Absorption Costing & Variable Costing - Explained
What is Absorption Costing?
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Table of ContentsWhat is Absorption Costing?What is Variable Costing? Absorption Costing vs. Variable CostingImpact of Absorption Costing and Variable Costing on ProfitAdvantages of Using Variable CostingAdvantages of Absorption CostingDisadvantages of Absorption Costing
What is Absorption Costing?
Absorption costing is a costing method in which all costs attributed to the production of a product are estimated. This costing method entails a full estimation of total expenses incurred in manufacturing a product.
Direct costs such as costs of procuring raw materials, labor wages and indirect costs such as costs of acquiring a facility, utility costs and others are calculated in absorption costing. The absorption costing method accumulates all costs of a finished product including overhead costs and direct costs.
Under U.S. GAAP, all non-manufacturing costs (selling and administrative costs) are treated as period costs because they are expensed on the income statement in the period in which they are incurred.
What is Variable Costing?
Although absorption costing is used for external reporting, managers often prefer to use an alternative costing approach for internal reporting purposes called variable costing.
Variable costing requires that all variable production costs be included in inventory, and all fixed production costs (fixed manufacturing overhead) be reported as period costs.
Thus all fixed production costs are expensed as incurred.
The only difference between absorption costing and variable costing is in the treatment of fixed manufacturing overhead.
Using absorption costing, fixed manufacturing overhead is reported as a product cost.
Using variable costing, fixed manufacturing overhead is reported as a period cost.
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Absorption Costing vs. Variable Costing
Absorption costing and variable costing are two distinct methods of assigning costs to the production of goods and services.
The difference between absorption costing and variable costing is in the treatment of fixed manufacturing overhead costs.
Absorption costing treats fixed manufacturing overhead as a product cost (included in inventory on the balance sheet until sold), while variable costing treats fixed manufacturing overhead as a period cost (expensed on the income statement as incurred).
When comparing absorption costing with variable costing, the following three rules apply:
(1) When units produced equals units sold, profit is the same for both costing approaches.
(2) When units produced is greater than units sold, absorption costing yields the highest profit.
(3) When units produced is less than units sold, variable costing yields the highest profit.
Impact of Absorption Costing and Variable Costing on Profit
If a company uses just-in-time inventory, and therefore has no beginning or ending inventory, profit will be exactly the same regardless of the costing approach used.
However, most companies have units of product in inventory at the end of the reporting period.
Since absorption costing includes fixed manufacturing overhead as a product cost, all products that remain in ending inventory (i.e., are unsold at the end of the period) include a portion of fixed manufacturing overhead costs as an asset on the balance sheet.
Since variable costing treats fixed manufacturing overhead costs as period costs, all fixed manufacturing overhead costs are expensed on the income statement when incurred.
Thus if the quantity of units produced exceeds the quantity of units sold, absorption costing will result in higher profit.
Advantages of Using Variable Costing
Variable costing provides managers with the information necessary to prepare a contribution margin income statement, which leads to more effective cost-volume-profit (CVP) analysis.
By separating variable and fixed costs, managers are able to determine contribution margin ratios, break-even points, and target profit points, and to perform sensitivity analysis.
Conversely, absorption costing meets the requirements of U.S. GAAP, but is not as useful for internal decision-making purposes.
Another advantage of using variable costing internally is that it prevents managers from increasing production solely for the purpose of inflating profit.
However, in the short run, the manager will increase profit by increasing production.
This strategy does not work with variable costing because all fixed manufacturing overhead costs are expensed as incurred, regardless of the level of sales.
Advantages of Absorption Costing
The use of the absorption costing method comes with a lot of benefits. The major benefits of this costing method include;
- Absorption costing method reflects fixed costs that are attributable to the production of goods and services. It identifies the necessity of fixed costs when estimating costs involved in production.
- It is a more accurate costing method when compared to other traditional costing methods and even its counterpart; variable costing.
- Absorption costing also account for the expenses of unsold products, this is important for external reporting as required by GAAP.
- This method achieves a better and higher net income estimation. This is because it helps to achieve less fluctuation in net profits.
Disadvantages of Absorption Costing
Despite the good benefits that companies can derive from using the absorption costing method, it has some disadvantages. The major dark sides of this costing method include the fact that it results in the increase of net income. Because this method accounts for fixed costs, the higher the goods produced at a time, the lesser the fixed costs that will be attributable to the production of the goods, which in turn causes the net income to increase. Hence, the fixed costs accounted for in this method is less favorable compared to variable costing. Another disadvantage of absorption costing is that cost volume profit (CVP) is difficult to analyze when it is being used.
- Job Costing vs Process Costing
- Assign Overhead Costs to Products
- Plantwide Cost Allocation
- Department Cost Allocation
- Activity-Based Costing
- Weighted-Average Cost of Products
- Production Cost Report
- Fixed, Variable, and Mixed Cost Estimations
- Contribution Margin Income Statement
- Cost-Volume-Profit Analysis
- Margin of Safety
- Contribution Margin per Unit of Constraint
- Absorption Costing vs Variable Costing
- Differential Analysis and Decisions
- Cost Decisions for Joint Products
- Capital Budgeting
- Life Cycle Costing
- The Master Budget
- Activity-Based Budgeting
- Standard Costs
- Imputed Value
- Variance Analysis for Product Costs
- Absorption Pricing
- Price Variance
- Absorption Variance
- Responsibility Centers
- Comparing Segmented Income
- Using ROI to Evaluate Performance
- Using Residual Income to Evaluate Performance
- Use Economic Value Added to Evaluate Performance
- Transfer Pricing