What is Liabilities in Business | Full Explanations

In business, a liability is a commitment that a firm has that will cause it to forfeit future financial advantages over other people or companies. An alternative to equity as a source of a company’s financing is a liability, such as debt.

Additionally, some liabilities are necessary for day-to-day corporate operations, such as accounts payable or income taxes owed.

This article will explain the meaning and give examples of liabilities in a business.

Related: What is Capital in Business? | Full Explanation

what is liabilities in business

What Is a Liability?

A liability is a debt that a person or business owes, typically in the form of money. Liabilities are eventually satisfied through the transfer of economic benefits like money, products, or services.

Liabilities are a necessary component of operation and expansion for every business. A company’s foundation is secure when liabilities and equity are correctly balanced. If it has too much debt, it can be challenging to make payments if sales decline.

It might also stop the business from taking on further debt, allowing it to seize market opportunities. The balance sheet makes this mix clear.

You list liabilities on the balance sheet’s right side, which consist of debts, including loans, accounts payable, mortgages, deferred income, bonds, warranties, and accumulated expenses.

You can compare assets and liabilities. Assets are items you own or owe money to; liabilities are things you owe money to or have borrowed.

See Also: What Is Bonding In Business? | Full Explanations

How do Business Liabilities Work

A liability, in general, is an obligation between two parties that has yet to be fulfilled or paid for. A financial liability is an obligation in the accounting world.

Still, it is more characterized explicitly by previous business transactions, events, sales, exchanges of goods or services, or anything else that will generate income in the future.

Due to their expected duration of more than a year (12 months or greater), non-current liabilities are frequently considered long-term liabilities.

Depending on their temporality, we can classify liabilities as current or non-current. They can be a future responsibility to provide services to others (a short- or long-term loan from a bank, an individual, or another entity) or a previous deal that left an unresolved duty.

The most outstanding liabilities, such as accounts payable and bonds payable, are typically the most prevalent. Given that they represent a component of continuous current and long-term operations, most businesses will include these two lines on their balance sheet.

Because they are used to fund operations and significant expansions, liabilities are a crucial business component. They can also improve the effectiveness of business-to-company interactions.

For instance, a wine distributor will typically not request payment while delivering a case of wine to a restaurant. Instead, it sends an invoice to the restaurant to facilitate payment and expedite the drop-off process.

Liability is the unpaid balance that the restaurant owes to its wine supplier. On the other hand, the wine supplier views the outstanding debt as an asset.

See Also: What Is P&L In Business? | Full Explanations

Other Definitions of Liability

Liability can refer to any amount of money or service owing to another party and generally relates to the condition of being accountable for anything. Tax responsibility, for instance, can apply to the federal income tax a homeowner owes or the property taxes he owes to the local government.

Before sending the money to the county, city, or state, a retailer who collects sales tax from a customer has a sales tax liability on their records.

In a civil action, one’s prospective damages are another example of liability.

Related: How to Become A LLC In 2023 | Full Step Guide

Types of Liabilities in Business

Businesses divide their responsibilities into current and long-term liabilities. Long-term liabilities are obligations you must pay over a more extended period than current liabilities.

A 15-year mortgage, for instance, that a company takes out is a good illustration of long-term debt.

The short-term liabilities part of the balance sheet is where you record the mortgage payments that are due in the current year because they constitute the current element of the long-term debt.

Current (Near-Term) Liabilities

Analysts prefer to verify that a company can pay its current liabilities, which are due within a year, with cash. Payroll costs and accounts payable, which comprise sums owing to suppliers, regular utility costs, and similar expenses, are a couple of instances of short-term liabilities. Another illustration is:

#1. Wages Payable

Wages payable is the total of the accrued wages staff members have worked for but have yet to receive. Most businesses pay their employees every two weeks; therefore, this liability is constantly changing.

#2. Interest Payable

Similar to how people do it, businesses frequently utilize credit to finance short-term purchases of goods and services. Such short-term credit purchases need the payment of this interest.

#3. Dividends Payable

The amount businesses that have issued shares to investors and paid dividends owe to shareholders is what we call “dividends payable.” This responsibility occurs four times a year during the two weeks before the dividend payment.

#4. Unearned Revenues

A company’s liability for providing goods and/or services after receiving upfront payment is known as this. Following the goods or service delivery, using an offset entry will reduce this sum.

#5. Liabilities of Discontinued Operations

Most individuals only give it a passing thought, but it’s a special liability that needs closer examination.

Companies must consider the financial implications of any operations, divisions, or entities either up for sale or recently sold. It also includes the current or previous economic impact of a product line.

Non-Current (Long-Term) Liabilities

Given the name, any debt that is not immediate falls under non-current liabilities, which is to be paid in a year or longer.

Again using AT&T as an example, there are more goods listed there than at your typical corporation, which might only include one or two. Bonds payable, commonly referred to as long-term debt, are typically the most significant liability and are at the top of the list.

Companies of all sizes borrow money from the parties that buy their bonds to finance a portion of their long-term operations. As bonds are issued, reach maturity, or are called back by the issuer, this line item is constantly changing.

Analysts want evidence that you may settle long-term liabilities with assets acquired from upcoming revenues or financing deals.

Companies have other long-term liabilities besides bonds and loans. Long-term liabilities can include commitments for rent, deferred taxes, salaries, and pensions. Other illustrations include:

#1. Warranty Liability 

You must assess certain liabilities because AP is only sometimes accurate. It estimates how much you would require time and money to fix things after a warranty is accepted.

Most automobiles have lengthy warranties that can be expensive, so this is a frequent liability in the automotive sector.

#2. Contingent Liability Evaluation

A contingent liability is a responsibility that might materialize based on how a future event plays out.

#3. Deferred Credits

Deferred credit is a broad category that can be current or non-current, depending on the details of the transactions. These credits are revenue that has been received but has yet to be shown as earned on the income statement.

Customer advances, deferred revenue, or transactions where credits are owed but not yet regarded as revenue may all fall under this category. This item reduces by the amount earned and added to the company’s revenue stream once the money is no longer postponed.

#4. Post-Employment Benefits

These retirement-related benefits that an employee or their family may be eligible for are recorded as a long-term liability as they are incurred.

This accounts for one-half of the total non-current debt in the AT&T example, which is second only to long-term debt. This liability should not be disregarded due to the rising healthcare costs and deferred compensation.

#5. Unamortized Investment Tax Credits (UITC)

This is the difference between the historical cost of an asset and its depreciation to date. Although it is simply a preliminary estimate of the asset’s fair market value, the unamortized component is a liability. This gives an analyst some information about how aggressive or conservative a company’s depreciation practices are.

Liabilities vs. Assets

The things a business owns—or the amount owed to them—are referred to as its assets, and they can be either tangible, like buildings, machinery, and equipment, or intangible, like accounts receivable, the interest owing, patents, or intellectual property. 

The difference, the owner’s or stockholders’ equity of a company, is obtained by deducting its liabilities from its assets. Below is an explanation of this connection:

Assets – Liabilities = Owner’s Equity

However, below is the conventional way to represent this accounting equation:

Assets = Liabilities + Equity

See Also: How To Become A Small Business Owner in 2023 | Full Step Guide

Liabilities vs. Expenses

An expense is a business’s operational cost incurred to produce income. Unlike assets and liabilities, expenses are proportional to revenue, and both are shown on an organization’s income statement. In essence, net income equals revenues minus expenses.

For instance, if a business has been losing money for the last three years and its expenses have exceeded its revenues, this may indicate insufficient financial stability.

It’s important to distinguish between costs and liabilities. One is shown on an organization’s balance sheet, and the other is on its income statement.

Liabilities are the commitments and debts a corporation owes, whereas expenses are the expenditures of a firm’s operations. You can make the payment of expenses right away in cash, or you can postpone it, which would result in liability.

Check Out: 20 Successful Businesses Started By College Students

Tracking Assets and Liabilities using Accounting Software

The appropriate accounting software can assist you in keeping track of the resources, expenses, and liabilities of your company. You can monitor your cash flow and assess your company’s financial health with the data you track.

The best accounting program will depend on the size of your company and the nature of your invoice requirements. Here are a few of our top choices:

  • Wave Financial: For independent contractors, freelancers, and small businesses, Wave is a fantastic choice. Free accounting software that connects to your bank account makes it simple to keep track of new business spending. However, compared to some of its rivals, it offers fewer integrations.
  • QuickBooks: For companies of all sizes, QuickBooks is an economical solution. Its features include payroll management, spending monitoring, and invoicing. The company also provides many articles and video lessons to simplify the software.
  • FreshBooks: Anyone who must frequently make and collect payments via invoices would benefit greatly from using FreshBooks. You may set up automated payment reminders for clients using the invoice generator, making it simple to create professional invoices rapidly.
  • Xero: A good choice for your expanding business is Xero. You will have access to 24-hour customer assistance, and the program interfaces with over 700 apps. As well as producing financial reports including profit and loss statements, the software also allows for tax preparation.


What liabilities explain?

Any financial debt a company owes to a person or another firm at the end of an accounting period is a liability. Balance liabilities are resolved by transferring financial benefits like cash, products, or services.

What are liabilities and its example?

Any debts owed by your business to others, including bank loans, mortgages, unpaid bills, IOUs, and other sums of money, are referred to as liabilities. A liability exists when you owe someone money after promising to pay them in the future.

How Do I Know Something Is a Liability?

Something borrowed from, due to, or bound to someone else is a liability. It might be actual (like an unpaid bill) or hypothetical (e.g., a possible lawsuit).
Liability need not always be a negative thing. For instance, a business may incur debt (a liability) to grow and thrive. Or, a person could get a mortgage to buy a house.

Is a car a liability or an asset?

A car is considered a fixed or capital asset because it will benefit the company in the long run. But it’s essential to remember that the car will lose value over time.

Why is liability insurance important in business?

Employers’ Liability Insurance protects companies from paying out compensation and legal fees due to employee claims. It’s a crucial sort of insurance since you might be held responsible if one of your employees gets sick or hurt while working for you.


We have explained the meaning of liabilities in a business.

Liabilities are the legitimate debts that a business owes to other creditors. Accounts payable, notes payable, and bank debt are a few examples.

There are two main types of liabilities in business: current and non-current.



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