A warranty is another common contingent liability because the number of products returned under a warranty is unknown. Assume, for example, that a bike manufacturer offers a three-year warranty on bicycle seats, which cost $50 each. If the firm manufactures 1,000 bicycle seats in a year and offers a warranty per seat, the firm needs to estimate the number of seats that may be returned under warranty each year. Each business transaction is recorded using the double-entry accounting method, with a credit entry to one account and a debit entry to another.

  • This is because of their connection with three discount accounting principles.
  • If the liability arises, it would negatively impact the company’s ability to repay debt.
  • No journal entry or financial adjustment in the financial statements will occur.
  • Two classic examples of contingent liabilities include a company warranty and a lawsuit against the company.
  • In order to safeguard your company’s finances and reputation, you must take both existing and potential obligations into consideration when you engage into a contract.

GAAP is not very clear on this subject; such disclosures are not required, but are not discouraged. What about contingent assets/gains, like a company’s claim against another for patent infringement? why does gaap require accrual basis accounting Such amounts are almost never recognized before settlement payments are actually received. The measurement requirement refers to the company’s ability to reasonably estimate the amount of loss.

Essentially, the effect that contingent liabilities have on an audit depends on their likelihood of occurring in the first place. As well, the impact on financial statements depends on the likelihood of the contingency occurring and the total amount of the transaction. 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.

3 Define and Apply Accounting Treatment for 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. 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.

  • As you’ve learned, not only are warranty expense and warranty liability journalized, but they are also recognized on the income statement and balance sheet.
  • Possible contingencies are just disclosed to the investors by the management during the Annual general meetings (AGMs).
  • In the United States, Deloitte refers to one or more of the US member firms of DTTL, their related entities that operate using the “Deloitte” name in the United States and their respective affiliates.
  • Prudence is a key accounting concept that makes sure that assets and income are not overstated, and liabilities and expenses are not understated.
  • Any case with an ambiguous chance of success should be noted in the financial statements but do not need to be listed on the balance sheet as a liability.

In this instance, Sierra could estimate warranty claims at 10% of its soccer goal sales. For example, Sierra Sports has a one-year warranty on part repairs and replacements for a soccer goal they sell. Sierra Sports notices that some of its soccer goals have rusted screws that require replacement, but they have already sold goals with this problem to customers. There is a probability that someone who purchased the soccer goal may bring it in to have the screws replaced. Not only does the contingent liability meet the probability requirement, it also meets the measurement requirement.


Contingent liabilities can pose a threat to the reduction of net profitability and company assets. This means that they can potentially negatively impact the health and financial performance of a company. Ultimately, this is why these situations or circumstances must get disclosed in the financial statements of a company. Within this principle, referring to the term material also refers to the liability being significant. Since some contingent liabilities can have a negative impact on the financial performance and health of a company, having knowledge of it can influence decision-making when it comes to financial statements. The materiality principle outlines that any and all important financial information and matters must be disclosed in a company’s financial statements.

Issued Standards

A provision is measured at the amount that the entity would rationally pay to settle the obligation at the end of the reporting period or to transfer it to a third party at that time. This second entry recognizes an honored warranty for a soccer goal based on 10% of sales from the period. In our case, we make assumptions about Sierra Sports and build our discussion on the estimated experiences.

Meetings and events

A probable liability or potential loss that may or may not occur because of an unexpected future event or circumstance is referred to as contingent liability. These liabilities will get recorded if it has a reasonable probability of occurring. A possible liability or a potential loss that may or may not occur based on the result of an unexpected future event or circumstance is known as a contingent liability. These liabilities will get recorded if the liability has a reasonable probability of occurrence. A loss contingency which is possible but not probable will not be recorded in the accounts as a liability and a loss.

The ability to estimate a loss is described as known, reasonably estimable, or not reasonably estimable. 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. Sierra Sports may have more litigation in the future surrounding the soccer goals. These lawsuits have not yet been filed or are in the very early stages of the litigation process.

Assume that a company is facing a lawsuit from a rival firm for patent infringement. The company’s legal department thinks that the rival firm has a strong case, and the business estimates a $2 million loss if the firm loses the case. Because the liability is both probable and easy to estimate, the firm posts an accounting entry on the balance sheet to debit (increase) legal expenses for $2 million and to credit (increase) accrued expense for $2 million. 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. Any contingent liabilities that are questionable before their value can be determined should be disclosed in the footnotes to the financial statements.

What Is Important to Know About Contingent Liability?

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. 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. Some examples of such liabilities would be product warranties, lawsuits, bank guarantees, and changes in government policies.

The business projects a $5 million loss if the firm loses the case, but the legal department of the business believes the rival firm has a strong case. As the name suggests, if there are very slight chances of the liability occurring, the US GAAP considers calling it a remote contingency. Contingent liabilities are classified into three types by the US GAAP based on the probability of their occurrence. 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. Businesses need to plan for the worst case scenario while proactively hoping for the best in order to properly manage their cash flow.

A potential or contingent liability that is both probable and the amount can be estimated is recorded as 1) an expense or loss on the income statement, and 2) a liability on the balance sheet. 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. Our example only covered the warranty expenses anticipated from the 2019 sales.

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