What is a Current Liability?

Definition: A current liability is an obligation that must be repaid within the current period or the next year whatever is longer. In other words, it’s a short-term loan or long-term debt that will become due in the next 12 months and require payment of current assets.

What Does Current Liability Mean?

The most common current liabilities include accounts payablenotes payable, taxes payable, accrued wages, and unearned income—so basically any payable that will require payment in full within the current accounting period. Notice I said that these debts must be paid in full in the current period. Debts with terms that extend beyond the next 12 months are not considered short-term liabilities.

Although payments are made to long-term debt in the current period, these loans are not settled or paid in full during the current period. Only debts that are actually going to be paid off in the next 12 months are considered current.

Unearned income is considered a current liability because it is an amount owed to a customer for an amount received for goods or services not provided. In other words, it a payable to customer who gave us cash and is waiting for us provide the goods or services they paid for. These unearned accounts are usually reported as current debts because they are typically settled within a year. They may also be classified as long-term if management expects it to take longer than 12 months to provide the goods or services to the customer.


Current liabilities are reported in order of settlement date separately from long-term debt on the balance sheet. Payables, like accounts payable, with settlement dates closer to the current date are listed first followed by loans to be paid off later in the year. This allows external users the ability to analyze the liquidity and debt coverage of a company. In other words, they can analyze how many debts will become due in the next year and whether or not the company will have enough short-term resources to pay these debts when they become due.