Financial Liabilities | Definition, Types, Ratios, Examples

Financial Liabilities

Financial Liabilities for business are like credit cards for an individual. They are handy in the sense that the company can use to employ “others’ money” to finance its business-related activities for some time period, which lasts only when the liability becomes due. However, one should be mindful that excessive financial liabilities can put a dent on the balance sheet and can take the company on the verge of bankruptcy.


source: verizon

Therefore financial analysts and investors need to be aware of what they are and how they impact the company’s financial position.

We discuss the following Financial Liabilities in detail –

What are Financial Liabilities?

A financial liabilities definition

Any future sacrifices of economic benefits that an entity is required to make as a result of its past transactions or any other activity in the past. The future sacrifices to be made by the entity can be in the form of any money or service owed to the other party.

  • Financial liabilities may usually be legally enforceable due to an agreement signed between two entities. But they are not always necessarily legally enforceable.
  • They can be based on equitable obligations like a duty based on ethical or moral considerations or can also be binding on the entity as a result of a constructive obligation which means an obligation that is implied by a set of circumstances in a particular situation, as opposed to a contractually based obligation.
  • Financial liabilities basically include debt payable and interest payable which is as a result of the use of others’ money in the past, accounts payable to other parties which are as a result of past purchases, rent and lease payable to the space owners which are as a result of the use of others’ property in the past and several taxes payable which are as a result of the business carried out in the past.
  • Almost all of the financial liabilities can be found listed on the balance sheet of the entity.

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Importance of liabilities & their impact on business

Although liabilities are necessarily future obligations, they are nonetheless a vital aspect of a company’s operations because they are used to finance operations and pay for significant expansions.

Types of financial liabilities

Liabilities are classified into two types based upon the time period within which they become due and are liable to be paid to the creditors. Based on this criterion, the two types of liabilities are Short-term or Current Liabilities and Long term Liabilities.

Short term Liabilities


source: verizon

Long term liabilities


source: verizon

Long term and Short term liabilities

For most companies, the long term liabilities comprise mostly the long term debtLong Term DebtLong-term debt is the debt taken by the company that gets due or is payable after one year on the date of the balance sheet. It is recorded on the liabilities side of the company's balance sheet as the non-current more, which is often payable over periods even longer than a decade. However, the other items that can be classified as long term liabilities include debentures, loans, deferred tax liabilitiesDeferred Tax LiabilitiesDeferred tax liabilities arise to the company due to the timing difference between the accrual of the tax and the date when the company pays the taxes to the tax authorities. This is because taxes get due in one accounting period but are not paid in that more, and pension obligations.

On the other hand, there are so many items other than interest and the current portion of long term debtCurrent Portion Of Long Term DebtCurrent Portion of Long-Term Debt (CPLTD) is payable within the next year from the date of the balance sheet, and are separated from the long-term debt as they are to be paid within next year using the company’s cash flows or by utilizing its current more that can be written under short term liabilities. Other short-term liabilities include payroll expenses and accounts payableAccounts PayableAccounts payable is the amount due by a business to its suppliers or vendors for the purchase of products or services. It is categorized as current liabilities on the balance sheet and must be satisfied within an accounting more, which includes money owed to vendors, monthly utilities, and similar expenses.

In case a company has a short term liability that it intends to refinance, some confusion is likely to arise in your mind regarding its classification. For clearing this confusion, it is required to identify whether there is any intent to refinance and also whether the process of refinancing has begun. If yes, and if the refinancedRefinancedRefinancing is defined as taking a new debt obligation in exchange for an ongoing debt obligation. In other words, it is merely an act of replacing an ongoing debt obligation with a further debt obligation concerning specific terms and conditions like interest rates more short term liabilities (debt in general) are going to become due over a period of time longer than 12 months due to refinancing, they can very well be reclassified as long term liabilities.

Hence, there is only one criterion that forms the basis of this classification: the next one year or 12 month period.

Analysis of Financial Liabilities

What is the need to analyze the liabilities of a company?

And who are the people most affected by a company’s liabilities?

Well, liabilities, after all, result in a payout of cash or any other asset in the future. So, by itself, a liability must always be looked upon as unfavorable. Still, when analyzing financial liabilities, they must not be viewed in isolation. It is essential to realize the overall impact of an increase or decrease in liabilities and the signals that these variations in liabilities send out to all those who are concerned.

The people whom the financial liabilities impact are the investors and equity research analystsEquity Research AnalystsAn equity research analyst is a qualified professional who interprets financial information and trends of an organization or industry to provide recommendations, opinions, reports, and projections on the corporate stocks to facilitate equity more who are involved in the business of purchasing, selling, and advising on the shares and bonds of a company. It is they who have to make out how much value a company can create for them in the future by looking at the financial statements.The Financial Statements.Financial 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 more

For the above reasons, experienced investors take a good look at liabilities while analyzing the financial health of any company to invest in them. As a way to quickly size up businesses in this regard, traders have developed several ratios that help them in separating the healthy borrowers from those who are drowning in debt.

Financial liabilities Ratios

All the liabilities are similar to debt, which needs to be paid in the future to the creditors. For this reason, when doing the ratio analysisRatio AnalysisRatio analysis is the quantitative interpretation of the company's financial performance. It provides valuable information about the organization's profitability, solvency, operational efficiency and liquidity positions as represented by the financial more of the financial liabilities, we call them debt in general: long term debt and short term debt. So wherever a ratio has a term by the name of debt, it would mean liabilities.

You can also learn step by step financial statement analysis here

The following ratios are used to analyze the financial liabilities:

#1 – Debt Ratio

The debt ratio gives a comparison of a company’s total debt (long term plus short term) with its total assets.

Debt ratio Formula =Total debt/Total assets=Total liabilities/Total assets

  • This ratio gives an idea of the company’s leverage, i.e., the money borrowed from and/or owed to others.
  • Sometimes analysts use it to gauge whether the company can pay out all its liabilities if it goes bankrupt and has to sell off all its assets.
  • That’s the worst that can happen to a company. So if this ratio is greater than 1, it means that the company has more debt than the cash it can have on selling its assets.
  • Hence, the lower the value of this ratio, the stronger the position of the company is. And thus, investing in such a company becomes as much less risky.
  • However, generally the current portion of total liabilities, i.e., the current liabilities (including the operational liabilities, such as accounts payable and taxes payable), is not as risky as they don’t need to be funded by selling off the assets.
  • A company usually funds them through its current assets or cash.

So a clearer picture of the debt position can be seen by modifying this ratio the “long-term debt to assets ratioDebt To Assets RatioDebt to asset ratio is the ratio of the total debt of a company to the total assets of the company; this ratio represents the ability of a company to have the debt and also raise additional debt if necessary for the operations of the company. A company which has a total debt of $20 million out of $100 million total asset, has a ratio of 0.2read more.”

#2 – Debt to equity ratio:

This ratio also gives an idea of the leverage of a company. It compares a company’s total liabilities to its total shareholders’ equity.

Debt to equity ratio = Total debt/Shareholder’s Equity

  • This ratio gives an idea about how much its suppliers, lenders, and creditors are invested in the company compared to its shareholders.
  • It also tells about the capital structure of the company. The lower this ratio is, the lesser the leverage and the stronger the position of the company’s equity.
  • Again, you can analyze the long term debt against the equity by removing the current liabilities from the total liabilities. That’s the analyst’s choice as per what exactly he is trying to analyze.

#3 – Capitalization ratio:

This ratio specifically compares the long term debt and the total capitalization (i.e., long term debt liabilities plus shareholders’ equity) of a company.

Capitalization ratio = Long term debt/(Long term debt +Shareholder’s equity)

  • This ratio is considered to be one of the more meaningful of the “debt” ratios – it delivers critical insight into a company’s use of leverage.
  • If this ratio has a low value, it would mean that the company has a small long term debt and a high amount of equity.
  • And it is well known that a low level of debt and a healthy proportion of equity in a company’s capital structure is an indication of financial fitness.
  • Hence, a low value of capitalization is considered favorable by an investor.

#4 – Cash flow to total debt ratio:

This ratio gives an idea about a company’s ability to pay its total debt by comparing it with the cash flowCash FlowCash Flow is the amount of cash or cash equivalent generated & consumed by a Company over a given period. It proves to be a prerequisite for analyzing the business’s strength, profitability, & scope for betterment. read more generated by its operations during a given period of time.

Cash flow to debt ratio = Operating cash flow/total debt.

  • The total debt does not entirely belong to the given period since it also includes the long term debt.
  • Still, this ratio indicates whether the cash being generated from operations would suffice to pay the debt in the long term.
  • Unlike the above three ratios, the debt related number (Total debt) comes in the denominator here.
  • So, the more the operating cash flow is, the greater this ratio is. Thus, a greater value of this ratio is to be considered more favorable.

#5 – Interest coverage ratio:

An interest coverage ratio gives an idea about the ability of a company to pay its debt by using its operating income. It is the ratio of a company’s earnings before interest and taxes Earnings Before Interest And TaxesEarnings before interest and tax (EBIT) refers to the company's operating profit that is acquired after deducting all the expenses except the interest and tax expenses from the revenue. It denotes the organization's profit from business operations while excluding all taxes and costs of more (EBIT) to the company’s interest expenses for the same period.

Interest coverage ratio=EBIT/Interest expense

#6 – Current Ratios and Quick Ratios

Significant among other ratios used to analyze the short term liabilities are the current ratio and the quick ratio. Both of them help an analyst in determining whether a company has the ability to pay off its current liabilities.

The current ratio is the ratio of total current assetsCurrent AssetsCurrent assets refer to those short-term assets which can be efficiently utilized for business operations, sold for immediate cash or liquidated within a year. It comprises inventory, cash, cash equivalents, marketable securities, accounts receivable, more to the total current liabilities.

Current ratio=Total current assets/Total current liabilities

The quick ratio is the ratio of the total current assets fewer inventories to the current liabilities.

Quick ratio= (Total current assets-Inventories)/Total current liabilities

The above ratios are some of the most common ratios used to analyze a company’s liabilities. However, there is no limit to the number and type of ratios to be used.

  • You can take any suitable terms and take their ratio as per the requirement of your analysis. The only aim of using the ratios is to get a quick idea about the components, magnitude, and quality of a company’s liabilities.
  • Also, as is true with any kind of ratio analysis, the type of company and the industry norms must be kept in mind before concluding whether it is high or low on debt when using the above ratios as the basis. It is a comparative analysis, after all!
  • For instance, large and well-established companies can push the liability component of their balance sheet structure to higher percentages without getting into trouble while smaller firms may not.

Financial Liabilities Examples

High debt companies:

These days, the whole oil exploration and production industry are suffering from an unprecedented piling up of debt. Exxon, Shell, BP, and Chevron have combined debts of $ 184 billion amid a two-year slump. The reason is that crude oil prices have stayed lower than profitable levels for too long now. And these companies did not expect this downturn to extend this long. So they took too much debt to finance their new projects and operations.

But now, since the new projects have not turned profitable, they are unable to generate enough income or cash to pay back that debt. It means that their Income coverage ratios and Cash flow to debt ratios have seriously declined to make them unfavorable to invest.

Exxon Mobil Debt to Equity (Quarterly Chart)

source: ycharts

As the investment becomes unfavorable, investors pull out their money from the stock. As a result, the debt to equity ratio increases, as can be seen in the case of Exxon Mobil in the above chart.

Now, the oil companies are trying to generate cash by selling some of their assets every quarter. So, their debt-paying ability presently depends upon their Debt ratio. If they have got enough assets, they can get enough cash by selling them off and pay the debt as it comes due.

Low debt companies

On the other hand, there are companies like Pan American Silver (a silver miner), which are low on debt. Pan American had a debt of only $ 59 million compared to the cash, cash equivalents, and short term investmentsShort Term InvestmentsShort term investments are those financial instruments which can be easily converted into cash in the next three to twelve months and are classified as current assets on the balance sheet. Most companies opt for such investments and park excess cash due to liquidity and solvency more of $ 204 million at the end of the June quarter of 2016. It means that the ratio of debt to cash, cash equivalents, and short term investments is just 0.29. Cash, cash equivalents, and short term investments are the most liquid assets of a company. And the total debt is only 0.29 times of that. So, from the viewpoint of “ability to pay the debt,” Pan American is a very favorable investment as compared to those oil companies at the moment.

Pan America Silver Debt to Equity (Quarterly)

source: ycharts

Now, the above chart of Pan American also shows an increase in debt to equity ratioDebt To Equity RatioThe debt to equity ratio is a representation of the company's capital structure that determines the proportion of external liabilities to the shareholders' equity. It helps the investors determine the organization's leverage position and risk level. read more. But look at the value of that ratio in both charts. It’s 0.261 for Exxon while it’s only 0.040 for Pan American. This comparison clearly shows that investing in Pan American is much less risky than investing in Exxon.

Financial Liabilities Video



There is no single method for analyzing financial liabilities. However, finding out meaningful ratios and comparing them with other companies is one well established and recommended method to decide over investing in a company. There are specific traditionally defined ratios for this purpose. But you can very well come up with your ratios depending upon the purpose of analysis.

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