Going Concern Definition & Examples (Bankruptcy)


In this article, we delve into the vital concept of “going concern” within the realm of accounting and explore its far-reaching implications for businesses.

What is a going concern?

Going concern refers to an accounting principle that denotes a company’s ability to continue its operations indefinitely as long as there’s no evidence to the contrary. It highlights a company’s financial stability, its capacity to generate profits to remain solvent, and its avoidance of bankruptcy. For instance, the dot-com companies that faced collapse during the late 1990s tech bust are examples of businesses that ceased to be going concerns.

Understanding going concerns

Accountants utilize the concept of going concern to determine how financial reporting should appear on a company’s statements. A company considered a going concern values its long-term assets based on cost, not current or liquidating value. The company’s ability to continue operation without impairing its function, such as reassigning employees from a closed branch office, also supports its status as a going concern.

Accountants, guided by going concern principles, assess whether a company utilizes its assets judiciously and avoids liquidation. These principles also influence decisions about asset sales, cost reduction, and product shifts.

Red flags indicating a business is not a going concern

Several red flags may appear on the financial statements of publicly traded companies, suggesting they might not remain going concerns. Listing long-term assets on quarterly statements or balance sheets may indicate an intention to sell these assets. Inability to meet obligations without major restructuring or asset sale, or acquiring assets during restructuring, are also signs a company might not continue.

Financial position, including excessive expenses relative to revenue or impending long-term liabilities, can impact a company’s going concern status. Quantifiable indicators like low liquidity ratios, high employee turnover, and decreasing market share can also suggest instability.

Going concern conditions

Accounting standards require disclosing conditions that raise doubts about a company’s going concern status. An auditor examines whether a company can operate as a going concern for a year post-audit. Negative trends, losses, loan defaults, lawsuits, and credit denial can create substantial doubt.

Companies deemed going concerns often need debt restructuring or financing overhaul, while those not considered such might require external financing, asset liquidation, or acquisition by a more profitable entity.

Implications of going concern

Understanding the implications of a company’s going concern status is crucial. When a negative audit suggests uncertainty about a company’s ability to continue operating, it has significant consequences. This uncertainty sends a signal of decreased investment opportunities and heightened risks. To navigate this situation, a reassessment of the company’s value might become essential, affecting decisions related to how it’s priced for potential acquisition or private investment.

Furthermore, the process of write-downs could be necessary, requiring adjustments to be made in the financial reports. These adjustments reflect the potential decrease in the company’s assets’ value. Additionally, challenges related to obtaining credit may emerge due to the increased perception of risk.

Is a going concern good or bad?

Whether a company is considered a going concern or not holds important implications. Being a going concern is positive, as it indicates the company’s strong possibility of continuing its operations into the following year. On the other hand, when a company doesn’t meet the criteria for being a going concern, it might struggle due to the lack of necessary resources for the upcoming 12 months. This can impact its ability to operate effectively and meet its financial obligations.


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Why is going concern so important?

The concept of going concern is of paramount importance in the business world. It serves as a significant marker of trust in a company’s future prospects. When a company is recognized as a going concern, it signifies that there is confidence in its ability to weather challenges and uncertainties. This confidence has far-reaching effects, including the willingness of other businesses to extend credit sales to the company. However, without this designation, businesses might hesitate to offer credit, as there’s doubt about the company’s capacity to survive.

What happens if a company is not a going concern?

The implications of a company losing its going concern status are profound. Without this status, a company might find it challenging to survive the next year. It’s imperative for the company’s management to openly disclose the reasons for this change in status. This disclosure includes providing detailed financial reports that give a comprehensive view of the company’s situation. Additionally, an audit opinion is essential to provide an independent assessment of the company’s financial health. This transparency is crucial for investors, creditors, and other stakeholders to make informed decisions about their engagement with the company.

The bottom line

Going concern in accounting assesses a company’s potential survival for the next year. Not being a going concern is serious, impacting risk perception, valuations, and credit options. Management disclosure is essential.

Frequently asked questions

How does going concern affect financial reporting?

Going concern principles influence how assets and expenses are reported on a company’s financial statements.

What are some red flags indicating a company might not be a going concern?

Red flags include listing long-term assets for potential sale and the inability to meet obligations without significant restructuring.

What conditions lead to substantial doubt about a company’s going concern status?

Negative trends in operating results, continuous losses, loan defaults, lawsuits, and credit denial can raise doubts about a company’s going concern status.

How do auditors assess a company’s going concern?

Auditors examine a company’s financial statements to determine if it can continue as a going concern for one year following the audit.

What implications arise from a negative going concern audit?

A negative audit indicates higher risk and may lead to revaluation, write-downs, and potential credit challenges for the company.

Key takeaways

  • Going concern signifies a company’s financial stability for future operations.
  • Assets and expenses may be reported differently for going concern companies.
  • Financial statements may change when a company is no longer a going concern.
  • Red flags include credit denial, ongoing losses, and legal issues.
  • Auditors can provide a going concern opinion when they have doubts about a company’s longevity.
view article sources
  1. Statement on the Continued Importance of High-Quality Financial Reporting for Investors in Light of COVID-19 – U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
  2. Going concern – Cornell Law School
  3. Formation and Consequences of Going Concern Opinions: A Review of the Literature – Marquette University
  4. GAAP: A Guide to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles – SuperMoney