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Cost Accounting

What Is Cost Accounting?

Cost accounting is a management accounting method of tracking company expenses to find ways to reduce costs. The primary objective of cost accounting is to provide the management with relevant information for decision-making, cost control, and performance evaluation. It examines all variable and fixed expenses involved in production.

It is important to note that cost accounting doesn’t require adherence to prevailing accounting standards. It is flexible and can be customized to meet the particular needs of the management. Cost accounting varies from financial accounting. However, together, they form the backbone of complete financial management.

Importance of Cost Accounting in Business Operations

 There are several reasons why cost accounting is crucial for a business. 

1. Cost-control

Cost accounting helps the management discover the most profitable products and services and the ones that are increasing production expenses. By tracking and analyzing costs associated with various production activities, the management can identify inefficiencies, reduce wastage, and implement cost-saving measures to improve overall profitability. 

2. Resource Allocation

Enterprises must optimally allocate resources across departments and projects to improve cost management and safeguard the margin of safety. Cost accounting provides details on the economic feasibility of processes, allowing the management to make informed decisions on resource allocation and process optimization. 

3. Pricing Decisions 

Cost accounting offers complete information on production costs, allowing businesses to have visibility of variable and fixed expenses involved in the process. By understanding the actual cost of production, companies can decide a competitive price for their goods and services.

4. Profitability Analysis 

Cost accounting contributes to profitability analysis by providing information on product costs. It allows organizations to set realistic financial goals and align resources to manage long-term profitability. Cost accounting incorporates budgeting and forecasting, providing a framework to manage long-term profit.  

5. Performance Evaluation

Cost and management accounting contribute to performance analysis by providing a benchmark to compare real performance. By analyzing deviation from the actual costs, businesses can assess performance, identify the areas of improvement, and build strategies to improve efficiency and productivity. 

6. Budgeting and Planning

Budgeting and forecasting future revenue and expenses require a thorough understanding of various internal and extraneous factors, like product price and quantity, process efficiency, external market conditions, etc. Cost accounting tracks all direct and indirect production expenses, offering essential insights into the various aspects of the company’s operation. The ultimate goal is to safeguard margin, which involves analyzing cost behavior and identifying the significant cost drivers of the organization.

7. Decision Making

Cost accounting provides critical information to the management to help in decision-making. It tracks all the fixed and variable costs, analyzes cost behavior patterns, and identifies the cost driver factors, along with margins of safety. Cost accounting helps you understand how various factors influence your costs and applies cost estimation methods for planning and forecasting.  

Types of Costs

Calculation of costs in an organization primarily involves the following types of expenses.

1. Fixed Costs

As the name suggests, these are usually expenses incurred irrespective of the production level, such as mortgages, rent, interest payments, and depreciation cost of a machine or equipment, which is a fixed monthly expense. 

2. Variable Costs

Cost types influenced by the company’s production level are the variable costs. It includes raw material expenses, labor hours, paid commissions, distribution charges, packaging supplies, vendor payments, etc. 

3. Operating Expenses

Operating costs are the costs that a business incurs to maintain day-to-day operations. These can be fixed, variable, or both, depending on the nature of the operation. Examples include payroll, taxes, utility costs, advertising costs, insurance, and others. 

4. Direct Costs

Direct costs are directly associated with the production of the goods, such as labor hours and the costs of raw materials. 

5. Indirect Costs

Indirect costs are expenses related to production but are difficult to trace for individual products. For instance, in a restaurant, the cost of energy is inexact and therefore, difficult to measure for each unit of product. 

Types of Cost Accounting

There are several methods to calculate production costs in an organization. Each method provides a different perspective to analyze costs. These are some of the common types of cost accounting methods.

1. Standard Costing

The standard cost accounting process calculates the costs of each operation and project based on historical data. Businesses use standard costing methods for benchmarking production expenses. The actual cost of production is then measured and compared to the historical data. 

2. Activity-based Costing

It is a more accurate method to determine the cost of a product based on the resources consumed. In a complex production environment, it gives a clearer picture of unit cost, allowing the management to measure the cost of a product based on the consumption of each activity.  

3. Marginal or Variable Costing 

Marginal costs refer to the changes in production costs for producing an additional unit of output. This cost audit method calculates the costs of resources that change with the production level. The marginal or variable costing method is useful for short-term decision-making that involves cost-volume-profit analysis. 

4. Direct Costing 

The management employs the direct estimation method when they need a simplified version of the expenses directly associated with production. However, the direct costing method offers limited insights and ignores significant overhead costs.  

5. Absorption Costing 

Absorption costing tracks all direct and variable production expenses. It offers a ballpark estimation of the total cost of production of goods and services to provide a more comprehensive picture. 

6. Process Costing

Process costing is primarily used in companies where the production process involves several stages or processes. It determines the cost at each stage and then calculates the price per unit by dividing the total cost by the number of units produced. 

7. Target Costing 

The target costing method involves forecasting the costs of future production activity, including planning for product pricing, costs, and margins. The cost estimation is referred to as a benchmark during production, and the company may abandon the project if it can’t manufacture at the set levels. 

8. Environmental Costing

It considers the environmental cost of production, such as waste disposal, emission, and resource disposal. It is useful for companies that want to reduce their carbon footprint.  

Cost Accounting vs Financial Accounting

Cost accounting and financial accounting are both used by organizations to get clarity on their financial activities. While cost accounting provides insights into the cost of production to regulate and reduce costs, financial accounting records all company transactions.  Below is a table highlighting the differences between cost accounting and financial accounting.

Aspects Cost Accounting Financial Accounting
Definition Used internally by the management for decision-making regarding cost reduction and performance evaluation Primarily concerns external reporting of the financial activities of the company to stakeholders, investors, creditors, and regulatory authorities
Scope This type of managerial accounting analyzes costs associated with production, operations, and processes. Used for recording and reporting all financial transactions of the business
Uses Used internally by the management for short-term decision-making Published externally for company stakeholders, inventors, creditors, etc.
Timeframe Often involves short-term analysis and monitoring costs within weeks, months, or quarters Usually considers longer periods like yearly, half-yearly, or quarterly
Information type Provides details on production costs including direct, indirect, variable, and fixed costs. Provides summarized financial information on revenue, expenses, assets, liabilities, and equity
Reporting standards Prepared following internal standards and usually customized to suit the needs and requirements of the management Adheres to accepted accounting principles and standards
Decision-making Supports internal decision-making by providing insights into cost behavior, cost-volume-profit analysis, and performance metrics evaluation Usually assist external decision-making of investors, creditors, and regulatory authorities.

Advantages of Cost Accounting

 Cost accounting offers numerous benefits, from allowing insights into the costing side of the operation to impacting pricing decisions. Here is a list of advantages of an intelligent cost accounting process in an organization.

1. Cost Control/ Cost Reduction

Cost accounting helps organizations get an understanding of production costs. The insights allow organizations to identify expensive processes and take corrective measures. 

2. Pricing Decision

Cost accounting clearly explains your production cost to use as a floor price in determining a safe margin. Moreover, by reducing expenses, companies can boost their bottom line and increase revenue.

3. Competitive Advantage With Clarity

Cost accounting helps organizations identify cost behavior and reduce cost. Cost-cutting allows businesses to manage the price of their products and gain a competitive advantage. 

4. Risk Mitigation & Financial Resilience  

By reducing costs, companies can avoid financial risks associated with market volatility, regulatory changes, and industry disruption. Cost accounting helps free resources and bolster the company’s financial condition, providing better financial resilience against market factors. 

5. Facilitate Sustainable Growth 

Cost cutting helps to boost the financials of the company. It promotes a culture of efficiency, resulting in improved profitability and resilience. By practicing careful cost-cutting, companies can promote long-term growth.  

Disadvantages of Cost Accounting

Just like any other practice, overdoing cost and management accounting can negatively impact the business.

1. Lower Product Quality

Cost cutting focused on reducing spending on material and labor may result in a decline in product or service quality. The company may lose its competitive edge due to lower quality, leading to decreased customer satisfaction and a loss of market reputation.

2. Short-Term Financial Strategy

Cost and management accounting leading to cost-cutting prioritizes short-term financial gain over long-term growth strategy. It may result in lowering expenses in essential areas of research and innovation, skill development, infrastructure maintenance, and others affecting long-term growth plans.

3. Negative Impact on Brand

Cost-cutting is often viewed as a sign of trouble. While it is essential to prevent wastage, vigorous cost-cutting may lower investors’ morale. It may damage the company’s reputation and brand image. 


1. What Is Cost Accounting Meaning?

In a nutshell, cost accounting is the reporting and analysis of production costs or expenses. It is a report generated internally for the management to view the process costs of products or services or other business activities for cost-cutting decisions. 

2. What Is the Purpose of Cost Accounting in Business?

Cost accounting contributes to the organization’s goals to reduce costs, performance evaluation, and profitability. Cost auditing provides insights into the expenses associated with processes of products and services.

3. How Does Cost Accounting Assist in Pricing Decisions?

 Cost accounting provides insights into product costs, allowing businesses to determine competitive prices for the company’s goods. It empowers businesses to maintain a safe margin in the market.

4. How Does Cost Accounting Contribute to Short and Long-Term Strategic Decisions?

The cost audit system provides accurate information on production costs, facilitating informed decision-making and aligning operational activities with organizational goals.

5. What is the Cost Accounting Software?

Cost accounting software is a specialized tool designed to help businesses track and analyze their costs accurately. It allows organizations to monitor expenses associated with production, operations, and other activities, providing insights into cost drivers and cost behavior. By leveraging features such as cost allocation, job costing, and variance analysis, cost accounting software enables businesses to make informed decisions to improve cost efficiency and profitability.

The Global Cost Accounting Software Market is projected to reach a CAGR of 8.50% and a market value of USD 7.25 Billion during the period 2020-2026. Overall, Cost accounting software streamlines the cost accounting process, enhances financial visibility, and facilitates better cost management within an organization.