Difference Between Provision and Contingent Liability

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: May 13, 2023


Difference Between Provision and Contingent Liability

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A few terms remain difficult for us even after various attempts to make them clear, and the difference between provision and contingent liability is also one of those topics. In this article, we will be discussing how we can understand and differentiate between provision and contingent liability.

Provisions, contingent liabilities, and contingent assets are governed by the "IAS 37" standard, PROVISIONS, CONTINGENT LIABILITIES, AND CONTINGENT ASSETS. The goal of making provisions and contingent liabilities is consistent with the accounting principle of prudence, which states that assets and liabilities should be weighed against income and spending for a specific fiscal year.

The key difference between contingent Liability and provision is that in provision, we account it for a result of a past event. On the other hand in a contingent liability, it is recorded at current to account for the future outflow of funds. This is done to make sure that the financial statement and year is presented in the true manner where assets are not valued high and liabilities are not valued low.

Provision vs. Contingent liability

The provision refers to an obligation whose size and timeliness of fulfillment are uncertain. To cover the loss or drop in the asset's value, we make provisions as a charge against earnings. It is a liability that may be estimated to a significant degree.

Contingency liability, however, is not a genuine liability. This is because it is unpredictable if financial resources will need to be expended to pay obligations. Therefore, the occurrence or non-occurrence of one or more unpredictable future events will determine whether this obligation exists. These occurrences are not entirely beyond the company's control.

Difference between provision and contingent liability in tabular form.

Parameters of comparisonProvisionsContingent Liability
MeaningProvision is a current responsibility with an ambiguous value. It can be accurately measured with a significant amount of guesswork.A contingent liability is a form of potential debt that could materialize or is not dependent on the occurrence or non-occurrence of certain specific future events.  
Amount estimationIn provision, the amount is largely certainIn contingent liability, the amount is uncertain.  
RecognitionIn provision, there is recognition, yes.In contingent liability, there is no recognition.
Occurrence of the eventThe occurrence of events in the provision is certain.The occurrence of an event in contingent liability is Conditional or uncertain  
 Accounted forProvision results from a past event and is accounted for in the present.Contingent liability accounts for future money outflows that are anticipated to happen.

What is provision?

Businesses frequently set aside a specific amount of profit to cover any expenses or losses whose worth cannot be estimated with sufficient accuracy. We refer to this as supply. The amount is kept on hand to cover depreciation, asset renewal, or decline in value, as well as any known liabilities whose amount is unknown.

Simply explained, a provision is a plan for costs or losses that are part of the current accounting period but whose amounts are uncertain since they have not yet occurred. To determine the true net profit, it is required to make provisions for these factors.

The profit and loss account is charged a specific amount each year to cover the contingency. Regardless of whether the company makes a profit or a loss, the provision account must be recorded compulsorily on the debit side of the profit and loss account.

By making provisions, a business protects itself and guarantees that it will have the resources it needs in the future at a cost that rises as the benefits decrease.

Types of provision

Operational Resources

Operational provisions take place throughout regular corporate operations. These recurrent provisions are frequently related to the company's goods or services. For instance, if a TV maker decides to offer warranties for its models, a tiny proportion of those TVs will likely have flaws, which will result in warranty claims and cost the company money. Even though the TV flaws have not yet been found, the corporation must record an expense when the sale is made for the predicted warranty costs. A case of constructive duty occurs when a business extends the warranty period beyond what is required by law.

Finance provision

Finance provisions resemble debt and will have a known cash outflow in the future. These costs are not a result of the business's regular operations (such as the aforementioned product warranties). Examples of financial (or debt-like) provisions include environmental penalties and legal actions.

A company's valuation may be impacted by financial provisions. The decrease in the firm's worth is likely to result in a decline in the share price of the company when the reason for the provision is made public.

Features of provision

To cover any recognized liability whose size is uncertain, businesses make provisions. Therefore, it falls under the responsibility and is not provided if the amount of liability can be calculated with a fair degree of certainty.

It is an accusation of profit. It lowers the firm's net profit for the fiscal year in which provisions are made.

Before determining the amount of net profit, a provision is created by debiting the profit and loss account.

A provision must be written to be valid under the law. It must be created, even if there are losses.

The sum of the provision cannot be invested outside of the company.

The amount of the provision is not a divisible profit for the company. It must apply the money to the objective for which it was created.

Here are a few examples of provisions:

A provision for bad debts is made when a company cannot collect a debt because the debtors have fallen bankrupt.

Provision for doubtful debts: These are obligations that the organization may not be able to collect due to potential conflicts with the debtor.

Provisions may be created when

The corporation earlier incurred a debt.

This obligation must be handled by the corporation using its financial resources.

The obligation's size is known or can be quickly anticipated.

What is contingent liability?

A contingent liability does not already exist; it may do so in the event of an unforeseen future event. This means that whether or not a future occurrence truly becomes a liability will depend on whether or not it occurs. They are unclear, so we view them as contingent.

Simply put, contingent liabilities are those likely debts that may develop in the future as a result of current or historical circumstances. The future fulfillment or appearance of these things cannot be fully guaranteed. It alludes to potential duties that could arise from a past occurrence but whose fulfillment is uncertain. Additionally, the company cannot entirely control these events.

Future events will lead these liabilities to materialize. These occurrences have already occurred in the past or will do so in the future. Contingency liabilities include things like product warranties, pending legal actions, debts, etc. These obligations are not included in a company's financial statements.

Assessment of contingent liability

Contingent liabilities change in a way that the firm had not initially anticipated. As a result, the company evaluates the liability regularly to determine whether a cash outflow is likely.

However, when it becomes likely that a resource will need to be used for a matter that was previously classified as a contingent liability, a provision is made in the financial statements. It will typically arise when the shift in probability takes place.

How should contingent liability be handled?

Since these costs cannot be specified, it would be erroneous and impracticable to keep contingent liability requirements in the daily books. These contingent liabilities must be satisfied by accounting provisions to keep contingent liability requirements in the daily books. These contingent liabilities must be satisfied by accounting provisions. It will have the resources necessary to fulfill the obligation in the event of a specific contingency.

These items are sometimes referred to as risks and expenses in accounting. The fundamental goal is to presume that a business operates economically while taking several risks. They shrewdly get ready to respond suitably as a result. This indicates that the provisions are ambiguous future payments that a business must safeguard against.

There are two different categories of contingent liabilities:

Explicit Contingent Liabilities, Number One

Implicit contingent liability

Explicit contingent liabilities: These liabilities consist of particular commitments created by the government or obligations that are governed by the law.

Some instances include:

Government insurance programs for bank bonds, pension money, and deposits

Mortgage and student loan debt

Rates of currency conversion

Legal claims in which the court issues a fine for unresolved matters

Implicit Contingent Liabilities: These kinds of liabilities are duties under the law that become apparent after an event has occurred. In these situations, the government determines the liability amount. They are not mentioned in the books since these occurrences might or might not take place.

How contingent liability is important for creditors and investors

Understanding contingent liabilities can have an impact on an investor's choice because they may harm a company's cash flow, future net profitability, and assets, as well as potentially diminish an investor's stake in the business.

This is because contingent liability compromises a company's ability to generate future profits. An investor's decision may also be influenced by the extent of the liability and the particulars of the prospective contingency.

Similar to how knowing about contingent liabilities could influence a creditor's choice to lend money to a company. If the contingent obligation materializes into an actual liability, it may have a detrimental effect on the company's capacity to repay its debt.

The amount for future profit and loss:

The amount set aside from profits to cover anticipated liabilities and losses in the future is known as a provision. As a result, it aids the company in covering costs or losses that are anticipated to occur soon.

True Profits or Losses: Only after all expenses and losses have been provided or credited to the profit and loss account can the true profit or loss of a company be assessed. As a charge against a company's sales or earnings, a provision aids in determining the genuine profit or loss for a certain accounting period.

Fair Financial Position: At the end of an accounting period, the real financial position of an organization can be determined by making preparations for expected expenses and losses.

Difference between provision and contingent liability in points

The provision liability lowers the value of an asset. But a contingent obligation is a prospective debt that might arise in the future as a result of uncontrollable circumstances.

The circumstances that could give rise to a provisional obligation might or might not happen. On the other hand, the occurrence of the contingent liability event is guaranteed.

Uncertainty in amount exists regarding the provisional liability's projected amount. The amount is largely certain in the projected magnitude of the contingent liabilities.

The profit and loss account records any rise or falls in provision liabilities. A contingent liability is not recorded in the profit and loss account.

The following are some examples of a provisional liability: A reserve for bad debts. Allowances for doubtful debts, etc. are examples of provisions, and here are a few instances of contingent liabilities such as guarantees for goods, outstanding lawsuits, investigative cases, and debts, etc.

When we talk about provision, provisional recognition does exist; on the other hand, contingent liability recognition does exist.

Provision is a current duty with an unclear purpose. It can be measured with a fair amount of accuracy through guesswork. A contingent obligation is a possible debt that may or may not materialize depending on the happening or not of specific future events.

In provision, it is defined as a past event that is accounted for in the present. But contingent liability accounts for future money outflows that are anticipated to occur.


The distinctions between provisional and contingent liabilities draw attention to the nature of these uncertainties and how the organization manages them. It is significant to note that a corporation can be required to take these responsibilities into account when running its operations.

We hope that this article will help you understand the difference between provision and contingent liability.


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"Difference Between Provision and Contingent Liability." Diffzy.com, 2024. Thu. 29 Feb. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-provision-and-contingent-liability>.

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