GAO Glossary of Terms and Definitions (September 2005)

Contingent Liability

An existing condition, situation, or set of circumstances that poses the possibility of a loss to an agency that will ultimately be resolved when one or more events occur or fail to occur. Contingent liabilities may lead to outlays. Contingent liabilities may arise, for example, with respect to unadjudicated claims, assessments, loan guarantee programs, and federal insurance programs. Contingent liabilities are normally not covered by budget authority in advance. However, credit reform changed the normal budgetary treatment of loans and loan guarantees by establishing that for most programs, loan guarantee commitments cannot be made unless Congress has made appropriations of budget authority to cover the credit subsidy cost in advance in annual appropriations acts. (See also Credit Subsidy Cost under Federal Credit; Liability.)

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