. The following characteristics set a provision apart from contingent liabilities: The clause discusses the current accounting system and how it relates to historical events. Contrarily, contingent liabilities are those that are accrued now in anticipation of an epidemic in the future. Provision may happen, and that much is certain.

Updated on: 18-Apr-2023


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