Other Liabilities on a Balance Sheet

Analyzing a Balance Sheet

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When categories on a financial statement are classified under "other," this serves as a sort of catch-all for items that don't neatly fit into any of the major line-items. The section entitled "other liabilities" on a balance sheet is just such a catch-all category.

Liabilities in General

"Other" is a descriptor under the umbrella of "liabilities." The International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) defines a liability as an "obligation...arising from past events" and resulting in an outflow.

"Other liabilities" is where companies can consolidate their miscellaneous debts and obligations. Check the footnotes buried deep in a company's Form 10-K filing or annual report to discover what makes up the specifics of other liabilities on its balance sheet.

Common "Other Liabilities"

The other liabilities section might contain things such as intercompany borrowings if you're looking at something like a holding company, which is a form used by many corporations these days, especially those that are part of the S&P 500 or Dow Jones Industrial Average. These borrowings can arise when one of the company's divisions or subsidiaries borrows money from another.

Other liabilities can also include accrued expenses, sales taxes payable, deferred tax liabilities, servicing liabilities, or other items. 

The Importance of "Other Liabilities"

The other liabilities section of the balance sheet shouldn't be of particular note most of the time, although the importance of this particular entry on a balance sheet will vary from firm to firm. Most of these obligations are self-explanatory and not as important in the overall capital structure as the other major liabilities on the balance sheet.

As long as nothing looks out of the ordinary and you feel that the notes adequately explain what the debt amounts represent and how they arose, that's usually sufficient to move on in your analysis.

You're really trying to find something that stands out when you're analyzing the balance sheet, something that raises red flags or that shouldn't be there.

An Example: Johnson & Johnson

The annual report of Johnson & Johnson for the fiscal year of 2015 provides a real-world illustration of "other liabilities." Scroll down to page 31, the Consolidated Balance Sheet section. It shows "Other liabilities" of $10,241,000,000 for the year that ended Dec. 31, 2015.

That figure made up only 16.4% of the $62,261,000,000 total liabilities owed by the company, and only 7.7% of the total asset base of the firm. Johnson & Johnson is an enormous holding company with a complex history, controlling 265 individual operating businesses across 60 countries.

3 Major Categories of Business

Johnson & Johnson's businesses can be segregated into three main categories:

  1. Consumer healthcare products, which consist of things like mouthwash, pain reliever, bandages, skincare products, disinfectant, heartburn tablets, face washes, eye drops, and contact lenses.
  2. Medical devices, which consist of things from heart stents to blood glucose monitoring systems to products that sterilize medical tools to reduce the chance of infection during surgery or other procedures.
  3. Pharmaceuticals, which include a world-class drug research and manufacturing operation that makes medicine to fight everything from cancer and HIV to schizophrenia and diabetes.

The parent company, Johnson & Johnson itself, serves to move capital and support throughout the organization as each stand-alone individual subsidiary operates in an extraordinary, decentralized, autonomous way. It's one of the strengths of the iconic enterprise.

The other liabilities section in this example is relatively stable as a percentage of total liabilities and assets. It represents a small part of the balance sheet.

Its "other liabilities" aren't the sort of thing you'd spend a lot of time worrying about after you'd become familiar with the company, how it does business, how it's organizationally and legally structured, and with the way it moves money between subsidiaries. This lowers the cost of capital and speeds up the development of a product or drug it wants to launch.

Article Sources

  1. Officer of the Comptroller of the Currency. "Other Assets (and Other Liabilities." Page 6. Accessed March 20, 2020.

  2. Corporate Finance Institute. "What Are the Main Types of Liabilities?" Accessed March 20, 2020.

  3. FDIC. "Other Assets and Liabilities." Page 9. Accessed March 20, 2020.

  4. Johnson & Johnson. "Annual Report 2015." Page 31. Accessed March 20, 2020.

  5. Harvard Business School Digital Initiative. "Johnson & Johnson." Accessed March 20, 2020.