Liability (financial accounting)

In financial accounting, a liability is defined as the future sacrifices of economic benefits that the entity is obliged to make to other entities as a result of past transactions or other past events,[1] the settlement of which may result in the transfer or use of assets, provision of services or other yielding of economic benefits in the future.

A liability is defined by the following characteristics:

  • Any type of borrowing from persons or banks for improving a business or personal income that is payable during short or long time;
  • A duty or responsibility to others that entails settlement by future transfer or use of assets, provision of services, or other transaction yielding an economic benefit, at a specified or determinable date, on occurrence of a specified event, or on demand;
  • A duty or responsibility that obligates the entity to another, leaving it little or no discretion to avoid settlement; and,
  • A transaction or event obligating the entity that has already occurred

Liabilities in financial accounting need not be legally enforceable; but can be based on equitable obligations or constructive obligations. An equitable obligation is a duty based on ethical or moral considerations. A constructive obligation is an obligation that is implied by a set of circumstances in a particular situation, as opposed to a contractually based obligation.

The accounting equation relates assets, liabilities, and owner's equity:

The accounting equation is the mathematical structure of the balance sheet.

Probably the most accepted accounting definition of liability is the one used by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). The following is a quotation from IFRS Framework:

A liability is a present obligation of the enterprise arising from past events, the settlement of which is expected to result in an outflow from the enterprise of resources embodying economic benefits

— F.49(b)

Regulations as to the recognition of liabilities are different all over the world, but are roughly similar to those of the IASB.

Examples of types of liabilities include: money owing on a loan, money owing on a mortgage, or an IOU.

VerbindlichkeitenSektorenUSAengl
Liabilites of sectors of USA economy, 1945-2017, based on flow of funds statistics of the Federal Reserve System.

Liabilities are debts and obligations of the business they represent as creditor's claim on business assets.

Classification

Liabilities are reported on a balance sheet and are usually divided into two categories:

Liabilities of uncertain value or timing are called provisions.

Example

When a company deposits cash with a bank, the bank records a liability on its balance sheet, representing the obligation to repay the depositor, usually on demand. Simultaneously, in accordance with the double-entry principle, the bank records the cash, itself, as an asset. The company, on the other hand, upon depositing the cash with the bank, records a decrease in its cash and a corresponding increase in its bank deposits (an asset).

Debits and Credits

A debit either increases an asset or decreases a liability; a credit either decreases an asset or increases a liability. According to the principle of double-entry, every financial transaction corresponds to both a debit and a credit.

Example

When cash is deposited in a bank, the bank is said to "debit" its cash account, on the asset side, and "credit" its deposits account, on the liabilities side. In this case, the bank is debiting an asset and crediting a liability, which means that both increase.

When cash is withdrawn from a bank, the opposite happens: the bank "credits" its cash account and "debits" its deposits account. In this case, the bank is crediting an asset and debiting a liability, which means that both decrease.

See also

References

  1. ^ "Definition and Recognition of the Elements of Financial Statements" (PDF). Australian Accounting Standards Board. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
Accounts payable

Accounts payable (AP) is money owed by a business to its suppliers shown as a liability on a company's balance sheet. It is distinct from notes payable liabilities, which are debts created by formal legal instrument documents.

Accrual

Accrual (accumulation) of something is, in finance, the adding together of interest or different investments over a period of time. It holds specific meanings in accounting, where it can refer to accounts on a balance sheet that represent liabilities and non-cash-based assets used in accrual-based accounting. These types of accounts include, among others, accounts payable, accounts receivable, goodwill, deferred tax liability and future interest expense.

Accrued interest

In finance, accrued interest is the interest on a bond or loan that has accumulated since the principal investment, or since the previous coupon payment if there has been one already.

For a financial instrument such as a bond, interest is calculated and paid in set intervals (for instance annually or semi-annually). Ownership of bonds/loans can be transferred between different investors not just when coupons are paid, but at any time in-between coupons. Accrued interest addresses the problem regarding the ownership of the next coupon if the bond is sold in the period between coupons: Only the current owner can receive the coupon payment, but the investor who sold the bond must be compensated for the period of time for which he or she owned the bond. In other words, the previous owner must be paid the interest that accrued before the sale.

Accrued liabilities

Accrued liabilities are liabilities that reflect expenses that have not yet been paid or logged under accounts payable during an accounting period; in other words, a company's obligation to pay for goods and services that have been provided for which invoices have not yet been received. Examples would include accrued wages payable, accrued sales tax payable, and accrued rent payable.

There are two general types of Accrued Liabilities:

Routine and recurring

Infrequent or non-routineRoutine and recurring Accrued Liabilities are types of transactions that occur as a normal, daily part of the business cycle. Infrequent or non-routine Accrued Liabilities are transactions that do not occur as a daily part of the business cycle, but do happen from time to time.

Asset/liability modeling

Asset/liability modelling is the process used to manage the business and financial objectives of a financial institution or an individual through an assessment of the portfolio assets and liabilities in an integrated manner. The process is characterized by an on-going review, modification, and revision of asset and liability management strategies so that sensitivity to interest rate changes are confined within acceptable tolerance levels. There are different models used and some use different elements, according to specific needs and contexts. For instance, an individual or an organization may keep parts of the ALM process and outsource the modeling function or adapt the model according to the requirements and capabilities of relevant institutions such as banks, which often have their in-house modeling process. For pensioners, asset/liability modeling is all about determining the best allocation for specific situations. There is a vast array of models available today for practical asset and liability modeling and these have been the subject of several research and studies.

Asset and liability management

Asset and liability management (often abbreviated ALM) is the practice of managing financial risks that arise due to mismatches between the assets and liabilities as part of an investment strategy in financial accounting.

ALM sits between risk management and strategic planning. It is focused on a long-term perspective rather than mitigating immediate risks and is a process of maximising assets to meet complex liabilities that may increase profitability.

ALM includes the allocation and management of assets, equity, interest rate and credit risk management including risk overlays, and the calibration of company-wide tools within these risk frameworks for optimisation and management in the local regulatory and capital environment.

Often an ALM approach passively matches assets against liabilities (fully hedged) and leaves surplus to be actively managed.

Asset–liability mismatch

In finance, an asset–liability mismatch occurs when the financial terms of an institution's assets and liabilities do not correspond. Several types of mismatches are possible.

For example, a bank that chose to borrow entirely in US dollars and lend in Russian rubles would have a significant currency mismatch: if the value of the ruble were to fall dramatically, the bank would lose money. In extreme cases, such movements in the value of the assets and liabilities could lead to bankruptcy, liquidity problems and wealth transfer.

A bank could also have substantial long-term assets (such as fixed-rate mortgages) funded by short-term liabilities, such as deposits. If short-term interest rates rise, the short-term liabilities re-price at maturity, while the yield on the longer-term, fixed-rate assets remains unchanged. Income from the longer-term assets remains unchanged, while the cost of the newly re-priced liabilities funding these assets increases. This is sometimes called a maturity mismatch, which can be measured by the duration gap.

An interest rate mismatch occurs when a bank borrows at one interest rate but lends at another. For example, a bank might borrow money by issuing floating interest rate bonds, but lend money with fixed-rate mortgages. If interest rates rise, the bank must increase the interest it pays to its bondholders, even though the interest it earns on its mortgages has not increased.

Mismatches are handled by asset liability management.

Asset–liability mismatches are important to insurance companies and various pension plans, which may have long-term liabilities (promises to pay the insured or pension plan participants) that must be backed by assets. Choosing assets that are appropriately matched to their financial obligations is therefore an important part of their long-term strategy.

Few companies or financial institutions have perfect matches between their assets and liabilities. In particular, the mismatch between the maturities of banks' deposits and loans makes banks susceptible to bank runs. On the other hand, 'controlled' mismatch, such as between short-term deposits and somewhat longer-term, higher-interest loans to customers is central to many financial institutions' business model.

Asset–liability mismatches can be controlled, mitigated or hedged.

Collateral (finance)

In lending agreements, collateral is a borrower's pledge of specific property to a lender, to secure repayment of a loan. The collateral serves as a lender's protection against a borrower's default and so can be used to offset the loan if the borrower fails to pay the principal and interest satisfactorily under the terms of the lending agreement.

The protection that collateral provides generally allows lenders to offer a lower interest rate on loans that have collateral. The reduction in interest rate can be up to several percentage points, depending on the type and value of the collateral. For example, the interest rate (APR) on an unsecured loan is often much higher than on a secured loan or logbook loan, as the risk for the lender is then increased.

If a borrower defaults on a loan (due to insolvency or another event), that borrower loses the property pledged as collateral, with the lender then becoming the owner of the property. In a typical mortgage loan transaction, for instance, the real estate being acquired with the help of the loan serves as collateral. If the buyer fails to repay the loan according to the mortgage agreement, the lender can use the legal process of foreclosure to obtain ownership of the real estate. A pawnbroker is a common example of a business that may accept a wide range of items as collateral.

The type of the collateral may be restricted based on the type of the loan (as is the case with auto loans and mortgages); it also can be flexible, such as in the case of collateral-based personal loans.

Contingent liability

Contingent liabilities are liabilities that may be incurred by an entity depending on the outcome of an uncertain future event 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. A footnote to the balance sheet may describe the nature and extent of the contingent liabilities. The likelihood of loss is described as probable, reasonably possible, or remote. The ability to estimate a loss is described as known, reasonably estimable, or not reasonably estimable. It may or may not occur.

Contingent liabilities shall be classified as:

a) claims against the company

not acknowledge as debt;

b) Guarantees;

c) Other money for which the

company is contingently

liable

Current liability

In accounting, current liabilities are often understood as all liabilities of the business that are to be settled in cash within the fiscal year or the operating cycle of a given firm, whichever period is longer.

A more complete definition is that current liabilities are obligations that will be settled by current assets or by the creation of new current liabilities. Accounts payable are due within 30 days, and are paid within 30 days, but do often run past 30 days or 60 days in some situations. The laws regarding late payment and claims for unpaid accounts payable is related to the issue of accounts payable. An operating cycle for a firm is the average time that is required to go from cash to cash in producing revenues. For example, accounts payable for goods, services or supplies that were purchased for use in the operation of the business and payable within a normal period would be current liabilities. Amounts listed on a balance sheet as accounts payable represent all

bills payable to vendors of a company, whether or not the bills are less than 31 days old or more than 30 days old. Therefore, late payments are not disclosed on the balance sheet for accounts payable. There may be footnotes in audited financial statements regarding age of accounts payable, but this is not common accounting practice. Lawsuits regarding accounts payable are required to be shown on audited financial statements, but this is not necessarily common accounting practice.

Bonds, mortgages and loans that are payable over a term exceeding one year would be fixed liabilities or long-term liabilities. However, the payments due on the long-term loans in the current fiscal year could be considered current liabilities if the amounts were material. Amounts due to lenders/ bankers are never shown as accounts payable/ trade accounts payable, but will show up on the balance sheet of a company under the major heading of current liabilities, and often under the sub-heading of other current liabilities, instead of accounts payable, which are due to vendors. Other current liabilities are due for payment according to the terms of the loan agreements, but when lender liabilities are shown as current vs. long term, they are due within the current fiscal year or earlier. Therefore, late payments from a previous fiscal year will carry over into the same position on the balance sheet as current liabilities which are not late in payment. There may be footnotes in audited financial statements regarding past due payments to lenders, but this is not common practice. Lawsuits regarding loans payable are required to be shown on audited financial statements, but this is not necessarily common accounting practice.

The proper classification of liabilities provides useful information to investors and other users of the financial statements. It may be regarded as essential for allowing outsiders to consider a true picture of an organization's fiscal health.

One application is in the current ratio, defined as the firm's current assets divided by its current liabilities. A ratio higher than one means that current assets, if they can all be converted to cash, are more than sufficient to pay off current obligations. All other things equal, higher values of this ratio imply that a firm is more easily able to meet its obligations in the coming year. The difference between current assets and current liability is referred to as trade working capital.

Domestic liability dollarization

Domestic liability dollarization (DLD) refers to the denomination of banking system deposits and lending in a currency other than that of the country in which they are held. DLD does not refer exclusively to denomination in US dollars, as DLD encompasses accounts denominated in internationally traded "hard" currencies such as the British pound sterling, the Swiss franc, the Japanese yen, and the Euro (and some of its predecessors, particularly the Deutschmark).

Fixed liability

A fixed liabilities are a debts. bonds, mortgages or loans that are payable over a term exceeding one year. These debts are better known as non-current liabilities or long-term liabilities. Debts or liabilities due within one year are known as current liabilities.

IAS 37

International Accounting Standard 37: Provisions, Contingent Liabilities and Contingent Assets, or IAS 37, is an international financial reporting standard adopted by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). It sets out the accounting and disclosure requirements for provisions, contingent liabilities and contingent assets, with several exceptions, establishing the important principle that a provision is to be recognized only when the entity has a liability.IAS 37 was originally issued by the International Accounting Standards Committee in 1998, superseding IAS 10: Contingencies and Events Occurring after the Balance Sheet Date, and was adopted by the IASB in 2001. It was seen as an "important development" in accounting as it regulated the use of provisions, minimising their abuse such as in the case of big baths.

Liabilities subject to compromise

Liabilities subject to compromise refers to the debtors' liabilities, in the US, incurred before the start of Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases.This amount represents the debtors' estimate of known or potential pre-petition claims to be resolved in connection with the Chapter 11 cases. Such claims remain subject to future adjustments. Virtually all of the corporation's pre-petition debt is in default due to the filing and is included in Liabilities subject to compromise. Payment terms for liabilities subject to compromise are established as part of a plan of reorganization.

Liability-driven investment strategy

Liability-driven investment policies and asset management decisions are those largely determined by the sum of current and future liabilities attached to the investor, be it a household or an institution. As it purports to associate constantly both sides of the balance sheet in the investment process, it has been called a "holistic" investment methodology.

In essence, the liability-driven investment strategy (LDI) is an investment strategy of a company or individual based on the cash flows needed to fund future liabilities. It is sometimes referred to as a "dedicated portfolio" strategy. It differs from a “benchmark-driven” strategy, which is based on achieving better returns than an external index such as the S&P 500 or a combination of indices that invest in the same types of asset classes. LDI is designed for situations where future liabilities can be predicted with some degree of accuracy. For individuals, the classic example would be the stream of withdrawals from a retirement portfolio that a retiree will make to pay living expenses from the date of retirement to the date of death. For companies, the classic example would be a pension fund that must make future payouts to pensioners over their expected lifetimes (see below).

Long-term liabilities

Long-term liabilities, or non-current liabilities, are liabilities that are due beyond a year or the normal operation period of the company. The normal operation period is the amount of time it takes for a company to turn inventory into cash. On a classified balance sheet, liabilities are separated between current and long-term liabilities to help users assess the company's financial standing in short-term and long-term periods. Long-term liabilities give users more information about the long-term prosperity of the company, while current liabilities inform the user of debt that the company owes in the current period. On a balance sheet, accounts are listed in order of liquidity, so long-term liabilities come after current liabilities. In addition, the specific long-term liability accounts are listed on the balance sheet in order of liquidity. Therefore, an account due within eighteen months would be listed before an account due within twenty-four months. Examples of long-term liabilities are bonds payable, long-term loans, capital leases, pension liabilities, post-retirement healthcare liabilities, deferred compensation, deferred revenues, deferred income taxes, and derivative liabilities.

Provision (accounting)

In financial accounting, a provision is an account which records a present liability of an entity. The recording of the liability in the entity's balance sheet is matched to an appropriate expense account in the entity's income statement. The preceding is correct in IFRS. In U.S. GAAP, a provision is an expense. Thus, "Provision for Income Taxes" is an expense in U.S. GAAP but a liability in IFRS.

Sometimes in IFRS, but not in GAAP, the term reserve is used instead of provision. Such a use is, however, inconsistent with the terminology suggested by International Accounting Standards Board. The term "reserve" can be a confusing accounting term. In accounting, a reserve is always an account with a credit balance in the entity's Equity on the Balance Sheet, while to non-professionals it has the connotation of a pool of cash set aside to meet a future liability (a debit balance).

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