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Accounting Guidelines for Contingent Liabilities

By April 25, 2023November 3rd, 2023No Comments

It’s impossible to know whether the company should report a contingent liability of $250,000 based solely on this information. Here, the company should rely on precedent and legal counsel to ascertain the likelihood of damages. Do not record or disclose a contingent liability if the probability of its occurrence is remote. Similarly, the knowledge of a contingent liability can influence the decision of creditors considering lending capital to a company. The contingent liability may arise and negatively impact the ability of the company to repay its debt.

  • If the contingency is reasonably possible, it could occur but is not probable.
  • It could also be determined by the potential future, known financial outcome.
  • If the case is unsuccessful, $5 million in cash is credited (reduced), and the accruing account is debited.
  • In essence, as long as Sierra Sports sells the goals or other equipment and provides a warranty, it will need to account for the warranty expenses in a manner similar to the one we demonstrated.

The new product the company is launching may still be kept discreet as the breach in secrecy may result in huge losses for the company. So if there is a breach of indiscretion, the other party, i.e., a supplier or designer hired may have to pay the liquidated damages. According to the accounting equation, the total amount of the liabilities must be equal to the difference between the total amount of the assets and the total amount of the equity.

Definition of Contingent Liabilities

These liabilities must be reflected in the company’s financial statements. The International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and GAAP outline certain requirements for companies to record all of their contingent liabilities. This is because of their connection with three discount accounting principles. Usually, the contingent liability will be outlined and disclosed in a footnote on the financial statement. It would not be disclosed in a footnote, however, if both conditions are not met. For a contingent liability to become relevant, it depends on its timing, its value can be estimated or is known, and whether or not it will become an actual liability.

  • Contingent liabilities are classified into three types by the US GAAP based on the probability of their occurrence.
  • If the contingent loss is remote, meaning it has less than a 50% chance of occurring, the liability should not be reflected on the balance sheet.
  • Contingent liabilities must pass two thresholds before they can be reported in financial statements.
  • A possible contingency is when the event might or might not happen, but the chances are less than that of a probable contingency, i.e., less than 50%.

In a situation where the real damages are difficult to ascertain, a liquidated damage amount seems appropriate and accepted by both parties. The damages that need to be compensated by the party if and when there is a breach in the contract. The breach is usually a failure in the contract or not up to the mark performance by the party. Let’s say that the manufacturer has estimated that out of all the mobile phones produced, about 2,000 mobiles would be called back due to fault reasons.

Possible contingencies are just disclosed to the investors by the management during the Annual general meetings (AGMs). This can help encourage clarity between the company’s shareholders and investors and reduce any potential con activities. My Accounting Course  is a world-class educational resource developed by experts to simplify accounting, finance, & investment analysis topics, so students and professionals can learn and propel their careers.

Here, contingent liabilities are recognized only when the liability is reasonably possible to estimate and not probable. 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. One major difference between the two is that the latter is an amount you already owe someone, whereas the former is contingent upon the event occurring. Since it has the potential to affect the company’s Cash flow and net income negatively, one has to take important steps to decide the impact of these contingencies. So the mobile manufacturer will record a contingent liability in the P&L statement and the balance sheet, an amount at which the 2,000 mobile phones were made.

The Reporting Requirements of Contingent Liabilities

The company may need to consult with suppliers and other designers outside the company and this may require a legal contract before the business is done. The company needs sum of years’ digits method to come up with an amount that reflects an approximate value of damage if done. The classification is critical to the company’s management of its financial obligations.

Contingent Liabilities

Banks that issue standby letters of credit or similar obligations carry contingent liabilities. All creditors, not just banks, carry contingent liabilities equal to the amount of receivables on their books. Contingent liabilities are liabilities that may occur if a future event happens. Working through the vagaries of contingent accounting is sometimes challenging and inexact. Company management should consult experts or research prior accounting cases before making determinations.

What Is the Journal Entry for Contingent Liabilities?

Warranties arise from products or services sold to customers that cover certain defects (see Figure 12.8). Examples of Contingent Liability
A company’s supplier is unable to obtain a bank loan. The company agrees to guarantee that the supplier’s bank loan will be repaid. As a result of the company’s guarantee, the bank makes the loan to the supplier. 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.

As well, pending lawsuits are also considered contingent liabilities because the outcome of the lawsuit is entirely unknown. This can come with estimated liability or a need to determine contingent liability legitimacy. An example of determining a warranty liability based on a percentage of sales follows. The sales price per soccer goal is $1,200, and Sierra Sports believes 10% of sales will result in honored warranties. The company would record this warranty liability of $120 ($1,200 × 10%) to Warranty Liability and Warranty Expense accounts. Companies operating in the United States rely on the guidelines established in the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP).

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This does not meet the likelihood requirement, and the possibility of actualization is minimal. In this situation, no journal entry or note disclosure in financial statements is necessary. Prudence is a key accounting concept that makes sure that assets and income are not overstated, and liabilities and expenses are not understated.

To further simplify, the loss due to future events is not likely to happen but not necessarily be considered as unlikely. It could be a situation where the liability is probable, but the amount couldn’t be estimated. 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 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. The business is exempt from disclosing the possible liability if it considers that the risk of it happening is remote. An example of this principle is when a $ 100 invoice to a company with net assets of $ 5 billion would be immaterial, but a $ 50 million invoice to the same company would be materialistic.

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