A contingent asset may be defined as a possible asset that arises from past events and whose existence will be confirmed only after occurrence or non-occurrence of one or more uncertain future events not wholly within the control of the enterprise. It usually arises from unplanned or unexpected events that give rise to the possibility of an inflow of economic benefits to the business entity. For example, a claim that an enterprise is pursuing through legal process, where the outcome is uncertain, is a contingent asset.
As per the concept of prudence as well as the present accounting standards, an enterprise should not recognise a contingent asset. These assets are uncertain and may arise from a claim which an enterprise pursues through a legal proceeding. There is uncertainty in realisation of claim. It is possible that recognition of contingent assets may result in recognition of income that may never be realised. However, when the realisation of income is virtually certain, then the related asset no longer remains as contingent asset.
A contingent asset need not be disclosed in the financial statements. A contingent asset is usually disclosed in the report of the approving authority (Board of Directors in the case of a company, and the corresponding approving authority in the case of any other enterprise), if an inflow of economic benefits is probable. Contingent assets are assessed continually and if it has become virtually certain that an inflow of economic benefits will arise, the asset and the related income are recognized in the financial statements of the period in which the change occurs.