Saturday, January 16, 2010

Basic Cost Concepts : Chapter One

Basic Cost Concepts

Learning Objectives

 To understand the meaning of different costing terms

 To understand different costing methods

 To have a basic idea of different costing techniques

 To understand the meaning of cost sheet

In order to determine and take a dispassionate view about what lies beneath the surface of accounting figures, a financial analyst has to make use of different management accounting techniques. Cost techniques have a precedence over the other techniques since accounting treatment of cost is often both complex and financially significant. For example, if a firm proposes to increase its output by 10%, is it reasonable to expect total cost to increase by less than 10%, exactly 10% or more than 10%? Such questions are concerned with the cost behavior, i.e. the way costs change with the levels of activity. The answers to these questions are very much pertinent for a management accountant or a financial analyst since they are basic for a firm’s projections and profits which ultimately become the basis of all financial decisions. It is, therefore, necessary for a financial analyst to have a reasonably good working knowledge about the basic cost concepts and patterns of cost behavior. All these come within the ambit of cost accounting.

Meaning of Cost Accounting

Previously, cost accounting was merely considered to be a technique for the ascertainment of costs of products or services on the basis of historical data. In course of time, due to competitive nature of the market, it was realized that ascertaining of cost is not so important as controlling costs. Hence, cost accounting started to be considered more as a technique for cost control as compared to cost ascertainment. Due to the technological developments in all fields, cost reduction has also come within the ambit of cost accounting. Cost accounting is, thus, concerned with recording, classifying and summarizing costs for determination of costs of products or services, planning, controlling and reducing such costs and furnishing of information to management for decision making.

According to Charles T. Horngren, cost accounting is a quantitative method that accumulates, classifies, summarizes and interprets information for the following three major purposes:

 Operational planning and control

 Special decisions

 Product decisions

According to the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, London, cost accounting is the process of accounting for costs from the point at which its expenditure is incurred or committed to the establishment of the ultimate relationship with cost units. In its widest sense, it embraces the preparation of statistical data, the application of cost control methods and the ascertainment of the profitability of the activities carried out or planned.

Cost accounting, thus, provides various information to management for all sorts of decisions. It serves multiple purposes on account of which it is generally indistinguishable from management accounting or so-called internal accounting. Wilmot has summarized the nature of cost accounting as “the analyzing, recording, standardizing, forecasting, comparing, reporting and recommending” and the role of a cost accountant as “a historian, news agent and prophet.” As a historian, he should be meticulously accurate and sedulously impartial. As a news agent, he should be up to date, selective and pithy. As a prophet, he should combine knowledge and experience with foresight and courage.

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