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Bonds Payable: Guide and definition

Bonds payable function as a contractual obligation between two parties: the issuer and the purchaser. The issuer, in need of financing, commits to a series of timely interest payments and a final principal repayment at maturity. The terms of these bonds vary and are detailed in a bond indenture agreement.

  • Issuer: The entity (such as a corporation or government) that creates and distributes the bonds to raise funds.
  • Purchaser: An investor or entity that buys the bonds, providing capital to the issuer in exchange for future interest payments and the return of principal at maturity.

Bonds Payable on Balance Sheet

The "Bonds Payable" line item is typically found in the liabilities section of the balance sheet. This is because bonds, being future outflows of cash (interest expense and principal repayment), are viewed as liabilities. The "payable" in the term signifies an unfulfilled future payment obligation.

  • Balance Sheet: A snapshot of a company's financial position, showing assets, liabilities, and shareholders' equity at a specific time.
  • Liabilities: Financial obligations of a company, including debts and other amounts owed, categorized as current or non-current.

Current vs. Non-Current Bonds Payable

Depending on the maturity date, bonds payable are often divided into "Bonds payable, current portion" and "Bonds payable, non-current portion". If the maturity date is less than 12 months, it's classified as current. If it's more than 12 months, it's categorized as non-current.

Accounting for Bonds Payable

Recording Bonds Payable

When a company issues bonds to raise cash, it goes through a process of recording these transactions in its financial statements. This process is crucial for accurately reflecting the company's financial obligations. Here's how it works:

  1. Issuing Bonds: Initially, the company issues bonds to investors. In exchange for these bonds, investors provide the company with cash. This cash inflow is what the company seeks to raise through the bond issuance.
  2. Face Value on Books: The company records the total amount it promises to pay back to the bondholders (the face value of the bonds) as "bonds payable" in its accounting books. This is an acknowledgment of the debt the company owes to the bondholders.
  3. Fair Value of Bonds: The cash actually received for each bond, known as its "fair value," might differ from the bond's face value. For example, a bond with a face value of $1,000 might be sold for $950.
  4. Dealing with Premiums or Discounts:
  1. Premium: If the company receives more cash than the bond's face value (e.g., a $1,000 bond is sold for $1,050), the extra amount ($50 in this case) is recorded as a "premium." This indicates that investors are willing to pay more than the bond's face value.
  2. Discount: If the company receives less than the bond's face value (e.g., a $1,000 bond is sold for $950), the difference ($50) is recorded as a "discount." This shows that the bond was sold for less than its nominal value.
  1. Importance of Recording: This step is essential to reflect the actual cost of borrowing and the true value of the bonds based on market conditions.

Through this process, the company's financial statements accurately capture the nuances of the bond transaction, providing a clear picture of its financial obligations.

Carrying Value of Bonds

The carrying value of a bond, also known as its book value, represents the actual value of the bond on the issuer's balance sheet. This value is the sum of the bond's face value (referred to as bonds payable) and any unamortized premium or discount. It is crucial to understand that the carrying value of a bond will differ from its face value unless the bond was issued at par.

Issuance at Par: When a bond is issued at its face value, the carrying value is identical to the bond payable amount, as there is no premium or discount involved. For instance, if a $100,000 bond is issued at par, its carrying value at issuance is $100,000.

Issuance at a Premium: If a bond's coupon rate is higher than the current market interest rate, it is issued at a premium. In such cases, investors pay more than the face value. For example, a $100,000 bond issued at a 5% premium will have an initial carrying value of $105,000, which is the sum of its $100,000 face value and the $5,000 premium. This premium is amortized over the life of the bond, decreasing the carrying value to the face value at maturity.

Issuance at a Discount: If the bond's coupon rate is below the market rate, it is issued at a discount. For example, if a $100,000 bond is issued at a 5% discount, its initial carrying value is $95,000, the face value minus the $5,000 discount. The discount is amortized over the bond's life, gradually increasing the carrying value to the face value.

Amortization of Premiums and Discounts: The carrying value of a bond changes over time as the premium or discount is amortized. The amortization of a premium involves a decrease in the carrying value, while the amortization of a discount results in an increase. This process is reflected in the financial statements through periodic journal entries.

For example, consider a bond with a face value of $100,000, issued at a 5% premium due to its coupon rate being higher than the market rate. The initial carrying value is $105,000. If the premium is amortized equally over a 5-year period, each year, $1,000 (the $5,000 premium divided by 5 years) is subtracted from the carrying value. Consequently, at the end of the first year, the carrying value would be $104,000, and it would eventually equal the face value of $100,000 by the end of the bond's term.

In summary, the carrying value of a bond is a dynamic figure that reflects the issuer's actual debt obligation over the life of the bond. It is influenced by the bond's issuance price relative to its face value and the process of amortization. Understanding this concept is essential for accurate financial reporting and provides a realistic view of a company's long-term debt situation.

Amortizing Bonds Payable

If a bond is issued at a premium or at a discount, the amount is amortized over the years until maturity. An amortization schedule can be created to track the changes to the premium or discount every period coupon payments are due.

When a company raises a specified amount through bond issuances, it makes journal entries to record the transaction. As an example, if a company raises $1 million, the Cash Account and Bonds Payable are debited and credited by $1 million, respectively.

Financial Implications of Bonds

Interest Expense and Repayment

For each month that the bond is outstanding, the "Interest Expense" is debited, and "Interest Payable" is credited until the interest payment date comes around. After each periodic interest expense payment per the bond indenture, the "Interest Payable" is debited by the accumulated interest owed, with "Cash" representing the offsetting account.

Advantages of Issuing Bonds

Corporations often prefer issuing bonds over stock as the former is considered a less expensive source of financing. This is mainly attributed to the tax deductibility of bond interests, which creates a "tax shield." Additionally, bondholders do not dilute a company's equity, making bonds an attractive option for financially stable companies.

Principal Repayment

The journal entry on the date of maturity and principal repayment involves debiting "Bonds Payable" by the principal amount and crediting the "Cash" account by the same amount. This leaves zero outstanding balance owed by the issuer.

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Summary and Key Takeaways

Bonds payable represent a form of debt financing used by various entities to raise capital. They are contractual obligations that require the issuer to make periodic interest payments and a final principal repayment at maturity. Bonds payable is a preferred form of financing for many corporations due to its cost-effectiveness and non-dilutive nature. They are categorized as current or non-current based on their maturity dates. The issuance of bonds and their repayment, whether principal or interest, are recorded as journal entries.

Key takeaways:

  • Bonds payable are a form of debt financing.
  • They are contractual obligations between the issuer and the purchaser.
  • Bonds payable are classified as current or non-current based on their maturity dates.
  • The face value of bonds issued is recorded as bonds payable.
  • The carrying value of a bond is the sum of the bond payable and any unamortized premium or discount.
  • Bonds can be issued at a premium, at par, or at a discount.
  • Both interest and principal repayments are recorded as journal entries.

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Joe Robert
Robert Ventures CEO
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