Bonds payable is a liability account that contains the amount owed to bond holders by the issuer. This account typically appears within the long-term liabilities section of the balance sheet, since bonds typically mature in more than one year. If they mature within one year, then the line item instead appears within the current liabilities section of the balance sheet.
Terms of bonds payable are contained within a bond indenture agreement, which states the face amount of the bonds, the interest rate to be paid to bond holders, special repayment terms, and any covenants imposed on the issuing entity.
An entity is more likely to incur a bonds payable obligation when long-term interest rates are low, so that it can lock in a low cost of funds for a prolonged period of time. Conversely, this form of financing is less commonly used when interest rates spike. Bonds are typically issued by larger corporations and governments.