Off-Balance Sheet Financing

Off-balance sheet financing (OBSF) is an accounting term that describes the process of documenting business assets or liabilities in a way that prevents them from showing up on a company's balance sheet. This method is employed to maintain low leverage and debt-to-equity (D/E) ratios, particularly when the inclusion of a sizable expenditure would violate negative debt covenants. As long as businesses adhere to accounting laws and regulations, off-balance sheet financing is a legitimate practice. If company executives use it to conceal assets or liabilities from investors and financial regulators, it is illegal.

Understanding Off-Balance Sheet Financing (OBSF)

Businesses with a lot of debt frequently take every precaution to avoid having their covenants, or agreements with lenders, violated by their leverage ratios. Likewise, a balance sheet that appears to be in better shape will probably draw in more investors. They might have to use certain accounting techniques, such as OBSF, to achieve these objectives.

By using off-balance-sheet financing, businesses can keep some assets and liabilities off their balance sheets. They still belong to the company even if they are not listed on the sheet. Businesses that are heavily leveraged sometimes adopt OBSF, particularly when taking on more debt results in a greater debt-to-equity ratio. The danger of default for the lender increases as a company's debt level increases. This entails imposing a higher interest rate on the business.

Special Considerations

To guarantee fairness and accuracy in corporate accounting, laws and regulations are in place. As a result, regulators disapprove of OBSF as an accounting technique and are making it more difficult for businesses to employ it. Off-balance sheet finance transparency is becoming more and more popular. The goal is to assist investors in making smarter, more knowledgeable choices about where to put their money. In spite of the drive, businesses might nevertheless manage to improve their (link: text: balance sheets) in the future.

List of Off-Balance Sheet Financing Items

The following are some of the common instruments for off-balance sheet items.


  • The oldest type of off-balance-sheet financing is this one. Lease or rent is immediately recorded as a cost in the (link: text: Profit & Loss statement), allowing the corporation to avoid revealing financing of the asset from its liabilities.
  • While the lessor is responsible for asset finance, it serves as a source of funding for the lessee.
  • The traditional approach to acquiring assets that demand a big initial investment
  • It makes it simpler to update technology as the times change.
  • Only operating leases are eligible for off-balance-sheet financing, and according to the most recent Indian Accounting Standards, financial leases must be capitalized on the balance sheet.

Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV)

One of the common ways to generate off-the-balance sheet financing risks is through special purpose entities or subsidiaries. Enron, renowned for one of the prominent off-balance-sheet financing exposure scandals, employed it.

  • The parent firm establishes an SPV in order to engage in a new set of activities while attempting to distance itself from the associated risks and responsibilities.
  • The assets and liabilities of the SPV need not be shown on the parent company's balance sheet.
  • The SPV establishes its credit lines for the new company as a separate legal entity.
  • Assume that by the principles of most nations' accounting, the parent business wholly owns the SPV. The goal of establishing off-balance

Hire Purchase Agreements

A business can engage into a hire purchase arrangement with financiers for a specified amount of time if it cannot afford to buy assets outright or secure financing for them. A financier will buy the asset on behalf of the business, which will then pay a specified sum each month until the contract's conditions are met. After the conclusion of the hire buy arrangement, the hirer may own the asset.

  • In accordance with standard accounting principles, the asset appears on the balance sheet of the buyer, and throughout the term of the (link: text: hire purchase agreement), the hirer is exempt from including it on its balance sheet.


Selling account receivables to banks in the context of factoring allows one to receive financing. It is a form of credit service provided to current consumers by banks and other financial institutions. After deducting a fee from the company's account receivables for providing the service, banks send the company instant cash.

  • Sometimes it's referred to as accelerated cash flows.
  • The corporation is not directly liable as a result of factoring, but some of its assets are sold.


  • By using off-balance-sheet financing, businesses can avoid reporting certain assets and obligations on their balance sheets.
  • This strategy aids businesses in maintaining low debt-to-equity and leverage ratios, which lower borrowing costs and avoid covenant breaches.
  • Off-balance sheet financing is legal as long as businesses follow all applicable accounting guidelines.
  • Authorities are eager to crack down on dubious OBSF.
  • To increase openness regarding contentious operational leases, stricter reporting regulations have been put in place.
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