What Are Liabilities In Accounting?

Jasmine Black
5 min read
What Are Liabilities In Accounting?

Could debt and tax obligations sink your startup before it even has a chance to succeed? Every startup owner must be keenly aware of their business liabilities during the early stages and beyond. 

The pressure to keep your business afloat can make each liability feel like an anchor around your neck.

Liabilities in accounting are the financial obligations a company currently owes to others. These obligations require the outflow of a company's resources to settle the debt or payment. 

Startup owners must stay on top of their liabilities to avoid being caught off guard by an unexpected bill. Here’s what you need to know about assets vs. liabilities and how to manage them.

What Is Liability?

In accounting, liability refers to money a company owes to an individual or entity outside of the business. This could include suppliers, lenders, or employees. In other words, it is a debt that a company is legally obligated to repay. These repayments can take many forms, including cash payments, the delivery of goods and services, or other forms of financial asset transfers.

Liabilities form an integral part of the accounting equation, which is:

Assets = Liabilities + Owner Equity

In this equation, liabilities are essentially the debts and obligations that help finance the company's assets.

How Liabilities In Accounting Work

A liability is when a company receives a product or service but hasn’t paid for it yet. Its value is usually decided by both parties agreeing on how much should be repaid or settled.

In accounting, liabilities are split into two types on a company’s balance sheet: current (short-term liabilities) and non-current (long-term liabilities). Current liabilities are due within a year, while non-current ones take longer to repay. 

Properly categorizing liabilities is crucial for understanding a company's liquidity and cash flow management.

Examples Of Liabilities

In a business, liabilities can come in various forms. Different businesses will have different types of liabilities. Here are some of the most common ones:

Accounts Payable

Accounts payable are amounts owed to suppliers for goods or services received but not yet paid for. 

This form of liability typically arises as part of the day-to-day operations of a business. 

For instance, if a startup orders office supplies but does not pay for them immediately, the amount owed will be recorded as accounts payable.

Business Loans And Borrowings

Startups often use loans to start their business. These loans can be for a short time or longer period. The interest they need to pay on these loans is also considered a liability.

On the balance sheet, the main loan amount and the interest are usually shown separately as notes payable and interest payable. 

Taking on different types of loans can impact a startup's profits, so it's a good idea to talk to financial experts before deciding to borrow money.

Accrued Expenses

Accrued expenses are costs a company has already spent money on but hasn’t paid yet. 

They are recorded using accrual accounting. These expenses can include wages owed to employees, interest on a loan, taxes to be paid, or utility bills for services already used but not billed. 

These expenses are usually paid off in the short term and are considered current liabilities.

The Importance Of Managing Liabilities For Startups

Managing liabilities properly is essential for the financial health and success of any startup. 

By keeping track of your debts and planning how to repay them, you can keep your business healthy and on the path to success. 

Financial Health

Liabilities can greatly affect your startup’s financial health. If your debts are consistently more than your assets, or if you find it hard to meet financial responsibilities, it could signal financial troubles. 

Keeping an eye on your liabilities is key to maintaining a healthy balance sheet and ensuring your startup’s long-term success. 

Cash Flow Management

Understanding when and how much you'll need to pay toward your debts helps you plan your cash needs effectively. 

Regularly checking your short-term loans and long-term loans lets you predict your future payments and cash flow. This allows you to plan your budget to meet these obligations. 

A well-managed liabilities portfolio ensures smooth operations without any interruptions caused by a lack of funds. 


Failing to pay payroll taxes or meet a loan agreement's terms could lead to penalties, interest charges, and other legal consequences. 

Proper liability management ensures that all regulatory and contractual obligations are upheld.


Ensuring timely payment of debts helps you avoid late fees, penalty charges, and potential increases in interest rates. 

By understanding your debt situation, you can use good judgment when taking on additional debt or paying off existing loans early to save on interest.

Credit History

How a startup manages its liabilities can significantly impact its credit history.

Consistently meeting debt obligations on time will improve your startup’s credit score. A good credit history can make it easier to secure financing in the future and may also lead to more favorable loan terms.

Key Considerations In Liability Management

Effectively managing liabilities involves a few key considerations:

Debt Service Requirements And Repayment

Debt service means the cash you need to pay for the interest and principal on your debt for a specific time.

Knowing your startup’s debt service requirement helps you plan and have money ready for when you need to make those payments. 

Cash Flow Planning

To make sure you can meet your financial obligations, check your startup’s current assets and predict future income and expenses. 

Planning your cash flow helps you identify potential shortfalls and take proactive steps, like securing short-term financing. 

Professional tax experts can also help you find ways to reduce liabilities by taking advantage of your tax credits

Risk Assessment And Mitigation

Startups can better identify and prepare for potential challenges by investing in risk assessment and mitigation. 

This process includes finding possible risks, like higher interest rates or sudden revenue drops, and making plans to reduce these risks. 

Workflow Optimization

To effectively handle your business liabilities, you should optimize your finance workflow. Startups with good liability management systems can quickly spot and resolve problems. 

Using a dedicated finance operations platform with real-time dashboards can: 

  • Allow for easy monitoring of all financial activities
  • Give startups the ability to spot trends
  • Identify potential problems
  • Help make high-velocity decisions

Use The Right Software To Manage Liabilities In Your Startup

Using the right accounting tools and software can greatly help in managing liabilities. 

The best financial management platforms combine artificial intelligence and human experts to handle all finance needs, including liability management.

Startups can easily track and manage current liabilities like accounts payable and long-term debts. 

The best type of software platform will also aid in cash flow management, giving you a clear picture of your financial position and future obligations.

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