Differences Between FIFO and LIFO
FIFO (First In, First Out) and LIFO (Last In, First Out) are two methods of accounting for the value of inventory held by the company. By accounting for the value of the inventory, it becomes practicable to report the cost of goods sold or any inventory-related expenses on the profit and loss statement and to report the value of the inventory of any kind on the balance sheet.
In this article, we look at what is LIFO and FIFO, examples, advantages and its key differences –
- Why is there more than one method for inventory cost accounting?
- Which is preferred?
- Advantages of LIFO
- Advantages of FIFO
Definitions of FIFO and LIFO methods
What is FIFO (first in first out)?
FIFO stands for ‘First In First Out, ‘ which implies that the inventory which was added first to the stock will be removed from stock first. So the inventory will leave the stock in order the same as that in which it was added to the stock.
It means that whenever the inventory is reported as sold (either after conversion to finished goods or as it is), its cost will be taken equal to the cost of the oldest inventory present in the stock.
It, in turn, means that the cost of inventory
sold as reported on the profit and loss statement will be taken as that of the oldest inventory present in the stock. On the other hand, on the Balance SheetThe Other Hand, On The Balance SheetA balance sheet is one of the financial statements of a company that presents the shareholders' equity, liabilities, and assets of the company at a specific point in time. It is based on the accounting equation that states that the sum of the total liabilities and the owner's capital equals the total assets of the company., the cost of the inventory still in stock will be taken equal to the cost of the latest inventory added to the stock.
What is LIFO (last in first out)?
LIFO stands for Last In, First Out, which implies that the inventory which was added last to the stock will be removed from the stock first. So the inventory will leave the stock in an order reverse of that in which it was added to the stock.
It means that whenever the inventory is reported as sold (either after conversion to finished goods or as it is), its cost will be taken equal to the cost of the latest inventory added to the stock.
This, in turn, means that the cost of inventory sold as reported on the Profit and Loss Statement will be taken as that of the latest inventory added to the stock. On the other hand, on the Balance Sheet, the cost of the inventory still in stock will be taken equal to the cost of the oldest inventory present in the stock.
Both these methods are pure methods of accounting for and reporting the value of inventory. Whichever method is adopted, it does not govern the actual addition or removal of inventory from the stock for further processing or selling.
Another inventory cost accounting method that is also widely used by both public vs. private companies is the Average Cost method. This method takes the middle path between FIFO and LIFO by taking the weighted average of all units available in the stock during the accounting periodAccounting PeriodAccounting Period refers to the period in which all financial transactions are recorded and financial statements are prepared. This might be quarterly, semi-annually, or annually, depending on the period for which you want to create the financial statements to be presented to investors so that they can track and compare the company's overall performance. and then uses that average cost to determine the value of COGS and ending inventory.
But in this article, our focus is only on the FIFO and LIFO methods of inventory cost accountingLIFO Methods Of Inventory Cost AccountingLIFO (Last In First Out) is one accounting method for inventory valuation on the balance sheet. LIFO accounting means inventory acquired at last would be used up or sold first. and the comparison between the two.
LIFO vs. FIFO Example
Suppose that a company produces and sells its product in batches of 100 units. If inflation is positive, the cost of production will go on increasing with time. So assume that 1 batch of 100 units is produced within each period and the cost of production increases after each successive period.
So if the cost of production for producing 1 unit is $ 10 in the first period, it could be $ 15 in the second period, $ 20 in the second period and so on. Refer the table below for the summery:
Consider the details about the three batches of production given in the above table. Suppose the batch numbers are in order of date of production of the batches.
It should be obvious that the company won’t be able to sell exactly 100 units of products during each period. It will have to sell them as per the orders it receives and also as per the availability of the products in its stock of finished goods. So suppose that the company gets orders of a total of 150 units after producing the 3rd batch of 100 units.
Inventory Valuation using the FIFO method
Now, if a company chooses to use the FIFO method of inventory accounting, the cost of goods sold will be taken equal to the cost of the first 150 units produced (remember “first in, first out”?) out of all the 300 units available in the stock. Now, the first 150 units produced include the 100 units of Batch No. 1 plus any 50 units of Batch No. 2. Hence, the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) will be equal to (100 * $ 10) + (50 * $ 15) = $ 1750.
Also, the value of the remaining inventory of the finished productsInventory Of The Finished ProductsFinished goods inventory refers to the final products acquired from the manufacturing process or through merchandise. It is the end product of the company, which is ready to be sold in the market. will be equal to the cost of the remaining 150 units in the stock, i.e., the remaining 50 units of Batch No. 2 and the 100 units of Batch No. 3. Hence, the value of Inventory of finished goods that will be reported on the Balance Sheet of the company would be equal to (50 * $ 15) + (100 * $ 20) = $ 2750.
Inventory Valuation using the LIFO method
Now, if a company chooses to use the LIFO method of inventory accounting, the cost of goods sold will be taken equal to the cost of the last 150 units produced (remember “last in first out”?) out of all the 300 units available in the stock. Now, the last 150 units produced include the 100 units of Batch No. 3 plus any 50 units of Batch No. 2. Hence, the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) will be equal to (100 * $ 20) + (50 * $ 15) = $ 2750.
Also, the value of the remaining inventory of the finished productsInventory Of The Finished ProductsFinished goods inventory refers to the final products acquired from the manufacturing process or through merchandise. It is the end product of the company, which is ready to be sold in the market. will be equal to the cost of the remaining 150 units in the stock, i.e., the remaining 50 units of Batch No. 2 and the 100 units of Batch No. 1. Hence, the value of Inventory of finished goods that will be reported on the Balance Sheet of the company would be equal to (50 * $ 15) + (100 * $ 10) = $ 1750.
FLFO vs. LIFO Infographics
Why is there more than one method for inventory cost accounting?
The root cause why is there more than one method for the purpose of accounting for the cost of inventory is inflation. If inflation, somehow, ceases to exist, then we won’t require different methods to find out the value of inventory a company expense or keeps in its warehouses.
It is because if inflation is not there, the cost of material purchased today would be exactly equal to that purchased last year. So the material cost going into the production of finished goods will also come out to be the same for a particular type of product. So the cost of the inventory added to the stock today will be exactly equal to the cost of the inventory added to the stock one year ago. Hence, whether you use the LIFO method or FIFO method, the value of the inventory expensed or even that in stock will also come out to be the same in any case.
But since inflation is a reality, the value of inventory comes out to be something when we use FIFO, and it comes out to be something else when we use LIFO.
Still, why do some companies use FIFO while some use LIFO for calculating the value of inventory? The answer to this is this: Companies use different methods of inventory accounting for the benefits and convenience offered by both methods in different situations.
While the above is true, in most countries, the IFRS accounting standards are followed, which do not allow the usage of the LIFO method. So there the companies do not have that choice.
But in the US, it is allowed with the condition that publicly traded entities that use LIFO for taxation purposes must use LIFO for financial reportingFinancial ReportingFinancial Reporting is the process of disclosing all the relevant financial information of a business for a particular accounting period. These reports are used by the stakeholders (investors, creditors/ bankers, public, regulatory agencies, and government) to make investing and other relevant decisions. also.
Also, look at IFRS vs. US GAAP.
LIFO vs. FIFO – Which is preferred?
The value of inventory appears on the Income Statement as Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) and on the Balance Sheet as Inventory under Current AssetsCurrent AssetsCurrent assets refer to those short-term assets which can be efficiently utilized for business operations, sold for immediate cash or liquidated within a year. It comprises inventory, cash, cash equivalents, marketable securities, accounts receivable, etc.. Thus the method used for the valuation of inventory will indirectly affect the value of Gross Income, Net Income, Income Tax on the Income Statement and Current Assets, and Total Assets on the Balance Sheet.
To understand this, let’s take the values of Cost of Goods SoldCost Of Goods SoldThe cost of goods sold (COGS) is the cumulative total of direct costs incurred for the goods or services sold, including direct expenses like raw material, direct labour cost and other direct costs. However, it excludes all the indirect expenses incurred by the company. (COGS) and that of the Inventory calculated using both the FIFO as well as the LIFO methods from the illustrative example discussed above.
- In LIFO, the goods purchased or produced last is distributed first, and in FIFO, the goods purchase or produced first is distributed first.
- FIFO is the globally and widely used method for inventory valuation. While US GAAP allows adopting LIFO as well as FIFO, but in the international scenarios, FIFO is widely used, and IFRS restricts the use of LIFO for inventory valuation.
- Under LIFO, stock in hand represents the oldest stock, while in FIFO, stock in hand represents the latest stock.
- In an inflationary economy, using LIFO leads to lower profit figures and helps in tax saving, while using FIFO leads to higher profit and a huge tax burden.
- FIFO gives the potential investors the exact figure of the financials of an organization and assists in decision making. While LIFO won’t give the exact picture of the financials, thus leads to inaccurate investment decisions.
- In FIFO, the closing stock consist of the most recent items, thus closing stock is valued at market price. In LIFO, the closing stock is valued at a historic price.
- FIFO is a more realistic and logical approach of inventory valuation compared to LIFO
- There is a risk of stocks, getting obsolete and outdated in case of LIFO, as goods are used from old stock, this risk can be reduced if FIFO is used.
- Unlike LIFO, record maintenance is easier in FIFO, as several layering is less.
- The cost of goods sold is in the current market price in LIFO, and the cost of unsold goods is in the market price in FIFO.
- FIFO is not a suitable method if there is a high fluctuation in material prices. In this case, LIFO is the appropriate option.
Advantages of LIFO
First, take the values of COGS calculated using both the methods and prepare an Income Statement assuming all other values like Sales, Other Expenses, and Tax Rate to be the same for both the methods. For assumption, let the selling price of 1 unit be $ 40. Since a total of 150 units were sold, the total Sales will come out to be (150 * $ 40) = $ 6000. Also, suppose that the Other ExpensesThe Other ExpensesOther expenses comprise all the non-operating costs incurred for the supporting business operations. Such payments like rent, insurance and taxes have no direct connection with the mainstream business activities. for the period under consideration totaled $ 1250, and the Tax Rate applicable to the Net Income was 30 %. And let these assumed values to be the same for both methods.
The Income Statement prepared when both FIFO and LIFO are used will look like the following:
The value of COGS calculated using the FIFO method was $ 1750, while that calculated using the LIFO method was $ 2750. Now, look at the differences between the values of Gross IncomeGross IncomeThe difference between revenue and cost of goods sold is gross income, which is a profit margin made by a corporation from its operating activities. It is the amount of money an entity makes before paying non-operating expenses like interest, rent, and electricity., Net Income, and Income tax. All of that is due to the difference in the values of COGS, which in turn is due to the use of two different methods of inventory valuationInventory Valuation Inventory Valuation Methods refers to the methodology (LIFO, FIFO, or a weighted average) used to value the company's inventories, which has an impact on the cost of goods sold as well as ending inventory, and thus has a financial impact on the company's bottom-line numbers and cash flow situation..
So ultimately, the benefit of using the LIFO method for a company is that it can report a lower Net Income and hence defer its tax liabilities during the times of high inflation. But at the same time, it might end up disappointing the investors by reporting lower earnings per shareEarnings Per ShareEarnings Per Share (EPS) is a key financial metric that investors use to assess a company's performance and profitability before investing. It is calculated by dividing total earnings or total net income by the total number of outstanding shares. The higher the earnings per share (EPS), the more profitable the company is.. On the other hand, a company that uses the FIFO method will be reporting a higher net income and hence will have a greater amount of tax liability in the near term.
In addition to tax deferment, LIFO is beneficial in lowering the instances of inventory write-downs. Inventory write-downsInventory Write-downsInventory Write-Down refers to decreasing the value of an inventory due to economic or valuation reasons. When the inventory loses some of its value due to damaged or stolen goods, the management devalues it & reduces the reported value from the Balance Sheet. happen if the inventory is deemed to have decreased in price below its carrying value. If LIFO is used, only old inventory will remain in stock, and its purchase price will have a lesser chance of going below its carrying valueCarrying ValueCarrying value is the book value of assets in a company's balance sheet, computed as the original cost less accumulated depreciation/impairments. It is calculated for intangible assets as the actual cost less amortization expense/impairments..
Advantages of FIFO
Now, to understand the impact of both the methods on the Balance Sheet, take the values of Inventory calculated using both the methods and prepare the Balance Sheet in its simplest form assuming the values of Other Assets (all assets other than the inventory) and Total Liabilities to be the same for both the methods. For assumption, let the value of Other Assets be $ 20000, and the value of Total Liabilities be $ 10750. And let these assumed values are the same for both methods.
The Balance Sheet prepared when both inventory valuation methods are used will look like the following:
Using the FIFO Method
Using LIFO Method
The value of inventory calculated using the FIFO method was $ 2750, while that calculated using the LIFO method was $ 1750. Now, look at the differences between the values of total assetsTotal AssetsTotal Assets is the sum of a company's current and noncurrent assets. Total assets also equals to the sum of total liabilities and total shareholder funds. Total Assets = Liabilities + Shareholder Equity and shareholders’ equity (=total assets-total liabilities). All of that is due to the difference in the values of Inventory, which in turn is due to the use of two different methods of inventory valuation.
So ultimately, the benefit of using the FIFO method for a company is that it can report a higher value of shareholders’ equity or net worth and hence appear more attractive to the investors. On the other hand, a company that uses the LIFO method will be reporting a lower value of net worth and hence will appear comparatively less attractive to the investors.
It should be obvious to the reader, but it is also noteworthy that the impact on the COGS in the income statementIncome StatementThe income statement is one of the company's financial reports that summarizes all of the company's revenues and expenses over time in order to determine the company's profit or loss and measure its business activity over time based on user requirements. and inventory in the balance sheet will be as described above only if the inflation is positive, i.e., the prices of raw materials are increasing with time. If inflation is negative, the impact of LIFO and FIFO will be reverse of what is described above.
The crux of the above explanation is summarized in the following table:
|Full-Form||Last in first out||First in First out|
|Concept||Last added goods are issued first.||First, added goods are issued.|
|Financial Reporting||LIFO is not allowed under IFRS||Under US GAAP, LIFO AND FIFO are legal. But outside US FIFO is generally accepted.|
|Inflation||During the price rise, the goods sold are the most priced ones; it increases the cost of goods sold and leads profits to come down.||During price rise, the items sold are the least prices; it reduces the cost of goods sold and leads to a higher profit marginProfit MarginProfit Margin is a metric that the management, financial analysts, & investors use to measure the profitability of a business relative to its sales. It is determined as the ratio of Generated Profit Amount to the Generated Revenue Amount. .|
|Calculation of COGS||For calculating the cost of goods sold, ascertain the cost of the oldest inventory and multiply it with the amount of goods sold.||For calculating the cost of goods sold, ascertain the cost of the latest inventory, and multiply it with the number of goods sold.|
|Market Price||The cost of goods sold is at the current price.||Unsold goods are in the current market price.|
|Recording||It is tedious to record LIFO; hence, the oldest inventory details must be there in the record for years.||There must not be any difficulties involved in the recording of FIFO as the inventories are used up continually as per the requirement without keeping it for years.|
|Effect of Profit||During inflation, as mentioned, profits will be lower.||During inflation, profits will be higher.|
|Income tax||At the time of the price rise, the profits will be lower, so it attracts less income tax.||At the time of the price rise, profits will be higher, and it leads to more income tax payments.|
|Investment potential||Using the LIFO method may not attract potential investors, as the use of LIFO leads to lower net income.||Using the FIFO method helps the investors to understand the current scenario. It helps to attract investors.|
FIFO and LIFO are two methods of accounting and reporting the value of inventory. FIFO takes the cost of materials purchased first as the cost of goods sold and the cost of materials purchased last as the cost of items still present in the inventory. LIFO takes the cost materials purchased most recently as the cost of goods sold and the cost of materials purchased first as the cost of items still present in the inventory.
The benefits of using the LIFO method are that it helps defer tax and lower inventory write-downs during periods of high inflation. The benefit of using FIFO is that it results in a higher value of reported earnings and the company’s Net Worth attracting more investors. These effects are opposite when there is deflationDeflationDeflation is a decrease in the prices of goods and services caused by negative inflation (below 0%). It usually results in increased consumer purchasing power, owing to a simple supply and demand rule in which excess supply leads to lower prices..
But in most countries, the IFRS standard is enforced under which using LIFO is not allowed. Only a few countries, including the US, allow the usage of LIFO for taxation purposes but also require its usage while reporting the results to the investors. However, FIFO is a much more popular method out of the two because of being more logical for most industries.
FIFO vs. LIFO Video
This article has been a guide to FIFO vs. LIFO. Here we discuss the top differences between FIFO and LIFO along with the examples, advantages, and disadvantages. You may also have a look at the following articles –