Concept of Cost
Cost accounting is concerned with cost and therefore is necessary to understand the meaning of term cost in a proper perspective.
In general, cost means the amount of expenditure (actual or notional) incurred on, or attributable to a given thing.
However, the term cost cannot be exactly defined. Its interpretation depends upon the following factors:
• The nature of business or industry
• The context in which it is used
In a business where selling and distribution expenses are quite nominal the cost of an article may be calculated without considering the selling and distribution overheads. At the same time, in a business where the nature of a product requires heavy selling and distribution expenses, the calculation of cost without taking into account the selling and distribution expenses may prove very costly to a business. The cost may be factory cost, office cost, cost of sales and even an item of expense. For example, prime cost includes expenditure on direct materials, direct labor and direct expenses. Money spent on materials is termed as cost of materials just like money spent on labor is called cost of labor and so on. Thus, the use of term cost without understanding the circumstances can be misleading.
Different costs are found for different purposes. The work-in-progress is valued at factory cost while stock of finished goods is valued at office cost. Numerous other examples can be given to show that the term “cost” does not mean the same thing under all circumstances and for all purposes. Many items of cost of production are handled in an optional manner which may give different costs for the same product or job without going against the accepted principles of cost accounting. Depreciation is one of such items. Its amount varies in accordance with the method of depreciation being used. However, endeavor should be, as far as possible, to obtain an accurate cost of a product or service.