Understanding Provisions and Contingencies

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| Courtney Price

Provisions and contingencies are critical to accurate financial statements. They stem from various situations such as onerous contracts, restructuring, environmental damage, and lawsuits.

In Provisions and Contingencies Under FRS 102, Lindsay Webber explains that, given their significance, it's essential for accountants to understand how to identify, measure, and disclose these items in accordance with FRS 102.

What are Provisions and Contingencies?

Provisions are defined under section 21 of FRS 102 as liabilities of uncertain timing or amount. This uncertainty makes estimating these liabilities challenging, requiring professional judgment and extensive information collection. Provisions are recognized in the financial statements when a present obligation exists due to a past event, an outflow of resources embodying economic benefits is probable, and the amount can be estimated reliably.

Contingencies, on the other hand, refer to conditions or situations whose outcome will be confirmed only upon the occurrence or non-occurrence of one or more uncertain future events not wholly within the control of the entity. Contingent liabilities are not recognized in financial statements but are disclosed unless the possibility of an outflow of resources embodying economic benefits is remote.

Identifying Provisions and Contingencies

The identification of provisions and contingencies requires a deep dive into the transactions and events that an entity is involved in. Here are key considerations and steps for accountants:

  1. Understand the Nature of Transactions: Engage with your clients to gain a comprehensive understanding of the transactions or events that could potentially lead to provisions or contingencies. This includes warranties, onerous contracts, restructuring activities, decommissioning obligations, and lawsuits.
  2. Evaluate the Obligation: Determine whether a present obligation exists as a result of a past event. For provisions, this involves assessing whether an outflow of resources embodying economic benefits is probable and whether the amount can be estimated reliably.
  3. Assess the Probability of Outcomes: For contingencies, evaluate the likelihood of future events leading to an outflow of resources. If the outflow is not probable but possible, or if the amount cannot be reliably estimated, the obligation is treated as a contingent liability.
  4. Collect Extensive Information: Due to the inherent uncertainties in estimating provisions and contingencies, it's crucial to gather as much relevant information as possible. This may involve consulting with legal advisors, environmental experts, or other professionals, depending on the nature of the obligation.
  5. Review Legal and Contractual Documents: In cases of lawsuits or onerous contracts, carefully review the related legal and contractual documentation to assess the entity's obligations and potential liabilities.
  6. Consider Historical Data and Precedents: Historical data and precedents can provide valuable insights, especially for estimating warranty provisions or the outcomes of similar lawsuits.

Measurement and Disclosure

Once identified, provisions must be measured at the best estimate of the expenditure required to settle the present obligation. Accountants should ensure that provisions and contingencies are disclosed appropriately in the financial statements, providing information about the nature, timing, and amount of the obligations.

The accurate identification, measurement, and disclosure of provisions and contingencies are pivotal for the integrity of financial reporting. By closely examining the transactions and events that give rise to these obligations, and by applying professional judgment and rigorous information collection, accountants can navigate the complexities of provisions and contingencies under FRS 102. This not only ensures compliance with financial reporting standards but also enhances the quality of financial information provided to stakeholders.

For the full session, please click here. Lindsay Webber covers the following topics during this course:

  • What are provisions and contingencies
  • How to identify transactions and events that may lead to provisions and contingencies.
  • Measurement and disclosure of provisions and contingencies under FRS 102
  • Differences under FRS 105
  • A review of real-life disclosures

The contents of this article are meant as a guide only and are not a substitute for professional advice. The author/s accept no responsibility for any action taken, or refrained from, as a result of the material contained in this document. Specific advice should be obtained before acting or refraining from acting, in connection with the matters dealt with in this article.

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About the Author

Courtney Price is a content creator for CPDStore. Courtney joined us during the COVID-19 pandemic and has been involved in the ever-evolving world of accounting ever since. Her passion for reading and writing, coupled with her degree in copywriting from Vega School has allowed her to channel her creativity and expertise into crafting engaging and informative content.


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