Contingent Liabilities Example

Updated on January 3, 2024
Article byWallstreetmojo Team
Edited byAshish Kumar Srivastav
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Examples Of Contingent Liabilities

Contingent Liability is the company’s potential liability, which depends on the happening or non-happening of some contingent event in the future that is beyond the company’s control. Examples of contingent liabilities include potential pending lawsuits from the company, warranties, etc.

The most common examples of contingent liabilities are given below –

  1. Lawsuit
  2. Product Warranty
  3. Pending Investigation or Pending Cases
  4. Bank GuaranteeBank GuaranteeThe term “Bank Guarantee,” as the name suggests, is the guarantee or assurance given by a financial institution to an external party if the borrower cannot repay the debt or meet its financial liability. In such an event, the bank will repay such an amount to the party that has been issued with the guarantee.read more
  5. Lawsuit for theft of Patent/know-how
  6. Change of Government Policies
  7. Change in Foreign Exchange
  8. Liquidated Damages

Key Takeaways

  • A contingent liability refers to the probability of a company incurring a potential liability based on the happening or non-happening of a contingent beyond the company’s control. 
  • Various examples of contingent liability include lawsuits, product warranties, changes in government policies, foreign exchange fluctuations, pending cases/investigations, lawsuits of patents, and bank guarantees.
  • Due to a minor change in government policies, tax rates will change, which will cause a further change in the spending on welfare funds, thus creating a contingent liability in the company’s books.

Let us discuss each one of them in detail –

Contingent Liabilities Example

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#1 – Lawsuit

A customer has filed a lawsuit of $100 against a company for providing a defective product and a dented customer service. The company’s legal department believes that the customer has substantial evidence to prove his case and win in a court of law.

In the above case, there is a possibility that the company may lose this case, and a staggering liability of $100 will arise; therefore, the company will record this liability in its financial statementsFinancial StatementFinancial statements are written reports prepared by a company's management to present the company's financial affairs over a given period (quarter, six monthly or yearly). These statements, which include the Balance Sheet, Income Statement, Cash Flows, and Shareholders Equity Statement, must be prepared in accordance with prescribed and standardized accounting standards to ensure uniformity in reporting at all levels.read more by debiting the legal expenses and crediting the accrued costsAccrued ExpensesAn accrued expense is the expenses which is incurred by the company over one accounting period but not paid in the same accounting period. In the books of accounts it is recorded in a way that the expense account is debited and the accrued expense account is credited.read more.

Suppose the company believes the customer will not win this case in the above example. Then, the company will have to report a contingent liability in its accounts notes.

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#2 – Product Warranty

Some companies provide a warranty on their product. For example, suppose a company X Ltd. was selling a car and supplying three years of proof on the vehicle’s engine, which costs around $1,000. However, if the company sells 5000 units, they will have to estimate how many cars may come for engine replacement during the warranty period. Accordingly, the company has to provide contingent liabilityContingent LiabilityContingent Liabilities are the potential liabilities of the company that may arise at some future date as a result of a contingent event that is beyond the company's control. read more in its financial statements.

Assume in the above example that the company estimates 25% of cars, i.e., 1250 units, will have to replace the engine; in that case, the company has to provide (1250*$1,000) as their contingent liability.

#3 – Pending Investigation Or Pending Cases

Suppose there are pending investigations or court cases against a company. In that case, the company has to disclose contingent liability in its books of accounts.

#4 – Bank Guarantee

There are two companies, X Ltd. and Y Ltd. 

Suppose Y Ltd. takes a loan of $1,000 million and X Ltd. guarantees Y Ltd’s behalf for that loan. In that case, if Y Ltd., for any reason, fails to make the payment, then X Ltd. will be answerable to the bank. Therefore, X Ltd. has to disclose this contingent liability in its books of accounts.

#5 – Lawsuit For Theft Of Patent/Know-How

Suppose ABC Ltd. is a pharmaceutical company developing a formula of medicine that cures diabetes. At the same time, another pharmaceutical company XYZ Ltd. filed a lawsuit of $1,000 million against ABC Ltd. for theft of its patent/know-how. ABC Ltd. feels they will lose the lawsuit and have to pay XYZ Ltd. In that case, ABC Ltd. records this contingent liability in their books of accounts.

#6 – Change Of Govt. Policies

Suppose a company has reason to believe there will be a change in government policies due to their product costProduct CostProduct cost refers to all those costs which are incurred by the company in order to create the product of the company or deliver the services to the customers and the same is shown in the financial statement of the company for the period in which they become the part of the cost of the goods that are sold by the company.read more getting pricier. It would imply that tax rates change, or the company has to spend some percentage of their profit on welfare funds; thus, the company will have to disclose and note contingent liability in their notes of accounts.

#7 – Change In Foreign Exchange

Suppose a company does import-export business by procuring raw materialsRaw MaterialsRaw materials refer to unfinished substances or unrefined natural resources used to manufacture finished goods.read more from one country and supplying finished goods. However, the company must make foreign currency payments, and exchange rates might fluctuate because of global economic conditions. Due to this, the company will have to make more payments to its creditorsCreditorsA creditor refers to a party involving an individual, institution, or the government that extends credit or lends goods, property, services, or money to another party known as a debtor. The credit made through a legal contract guarantees repayment within a specified period as mutually agreed upon by both parties. read more than its actual cost. As a result, the company will record a contingent liability in its books of accounts. However, the company will receive more money from its debtorsDebtorsA debtor is a borrower who is liable to pay a certain sum to a credit supplier such as a bank, credit card company or goods supplier. The borrower could be an individual like a home loan seeker or a corporate body borrowing funds for business expansion. read more than its selling price. Therefore, technically, they will not record this contingent asset in their books of accounts because of accounting principlesAccounting PrinciplesAccounting principles are the set guidelines and rules issued by accounting standards like GAAP and IFRS for the companies to follow while recording and presenting the financial information in the books of accounts.read more.

#8 – Liquidate Damages

Liquidated damagesLiquidated DamagesLiquidated damages refer to a sum of money, which is predetermined in the contract. In case of non-performance of some or all of its obligations, the party in breach is obliged to pay the other party compensation.read more are an amount of money agreed upon by parties under a contract that one party will pay to others upon breaching the contract. The non-defaulting may file a case and obtain a judgment for the number of liquidated damages; on the other hand, the defaulting party may record/disclose a contingent liability in the books of accounts.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are contingent liabilities current liability?

A current liability is a liability the company presently incurs in the accounting books. However, contingent liability is a liability the company expects to incur in the future. 

How to record contingent liabilities?

Rules require contingent liabilities to be recorded in the accounts when a future event is likely to occur. Here, one can reasonably estimate the amount of the liability. A loss (debit) would be recorded, and a liability (credit) would be established before the settlement.

Are contingent liabilities deductible for tax purposes?

A seller cannot claim a tax deduction for contingent liabilities until it comes determinable and fixed. So, one cannot consider it an expenditure while computing taxable income.

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