Liability: Explore meaning, types, and more

Know all about liability: Meaning, types, and examples. Understand the relationship between liabilities and assets in simple terms.
3 min

What is liability?

Liabilities refer to financial obligations and debts that a person, organization, or business owes to external parties. In accounting, liabilities encompass various financial responsibilities, including loans, outstanding payments, and contractual commitments. Liabilities are crucial in assessing an entity's financial health, as they represent claims against its assets.

How to find liabilities

Liabilities usually represent a company’s debts or obligations. Typically, these are sourced from transactions such as purchases, loans, or other business activities. To determine the liabilities of a firm, one can examine the balance sheet, where they are primarily classified into current (due within a year) and non-current liabilities.

How liabilities work

Liabilities operate as a critical component of the balance sheet, alongside assets and equity. They showcase an entity's financial standing by detailing its debts and obligations. Understanding liabilities involves categorizing them into different types, such as current and long-term liabilities, to analyze the organization's financial structure comprehensively.

Other definitions of liability

Liabilities can be classified into two primary types: current and long-term. Current liabilities encompass short-term obligations payable within a year, like utilities and salaries. Long-term liabilities, such as business loans, extend beyond a year and include mortgages and bonds. Both types play a pivotal role in determining an entity's financial stability and risk management.

Different types of liabilities

Liabilities often manifest themselves into various types, including current liabilities like accounts payable, wages payable, accrued expenses and short-term loans. Conversely, non-current liabilities may consist of long-term loans, deferred tax liabilities, long-term lease obligations, and bonds payable.

Non-current liabilities

Non-current liabilities, often labelled as long-term liabilities, are obligations not due within the next 12 months. They play a crucial role in financing ongoing business operations and include long-term loans, bond payables, and deferred tax liabilities.

Contingent liabilities

Contingent liabilities are potential liabilities that depend upon a certain event or condition occurring. Examples include lawsuits, warranties, and income tax discrepancies. While they may become actual liabilities, their outcome is usually uncertain at the reporting time.

Types of liabilities based on categorisation

Based on categorisation, liabilities can be classified into five types: contingent, current, non-current, common (like mortgage and student loans), and statutes (like taxes payable).





Potential liabilities dependent on future events or conditions.

  • Legal claims
  • Warranty obligations


Liabilities due within one year or the normal operating cycle of the business, whichever is longer.

  • Accounts payable Short-term loans


Long-term liabilities not due within the current accounting period.

  • Long-term loans
  • Bonds payable


Widely encountered liabilities applicable to many individuals or businesses.

  • Mortgage loans
  • Vehicle loans


Liabilities imposed by law or regulatory authorities.

  • Taxes payable
  • GST liabilities

Understanding these classifications aids in effective financial analysis and strategic planning.

How cash flow is calculated

Cash flow, a crucial financial metric, is influenced by liabilities. Positive cash flow occurs when an entity's operational activities generate more cash than its liabilities demand. Calculating cash flow involves considering the net effect of income, expenses, and changes in liabilities over a specific period, providing insights into an organization's liquidity and financial efficiency.

Liabilities vs. assets

Understanding the relationship between liabilities and assets is fundamental in financial analysis. Assets represent what an entity owns, while liabilities signify what it owes. The balance between liabilities and assets determines an entity's equity, reflecting its financial position and solvency.

Liabilities vs Expenses

While both liabilities and expenses represent a business's financial obligations, they differ in nature. Expenses refer to costs incurred to generate revenue, such as rent or salaries. Liabilities, on the other hand, cover all debts and financial obligations of the business, irrespective of whether they generate revenue.

Financial ratios involving liabilities

Financial ratios play a crucial role in evaluating a company's financial health, particularly regarding its liabilities. Here are a few key ratios:

  • Debt-to-Equity ratio: Compares a company's total debt to its shareholder's equity, indicating its leverage and financial risk.
  • Current ratio: Measures a company's ability to meet short-term obligations with its current assets, providing insight into liquidity.
  • Quick ratio: Also known as the acid-test ratio, assesses a company's ability to meet short-term obligations using its most liquid assets, excluding inventory.

These ratios help investors and analysts gauge a company's ability to manage its liabilities effectively and sustainably.

Example of liabilities

Examples of liabilities include accounts payable, accrued expenses, and business loans. Accounts payable represent outstanding invoices to suppliers, accrued expenses encompass unfulfilled obligations, while business loans indicate borrowed funds with repayment terms. These examples showcase the diverse nature of liabilities in different financial contexts.

Accounting reporting of liabilities

Liabilities are reported on the balance sheet along with assets and equity, providing a snapshot of a company's financial health at a specific point in time. Regular, accurate recording of liabilities is a vital part of effective financial management and compliance with accounting standards.

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In conclusion, liabilities play a pivotal role in financial management, providing a comprehensive picture of an entity's financial health. Analysing and managing liabilities effectively is essential for maintaining solvency, ensuring positive cash flow, and making informed financial decisions. Whether current or long-term, liabilities are integral to the intricate web of financial dynamics that shape an organization's success.

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Frequently asked questions

Explain what are liabilities with an example?

Liabilities encompass financial obligations and debts that individuals or entities owe. Examples include accounts payable, where a business owes money to suppliers, accrued expenses representing unfulfilled financial commitments, and business loans that indicate borrowed funds with specified repayment terms.

What is a liability?

A liability refers to any financial obligation or debt that an individual or entity owes to external parties. Common examples include accounts payable, accrued expenses, and loans, illustrating diverse forms of liabilities in various financial contexts.

What are the 3 types of liabilities?

The three primary types of liabilities are current, long-term, and contingent. Current liabilities, such as accounts payable, are short-term obligations due within a year. Long-term liabilities, like mortgages, extend beyond a year. Contingent liabilities are potential obligations dependent on specific future events.

What are basic liabilities?

Basic liabilities are financial obligations or debts that a business or individual owes to external parties. These can include accounts payable, loans, mortgages, accrued expenses, and other obligations that must be settled in the future. Basic liabilities are typically recorded on a company's balance sheet and represent the claims that creditors have on the company's assets.

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