TOTAL LIABILITIES: Definition, and How To Calculate It

total liabilities

The total liabilities are all of the debts that a company owes to third parties. This can include debts such as loans, prospective buyouts, staff pay, and more.
If you’re an accountant or a business owner, you should grasp what total liabilities are and how they affect your balance sheet.
We’ll guide you through how to calculate total liabilities in this guide. Calculating liabilities assists a small firm in determining its total debt. You can also use it to check the accuracy of your records by plugging it into the basic accounting formula.

Are you still unsure what a liability is? This article provides a straightforward definition as well as examples applicable to small enterprises.

What Is a Liability?

A liability is something that a person or corporation owes, usually a monetary amount. Liabilities are resolved over time by transferring economic benefits such as money, products, or services. Liabilities, which are recorded on the balance sheet’s right side, include loans, accounts payable, mortgages, deferred revenues, bonds, warranties, and accumulated expenses.

How Liabilities Work

In general, a liability is an unfulfilled or unpaid obligation between one party and another. A financial liability is also an obligation in the world of accounting, but it is more defined by previous business transactions, events, sales, exchange of assets or services, or anything that would offer economic gain at a later date. Current liabilities are often short-term (anticipated to be completed in 12 months or less), whereas non-current liabilities are long-term (12 months or greater).

Liabilities are classified as current or non-current based on their timeliness. They can be a future service owed to others (short- or long-term borrowing from banks, individuals, or other entities) or a previous transaction that resulted in an unresolved obligation. Accounts payable and bonds payable are two of the most prevalent liabilities. Because they are part of continuous current and long-term operations, most corporations will include these two line items on their balance sheet.

Liabilities are an important part of a business because they are utilized to fund operations and big expansions. They can also improve the efficiency of commercial transactions. For example, if a wine supplier sells a case of wine to a restaurant, it usually does not require payment when the goods are delivered. Rather, it bills the restaurant for the purchase in order to expedite the drop-off process and make payment easy for the business.

The restaurant’s outstanding debt to its wine supplier is classified as a liability. The wine provider, on the other hand, considers the money owing to be an asset.

What are Total Liabilities?

Total liabilities are the sum of an individual’s or company’s debts and commitments to third parties. All of the company’s assets are classed as assets, while all payments owed for future obligations are classified as liabilities. Total assets minus total liabilities equals equity on the balance sheet.

Understanding Total Liabilities

Liabilities are obligations owed by one party to another that has not yet been finished or paid for. They are settled over time by the exchange of economic benefits such as money, products, or services.

Liabilities include a wide range of items such as monthly lease payments, electricity bills, bonds issued to investors, and corporate credit card debt. Unearned revenue, or money received by an individual or company for a service or product that has yet to be provided or delivered, is also recorded as a liability because the revenue has yet to be earned and represents products or services owed to a customer.

Future payments on things like pending lawsuits and product warranties must also be recorded as liabilities if the contingency is anticipated and the amount is reasonable. These are known as contingent liabilities.

Different Types of Liabilities

A company’s total liabilities are often divided into three groups on the balance sheet: short-term, long-term, and other liabilities. Total liabilities are determined by adding all short-term and long-term liabilities, as well as any off-balance-sheet liabilities that corporations may incur.

#1. Short-term liabilities

Short-term liabilities, often known as current liabilities, are those that are due in one year or less. Payroll expenses, rent, and accounts payable (AP), or money due by a corporation to its clients, are examples.

Because payment is due within a year, investors and analysts want to know if a company has enough cash on hand to satisfy its short-term liabilities.

#2. Long-term liabilities

Long-term liabilities, also known as noncurrent liabilities, are debts and other non-debt financial obligations that have a maturity date of more than one year. Debentures, loans, deferred tax liabilities, and pension commitments are all examples.

Long-term liabilities demand less liquidity to pay because they are due over a longer period of time. Investors and analysts typically anticipate that they will be settled with assets earned from future earnings or financing activities. In most cases, one year is sufficient time to convert inventory into cash.

Other liabilities

When something is referred to as “other” in financial statements, it usually signifies that it is odd, does not fit into key categories, and is deemed relatively unimportant. When it comes to liabilities, the term “other” might relate to items like intercompany borrowings and sales taxes.

Investors can learn about a company’s various liabilities by reviewing the footnotes in its financial statements.

Balance Sheet Liabilities

On a balance sheet, liabilities relate to money due to creditors. Current liabilities, or amounts due within a year, are listed first. Current liabilities include short-term loan payments, costs such as rent, taxes, utilities, and interest or dividends. They are followed by long-term debt that is not due for at least a year. This category covers the balance of loans that are not due in the next year, bonds, and pension payments. The total liabilities of the corporation are listed at the end of the section, just as they are in the assets section.

How to Calculate Total Liabilities

Check the list of liabilities to calculate total liabilities. Then add up all of the ones that pertain to your company to calculate total liabilities.

To calculate liabilities, you must first understand what liabilities you have.

These are some frequent liabilities, according to the Houston Chronicle and Accounting Tools:

  • Accounts receivable (money you owe to suppliers)
  • Payable Salaries
  • Payable wages
  • Due Income tax
  • Payable interest
  • Required Sales tax
  • Deposits or retainers from customers
  • Payable debt (on business loans)
  • Contracts that you are unable to cancel without incurring a penalty
  • Lease contract
  • Insurance coverage
  • Payable benefits
  • Investment taxation
  • Accrued liabilities (such as interest that has yet to be invoiced)

For example, you could combine:

  • Payroll costs
  • Inventory expenses
  • Rent or building mortgage costs
  • Loans
  • Pension costs
  • and much more

Once you’ve added them all up, you’ll have your company’s total liabilities or debt obligations. Investors will occasionally look at the company’s total liabilities. They contrast them with other companies in the same industry. This allows them to determine whether the company in question is managing its funds responsibly.

Expenses Do Not Constitute Liabilities

Expenses do not constitute liabilities. They are ongoing payments for services or items with no monetary value. Purchasing a business cell phone is an outlay of funds. According to The Balance, liabilities are loans used to purchase assets (things of financial value), such as equipment.

How to Calculate Total Debt

According to the Houston Chronicle, use the following methods to calculate your small business’s total debt:

  • Determine your company’s liabilities. The preceding section contains a list of common liabilities.
  • Put all of your liabilities in specific categories on your balance sheet. These are classified as “short-term liabilities” (due within a year) or “long-term liabilities” (due in more than a year).
  • To calculate your total liabilities, add all of your liabilities, both short and long-term.
  • Your total liabilities are the total debts owed by your company.

The Benefits of Total Liabilities

Total liabilities provide little function save than maybe comparing how a company’s commitments stack up against a competitor in the same industry.

Total liabilities, when combined with other numbers, can be a valuable metric for examining a company’s activities. One example is the debt-to-equity ratio of a company. This ratio, which is used to assess a company’s financial leverage, reflects the ability of shareholder equity to cover all outstanding loans in the case of a business downturn. A comparable ratio known as debt-to-assets compares total liabilities to total assets to demonstrate how assets are financed.

Total Liabilities vs. Total Assets

The assets of a firm range from cash and commodities to production equipment, customer receivables, intellectual property, and computer equipment. Bonds payable, commercial paper, salaries, taxes due, and vendor payables are all part of the total liabilities. While total resources and total liabilities are not the same things, they do interact in operating operations. To acquire assets, a company often borrows, raises equity, or spends its own funds. Another point of similarity is that assets and liabilities both flow into a balance sheet.

Particular Considerations

A higher total liability amount is not in and of itself a financial indicator of an entity’s low economic soundness. Based on the company’s available interest rates, it may be more advantageous for the corporation to acquire debt assets by incurring liabilities.

The total liabilities of a business, on the other hand, have a direct relationship with an entity’s creditworthiness. In general, if a corporation has relatively low total liabilities, it may be able to obtain advantageous interest rates from lenders on any additional debt it incurs, as lower total liabilities reduce the risk of default.

Expenses vs. Liabilities

An expense is the cost of operations incurred by a business in order to earn revenue. Expenses, unlike assets and liabilities, are tied to revenue and are both shown on a company’s income statement. In a nutshell, expenses are utilized to calculate net income. Net income is calculated by subtracting revenues from expenses.

For example, if a company has had greater expenses than income for the previous three years, it may indicate a lack of financial stability because it has been losing money throughout that time.

Expenses and liabilities should not be used interchangeably. One appears on a company’s balance sheet, while the other appears on its income statement. Expenses are the expenditures of running a business, whereas liabilities are the commitments and debts owed by the business. Expenses might be paid in cash right away, or they can be delayed, resulting in liability.


The total liabilities of a company are all of its debts or financial obligations. It is critical to understand how to calculate total liabilities in order to assess the company’s net worth. Total liability calculation also enables you to evaluate how much money a company needs to be profitable.

Total Liabilities FAQs

What is liabilities in balance sheet?

Balance sheet liabilities are the company’s commitments to third parties. They are divided into two categories: current liabilities (those settled within the next 12 months) and non-current liabilities (settled in more than 12 months).

How do you record liabilities in accounting?

Liabilities are often represented as “payables” or “unearned revenue.” Unless they are regarded as contra liability, they normally have a credit balance. Because it discounts or reduces the amount owing, this sort of liability has a debit balance.

Is liability the same as debt?

The primary distinction between liability and debt is that liabilities include all of one’s financial commitments, whereas debt primarily includes obligations related to outstanding loans.

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Liabilities are often represented as \"payables\" or \"unearned revenue.\" Unless they are regarded as contra liability, they normally have a credit balance. Because it discounts or reduces the amount owing, this sort of liability has a debit balance.

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The primary distinction between liability and debt is that liabilities include all of one's financial commitments, whereas debt primarily includes obligations related to outstanding loans.

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