Investor's wiki



What Is a Liability?

A liability is something a person or company owes, normally a sum of money. Liabilities are settled over the long run through the transfer of economic benefits including money, goods, or services.

Recorded on the right half of the balance sheet, liabilities incorporate loans, accounts payable, mortgages, deferred revenues, bonds, guarantees, and accrued expenses.

Liabilities can be appeared differently in relation to assets. Liabilities allude to things that you owe or have borrowed; assets are things that you own or are owed.

How Liabilities Work

As a general rule, a liability is an obligation between one party and one more not yet completed or paid for. In the world of accounting, a financial liability is likewise an obligation yet is more defined by previous business transactions, events, sales, exchange of assets or services, or whatever would give economic benefit sometime in the not too distant future. Current liabilities are typically viewed as short-term (expected to be finished up in 12 months or less) and non-current liabilities are long-term (12 months or greater).

Liabilities are classified as current or non-current relying upon their fleetingness. They can incorporate a future service owed to other people (short-or long-term borrowing from banks, individuals, or different substances) or a previous transaction that has made an unsettled obligation. The most common liabilities are generally the largest like accounts payable and bonds payable. Most companies will have these two details on their balance sheet, as they are part of continuous current and long-term operations.

Liabilities are an indispensable part of a company since they are utilized to finance operations and pay for large expansions. They can likewise make transactions between businesses more efficient. For instance, as a rule, on the off chance that a wine provider offers a case of wine to a restaurant, it doesn't demand payment when it delivers the goods. Rather, it solicitations the restaurant for the purchase to streamline the drop-off and make paying simpler for the restaurant.

The outstanding money that the restaurant owes to its wine provider is viewed as a liability. Conversely, the wine provider considers the money being an asset is owed.

Liability may likewise allude to the legal liability of a business or individual. For instance, numerous businesses take out liability insurance in case a customer or employee sues them for negligence.

Different Definitions of Liability

Generally, liability alludes to the state of being responsible for something, and this term can allude to any money or service owed to another party. Tax liability, for instance, can allude to the property taxes that a homeowner owes to the municipal government or the income tax he owes to the federal government. At the point when a retailer gathers sales tax from a customer, they have a sales tax liability on their books until they transmit those funds to the district/city/state.

Liability can likewise allude to one's possible damages in a civil claim.

Types of Liabilities

Businesses sort their liabilities into two categories: current and long-term. Current liabilities are debts payable in no less than one year, while long-term liabilities are debts payable over a longer period. For instance, in the event that a business takes out a mortgage payable north of a 15-year period, that is a long-term liability. Nonetheless, the mortgage payments that are due during the current year are viewed as the current portion of long-term debt and are kept in the short-term liabilities section of the balance sheet.

Current (Near-Term) Liabilities

Preferably, analysts need to see that a company can pay current liabilities, which are due in the span of a year, with cash. A few instances of short-term liabilities incorporate payroll expenses and accounts payable, which incorporate money owed to sellers, month to month utilities, and comparative expenses. Different models include:

  • Compensation Payable: The total amount of accrued income employees have earned however not yet received. Since most companies pay their employees like clockwork, this liability changes frequently.
  • Interest Payable: Companies, just like individuals, frequently use credit to purchase goods and services to finance throughout short time spans. This addresses the interest on those short-term credit purchases to be paid.
  • Dividends Payable: For companies that have issued stock to investors and pay a dividend, this addresses the amount owed to shareholders after the dividend was declared. This period is about fourteen days, so this liability normally springs up four times each year, until the dividend is paid.
  • Unearned Revenues: This is a company's liability to deliver goods or potentially services sometime not too far off subsequent to being paid in advance. This amount will be diminished in the future with an offsetting entry once the product or service is delivered.
  • Liabilities of Discontinued Operations: This is a unique liability that the vast majority look over yet ought to investigate all the more closely. Companies are required to account for the financial impact of an operation, division, or entity that is currently being held available to be purchased or has been as of late sold. This likewise incorporates the financial impact of a product line that is or has as of late been closed down.

Non-Current (Long-Term) Liabilities

Taking into account the name, clearly any liability that isn't close term falls under non-current liabilities, expected to be paid in 12 months or more. Alluding again to the AT&T model, there are a bigger number of things than your regular company that might show a couple of things. Long-term debt, otherwise called bonds payable, is typically the largest liability and at the first spot on the list.

Companies of all sizes finance part of their continuous long-term operations by giving bonds that are basically loans from each party that purchases the bonds. This detail is in consistent motion as bonds are issued, mature, or called back by the guarantor.

Analysts need to see that long-term liabilities can be paid with assets derived from future earnings or financing transactions. Bonds and loans are by all accounts not the only long-term liabilities companies cause. Things like rent, deferred taxes, payroll, and pension obligations can likewise be listed under long-term liabilities. Different models include:

  • Warranty Liability: Some liabilities are not generally so accurate as AP and must be estimated. The estimated amount of time and money might be spent fixing products upon the agreement of a warranty. This is a common liability in the automotive industry, as most cars have long-term guarantees that can be costly.
  • Contingent Liability Evaluation: A contingent liability is a liability that might happen relying upon the outcome of a dubious future event.
  • Deferred Credits: This is a broad category that might be recorded as current or non-current relying upon the points of interest of the transactions. These credits are essentially revenue collected before it is recorded as earned on the income statement. It might incorporate customer advances, deferred revenue, or a transaction where credits are owed yet not yet thought about revenue. When the revenue is not generally deferred, this thing is decreased by the amount earned and turns out to be part of the company's revenue stream.
  • Post-Employment Benefits: These are benefits an employee or family individuals might receive upon his/her retirement, which are carried as a long-term liability as it builds. In the AT&T model, this is one-half of the total non-current total second just to long-term debt. With rapidly rising medical care and deferred compensation, this liability isn't to be ignored.
  • Unamortized Investment Tax Credits (UITC): This addresses the net between an asset's historical cost and the amount that has previously been depreciated. The unamortized portion is a liability, yet it is just a good guess of the asset's fair market value. For an investigator, this gives a few subtleties of how aggressive or conservative a company is with its depreciation methods.

Liabilities versus Assets

Assets are the things a company claims — or things owed to the company — and they incorporate unmistakable things like structures, machinery, and equipment as well as elusive things, for example, accounts receivable, interest owed, licenses, or intellectual property.

On the off chance that a business deducts its liabilities from its assets, the difference is its proprietor's or alternately stockholders' equity. This relationship can be communicated as follows:
AssetsLiabilities=Owner’s Equity\text-\text=\text{Owner's Equity}
Nonetheless, much of the time, this accounting equation is commonly introduced in that capacity:
Assets=Liabilities+Equity\text = \text + \text

Liabilities versus Expenses

A expense is the cost of operations that a company causes to produce revenue. Dissimilar to assets and liabilities, expenses are connected with revenue, and both are listed on a company's income statement. In short, expenses are utilized to ascertain net income. The equation to ascertain net income is revenues minus expenses.

For instance, in the event that a company has a greater number of expenses than revenues for the past three years, it might signal weak financial stability since it has been losing money for those years.

Expenses and liabilities ought not be mistaken for one another. One is listed on a company's balance sheet, and the other is listed on the company's income statement. Expenses are the costs of a company's operation, while liabilities are the obligations and debts a company owes. Expenses can be paid promptly with cash, or the payment could be delayed which would make a liability.

Illustration of Liabilities

As a down to earth instance of understanding a firm's liabilities, we should take a gander at a historical model utilizing AT&T's (T) 2020 balance sheet. The current/short-term liabilities are isolated from long-term/non-current liabilities on the balance sheet.

AT&T plainly characterizes its bank debt that is developing in under one year under current liabilities. For a company this size, this is in many cases utilized as operating capital for everyday operations as opposed to funding larger things, which would be better fit utilizing long-term debt.

Like most assets, liabilities are carried at cost, not market value, and under generally accepted accounting principle (GAAP) rules can be listed arranged by preference for however long they are sorted. The AT&T model has a moderately high debt level under current liabilities. With more modest companies, other details like accounts payable (AP) and different future liabilities like payroll, taxes will be higher current debt obligations.

AP normally conveys the largest balances, as they envelop the everyday operations. AP can incorporate services, raw materials, office supplies, or some other categories of products and services where no promissory note is issued. Since most companies don't pay for goods and services as they are acquired, AP is equivalent to a heap of bills waiting to be paid.


  • Long-term (non-current) liabilities are obligations listed on the balance sheet not due for over a year.
  • A liability (generally talking) is something owed to another person.
  • Liability can likewise mean a legal or regulatory risk or obligation.
  • In accounting, companies book liabilities contrary to assets.
  • Current liabilities are a company's short-term financial obligations that are due in the span of one year or a normal operating cycle (for example accounts payable).


What Is a Contingent Liability?

A contingent liability is an obligation that could need to be paid from now on, however there are as yet unsettled matters that make it just a possibility and not a certainty. Lawsuits and the threat of lawsuits are the most common contingent liabilities, however unused gift cards, product guarantees, and reviews likewise fit into this category.

What Are Examples of Liabilities That Individuals or Households Have?

Like businesses, an individual's or alternately family's net worth is taken by adjusting assets against liabilities. For most families, liabilities will incorporate taxes due, bills that must be paid, rent or mortgage payments, loan interest and principal due, etc. On the off chance that you are paid ahead of time for performing work or a service, the work owed may likewise be understood as a liability.

How Do Liabilities Relate to Assets and Equity?

The accounting equation states that — assets = liabilities + equity. Accordingly, we can re-organize the formula to understand liabilities = assets - equity. In this way, the value of a firm's total liabilities will rise to the difference between the values of total assets and shareholders' equity. If a firm takes on additional liabilities without accumulating extra assets, it must bring about a reduction in the value of the firm's equity position.

How Do I Know If Something Is a Liability?

A liability is something borrowed from, owed to, or committed to another person. It tends to be real (for example a bill that should be paid) or potential (for example a potential lawsuit).A liability isn't really something terrible. For example, a company might take out debt (a liability) to extend and develop its business. Or on the other hand, an individual might take out a mortgage to purchase a home.

How Are Current Liabilities Different From Long-Term (Noncurrent) Ones?

Companies will isolate their liabilities by their time horizon for when they are due. Current liabilities are due in no less than a year and are frequently paid for utilizing current assets. Non-current liabilities are due in over one year and most frequently incorporate debt repayments and deferred payments.