Evaluating Net Operating Loss Considerations

Net Operating Loss, what is Net Operating LossWhen it comes to determining if a business is eligible to claim a net operating loss (NOL), it depends on the financial situation. If a business’ taxable income is less than its allowable deductions in a set tax period, usually a year, then the business can utilize the NOL deduction on future tax obligations. Since some businesses’ profits and losses result from uneven cycles, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Code permits businesses to find a balance with their tax obligations.

How a Net Operating Loss Works

Here is an example showing a business’ situation with annual profit/loss summaries:

Year one: High profits and big tax payments due

Year two: Net operating loss incurred

Year three: High profits and big tax payments due

The way a NOL deduction works in the example above is that the losses from year two can be used to offset taxes due in year three.

Net Operating Loss (NOL) = Taxable Income – Allowable Tax Deductions

Referring to the income statement, if the company’s bottom line is a net loss, then the company might be eligible to take advantage of the NOL deduction.

It’s important to keep in mind there have been modifications to what and how businesses may use this. Until recently, the IRS let businesses utilize the carryback method to offset losses to prior years’ tax bills (up to 24 months of tax liabilities), resulting in an immediate refund. However, with the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, NOLs were modified. Effective Jan. 1, 2018, or later, the two-year carryback provision was removed (except for select farming losses), but allowed for an indefinite carryforward period. The TCJA also limits carryforwards to 80 percent of each subsequent year’s net income. Additionally, if a business records a net operating loss in more than one tax year, they must be exhausted in the order that the losses occurred. 

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act permitted NOLs occurring in tax years 2018, 2019, and 2020 to be carried back five years and carried forward indefinitely. However, the exemptions have now expired. Losses that occurred in pre-2018 tax years are still subject to former tax rules, with any remaining losses expiring after 20 years. Beginning with the 2021 tax year, when the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) passed in 2017, it permitted carryforwards of NOLS indefinitely. However, only 80 percent of taxable income can be “carried forward” during a single tax period.

2021 and Forward NOL Example

Year one: NOL $10 million

Year two: Taxable income of $3 million

Year three: Taxable income of $5 million

For year two, with the taxable income’s carryover limit (80 percent) of $3 million is $2.4 million. With the carryover limit subtracted ($3 million – $2.4 million = $600,000), the company’s taxable income will be $600,000 for year two. The remaining NOL of $7.6 million will be considered a “deferred tax asset.” Looking at year three, 80 percent of the year’s $5 million in taxable income equals $4,000,000 in a carryover limit. Subtracting $4 million from $5 million in year three’s taxable income, the business will have $1 million in taxable income, and $3.6 million will be the remaining NOL balance at the end of year three. 

With the tax code continuing to evolve, businesses that stay up-to-date with changes in the IRS Code will make the most of their ability to maximize deductions and reduce liabilities.

How to Account for Capital Assets

Capital Assets, Accounting for Capital AssetsWhen it comes to accounting for capital assets, specifically depreciating capital assets, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) provides guidance to state and local governments for accounting processes. The GASB is responsible for the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) for the private sector (corporate and business accounting), and it works to promote clear, consistent, transparent, and comparable financial reporting.

One of the three primary GASB pronouncements that impact how these agencies manage their fixed assets includes Statement No. 34, which requires all government entities to use accrual accounting. In addition, such entities must depreciate their capital assets according to its guidelines.

Under the section titled “Basic Financial Statements and Management’s Discussion and Analysis for State and Local Governments,” Statement No. 34 mandates when entities must comply depending on the entity’s annual revenues. Entities with $100 million plus must comply beginning with their first fiscal year after June 15, 2001. Entities with annual revenues of between $10 million and $100 million must comply starting with their first fiscal year post-June 15, 2002. Entities with annual revenues of up to $10 million must comply by their first fiscal year after June 15, 2003.  

Capital Assets Overview

The first step in determining a capital asset is to ensure it has a useful life greater than a single reporting period. Examples of capital assets include vehicles, easements, buildings, land and land improvements, and infrastructure (tunnels, bridges, roads, lighting systems, etc.). When defining infrastructure, it must be something that can be used for the long term; generally is stationary, and when a building is looked at, it’s included only if the building is integral to a network of infrastructure assets.

When it comes to reporting capital assets, they should be reported at their historical costs (inclusive of installation and freight charges). For donated assets, they should be recorded at their fair market value at time received.

Depreciation Expense Reporting Considerations

When an asset is identified with a specific function, it’s recommended to be a direct expense. This includes appropriate assets that are attributable to a unique department or role. If the asset is used by many different departments and there are depreciation expenses, they should be proportionate to how each department uses the respective assets. Additionally, if an asset function across multiple departments or across citywide functions, its depreciation expense is not categorized as a direct expense but rather as a separate line in the Statement of Activities.

Whether it’s straight or declining balance methods (such as double declining balance and 150 percent declining balance), it is done over the asset’s useful life. When it comes to determining an asset’s useful life, government entities can base their calculations on their own past internal experience for similar needs, how other government entities treated similar asset classifications that are publicly available, or industry or professional organization’s published guidelines. Condition and the expected service life are two important factors to be considered.

Another important factor in how depreciation is calculated depends on how assets themselves are classified. For example, it can be done through the following lenses:

  • Individual assets
  • Classes of assets
  • Networks of assets
  • Subsystems of a network of assets

Looking at the last two ways to analyze these assets for depreciation, rural roads, state highways, and Interstate highways can be broken down into three discrete systems, also referred to as a subsystem of the network. However, if all three different transportation systems are grouped together, the bigger system would be a network of infrastructure assets or a network of assets.

With capital assets expected to be a part of governments’ budgets, understanding the intricacies is essential to ensure standards are met.

Purchase Acquisition Accounting

Purchase acquisition accounting is the commonly accepted method to document the acquisition of another business on the balance sheet of the acquiring company. The business’ assets that are being acquired are documented on the acquiring firm’s books at fair market value. The fair market value – defined as what assets would go for on the open market between a buyer and seller on the acquisition date – would increase the overall value of the acquiring company.  

The purchase accounting adjustment re-assesses the acquired business’ liabilities and assets to fair value. Required under GAAP and IFRS, re-assessed items include intangibles, inventories and fixed assets. Adding intangible assets, like non-compete agreements or customer rosters, to the acquiring company’s books will impact how assets and liabilities are valued because these items were not originally accounted for by the acquired company.

Potential accounting outcomes from an acquisition include depreciation and inventory considerations. Depreciation strategies, such as going beyond straight-line depreciation, will need to be examined and strategically implemented because fixed assets with higher valuations will have accounting implications. For inventory that is re-assessed with higher valuations, the cost of goods sold will increase upon sales for the acquiring company.

Looking forward, the purchase accounting adjustments often affect the business taking ownership of recognizable non-cash expenses. The company buying the other company out can see major losses from these recognizable non-cash expenses prior to the business completing amortization of the underlying intangible assets. Companies, chiefly publicly traded ones, are encouraged to discuss the losses in financial documents to illustrate their impact on forward guidance.

According to ASC 805 and GAAP, in order to be considered a business combination, certain criteria must be met. According to the CPA Journal, businesses must evaluate if the transaction in question meets the distinctions between acquiring another business versus acquiring assets only. It’s important to distinguish between the two because if an asset acquisition occurs, the transaction is processed via a cost accumulation standard. However, if the transaction in question qualifies as a business acquisition, meeting ASC 805 criteria, it uses a fair value standard.

The primary way to determine in which category a transaction may be classified is to see if it fits the business definition. Based upon FASB’s January 217 Accounting Standards Update (ASU) 2017-01, Clarifying the Definition of a Business, the following explanation is provided.

According to FASB, to be considered a business for this business acquisition accounting purpose, a company is defined as a group or collection of tasks that encompass “an input and a substantive process.” Though it’s important to note that the fair value of the collection is not centralized in one or multiple assets. The inputs and processes generally result in services and/or goods to buyers and repayment to stakeholders. It also may apply to companies that don’t presently produce outputs.

When it comes to a business acquisition, having accountants that understand the intricacies of navigating the process is essential for a business to emerge more streamlined after integrating assets.

Understanding Modified Accrual Accounting

What is Modified Accrual AccountingAccording to the Federal Register, there were about 90,000 local and state government entities throughout the country in 2022. This number is comprised of towns, counties, cities, special districts, and independent school districts. One of the commonalities these organizations share is their use of modified accrual accounting.

Understanding the Differences Between Cash and Accrual Accounting

Cash basis accounting recognizes transactions upon the exchange of cash. Expenses are not recognized until they are paid, and revenue isn’t recognized until payment has been received. Neither future obligations nor anticipated revenues are recorded in financial statements until the cash transaction has happened.

Accrual accounting treats the recognition of expenses when they are incurred. When it comes to recognizing revenue, it occurs once a business is owed compensation for its contracted complete delivery of products or services. The act of exchanging cash or payment is less important with accrual accounting.

What is Modified Accrual Accounting

This method of accounting merges the directness of cash accounting and some attributes of the more complex but equally useful accrual accounting method to account for transaction differences. One can record modified accrual accounting as each transaction is analyzed and accounted for, hinging primarily on whether an asset is short- or long-term, be it how a business recognizes revenue or incurs a liability.

Short Term Versus Long Term

This method is highly dependent on the type of asset in question. When the cash balance has been impacted by a short-term occurrence, such as a sale to a customer or the purchase of raw materials from a vendor, it must be recorded using the cash basis. This is most often recorded on the income statement.

When it comes to events that impact more than one accounting timeframe, it is referred to as long-term. If the debt that is due beyond 12 months or fixed assets are in question, these are considered long-term and must be documented on the balance sheet.

For assets such as fixed long-term debt and fixed assets, which are considered longer-term, they are recorded on the balance sheet. Such assets are then depreciated or amortized over an asset’s lifetime.

Where Modified Accrual is Used

While public companies may use this for financial statements internally, it is not permitted for public financial reporting by generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) or the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). One important consideration for private or public companies is that when the modified cash basis method is used, there is an implicit consideration that transactions recorded on a cash basis will have to be adjusted to an accrual-based accounting to be accepted by third-party auditors.

Since the financial statements submitted to be evaluated by a third-party auditor would not have been 100 percent on an accrual basis, they would fail a third-party audit, creating a crisis of confidence among outside observers. The transition from a cash basis will require less translation to a full accrual basis accounting. However, for non-publicly traded, private businesses, for internally-only used financial statements and/or no financing required, it can be useful.

One important reason this standard is widely used throughout government agencies is because the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) created the standard, and it is recognized as an established metric.

The reason governmental agencies implement this standard is because local and state governments keep their attention on present year fiscal responsibilities. This works with their dual principal purposes. The first is to document in any event if present-year monetary inflows are satisfactory to fund present-year costs. It also satisfies that each government entity can substantiate if government funds are utilized in accordance with the law.

Depending on the type of entity and how they are functioning in the economy, private or public sectors can look at how modified accrual accounting impacts their operations.

How to Look at Liquidity through an Accounting Lens

Liquidity, Accounting LiquidityLiquidity refers to a business’s ability to convert its short-term assets or securities into cash quickly to meet its short-term financial obligations or pay bills due within the next 12 months. Naturally, cash is the most liquid. This is different than solvency, which refers to the ability of a business to satisfy its long-term bills.

It’s important to distinguish between market liquidity and accounting liquidity. Market liquidity implies how a nation’s stock market or real estate market functions, specifically if there are enough buyers and sellers. The closer the bid and ask prices are, the greater the level of liquidity that exists. The greater the liquidity, the easier it is for participants to transact.

Determining the liquidity of a business helps investors see how a company balances its cash. This demonstrates how well a company manages its ability to pay bills versus being able to direct money for retained earnings, dividends, reinvesting in its business, or for acquisitions. When it comes to measuring liquidity, there are three ratios that estimate how liquid a business is: current, quick, and cash ratios.

Current Ratio

This compares current assets to current liabilities. It’s expressed as follows:

Current Ratio = Current Assets / Current Liabilities  = $20,000 / $5,000 = 4

This means for every $1 in outstanding bills, the company has $4 in cash available to satisfy those debts. While each industry has a unique target ratio, a range of 1.5 to 2.5 is seen as a healthy measure.

Quick Ratio (Acid-Test Ratio)

This calculation removes inventories and some short-term assets that are more illiquid than incoming payments expected to be paid within a reasonable short-term time frame, such as accounts receivable. It’s expressed as:

Quick Ratio = (Cash and Cash Equivalents + Short-Term Investments + Accounts Receivable) / Current Liabilities   

If the resulting number is less than 1, this could indicate the business is facing an inability to pay its short-term bills.

Cash Ratio

This looks at how well a company can pay off short-term debt with its cash and similar financial assets that can be converted to cash instantaneously. It’s expressed as follows:

Cash Ratio = Cash and Cash Equivalents / Current Liabilities = $10,000 / $3,000 = 3.33

With a 3.33 ratio, this example shows the company is in good shape liquidity-wise. A general reference of at least 0.5 (but higher shows better financial health) is recommended.

Interpreting Results

Once the results are calculated, businesses can analyze their findings and see the financial position of their company. For example, if they are looking for financing, lenders take into account these ratios to determine a level of confidence in debt repayment. If a company is looking for investors, savvy investors can determine how competitive the company is against its industry/sector competitors.

Internal Company Reflection

Depending on the company’s circumstances, changes might need to be implemented immediately and over the long term. A business may need to look at operating costs to cut costs. Cash flow projections are recommended to see how the company is doing on its restructuring and cost-cutting efforts.

When it comes to managing liquidity, using these ratios along with short- and long-term planning to improve a company’s financial and liquidity position can make a business more attractive to lenders and investors and more resistant to economic downturns.

How Blockchain Could Impact Accounting and Auditing

Blockchain has the promise to revolutionize the way businesses and their accountants keep track of their financial records. When it comes to audit evidence, blockchain may be able to give organizations more efficient ways to bring financial data into universal conformity; help businesses present relevant financial data in an open manner; and interpret and select data effectively. Blockchain is a digitally distributed ledger that captures transactions conducted among parties within a network. It’s a peer-to-peer, internet-based archive that records all transactions since its creation, and maintains proof of these transactions.

Each participant is a node on the mutual database connected to the blockchain, with every user maintaining an identical copy of the ledger. Each entry is a transaction that represents an exchange of value between participants. Along with featuring near real-time transaction settlement, which speeds up payment completion between parties, properly designed blockchains create unchangeable transaction records. This can help auditors investigate transactions as they occur in real time.

And as blockchain is adopted more and more, auditors will be able to obtain data from the blockchain; however, it’s important to view it all with a skeptical eye. Transactions may be fraudulent or prone to error. Viewers must be even more skeptical if the blockchain is controlled by an entity other than the entity being audited.

Using bitcoin as an example, the transfer of the assets is recorded on the blockchain. Accountants can use blockchain to look at transactions one by one. However, instead of focusing on bookkeeping tasks, for example, accountants’ roles are expected to evolve into higher level tasks requiring more judgment. As blockchain adoption increases, responsibilities like bookkeeping and reconciliation will require less of an accountant’s time, permitting them to work on more analytical tasks like transaction classification and valuations.

Determining depreciation and resulting salvage value of an asset when its useful life is exhausted is one example of a transaction that might need some investigating by an auditor.

The Internal Revenue Service mandates businesses judge a fair salvage value, but it’s just that – an estimate. Based on the asset’s usage and expected service time frame, equipment could have scrap value contingent on metal content or technology that might become obsolete, rendering it of little to no value. Since it’s so subjective, this can impact a company’s accounting and resulting profitability and income tax obligations, requiring careful judgment.

If the salvage value is determined to be too high, it would reduce the depreciation for the business. If it’s too low, depreciation would be factored in too much and the company’s net earnings will be less than expected. As part of determining the salvage value, businesses and those who audit a business’ financial statements need to exercise judgment when looking into transactions, whether it’s on blockchain or another type of ledger.

As blockchain evolves, businesses that take advantage of this technology can leverage its efficiencies to reduce the need for rote work and focus on the substance of accurately reporting transactions and not the rudimentary movement of data between parties.

Noteworthy 2023 IRS Inflation Tax Changes and Accounting Considerations for High Inflation

2023 IRS Inflation Tax ChangesWith the world seeing inflation, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued guidance for tax filers. Based upon an October 2022 IRS News Release, there have been more than 60 adjustments in conjunction with its yearly inflation alterations. Highlights of inflation adjustments include increasing the married couples’ standard deduction for 2023 by $1,800 to $27,700. Another highlight of inflation adjustments includes raising the threshold for the highest tax rate of 37 percent for individual taxpayers to an income higher than $578,125 or $693,750 if two married individuals are filing jointly.

However, there are certain things that are not subject to indexing for inflation. This includes permitting unlimited itemized deductions and maintaining the personal exemption at zero for the 2023 tax year – codified into law by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) amount used by joint filers to determine the reduction in the Lifetime Learning Credit (§25A(d)(2)) is not inflation adjusted for the taxable year (post-Dec. 31, 2020).

When it comes to the topic of inflation, while the United States experienced monthly inflation as high as 9.1 percent in 2022, there are considerations for economies and businesses operating in foreign jurisdictions where the rate of inflation is much higher for sustained periods of time (multiple years).

The International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), via International Accounting Standard IAS 29, explains how companies navigate financial statements if their primary currency used for commerce is the same legal tender experiencing hyperinflation in a particular economy, generally within a specific country. It also may be referred to as functional currency. IFRS generally looks at wages, pricing, and interest correlated with a price index increasing by at least 100 percent in aggregate over 36 months when determining if a company’s financial statements must be amended for economies with hyperinflation.

With PWC considering Argentina a hyperinflationary economy to entities whose functional currency is the Argentine peso, it’s considered so due to IAS 29. Specifically, IAS 29.3 details criteria when evaluating if indeed, an economy and its currency is experiencing hyperinflation. Select criteria include:

  • Residents of the subject jurisdiction attempting to preserve wealth via non-monetary assets or stable non-native currencies.
  • Business is indexed and transacted in non-native currencies with far lower rates of inflation.
  • When credit is the means of a transaction, it is priced at levels factoring in the expected debasement of the subject currency according to the time frame of the borrowing.

As of the 2019 publication, based on the 36-month lookback measuring inflation gauges and the IAS 29 evaluation criteria indicating hyperinflation, PWC determined the Argentina economy to be hyperinflationary. And according to IAS 29 standards, if a company’s primary legal tender it uses for commerce is the same as a country experiencing hyperinflation economic conditions, it must adhere to specific financial reporting standards.

Financial statements in hyperinflationary environments, according to IAS 29, that factor in relative details are required to be reported in the functional currency in up-to-date figures at the conclusion of the coverage time frame. When it comes to revising to current units of currency, businesses must use a general price index to account for inflationary changes. In addition to requiring a distinct declaration for a required business’ net monetary position, it must be reflected as proceeds or a decline in profits for the defined time frame.

The business must adhere to full disclosure, which includes transparency whereby financial statements have been restated, what price index the business relied upon to adjust for currency inflation considerations, and if the financial statements have been put together via historical or original costs versus current or fair value costs. The remaining requirement is that business results must assess its financial outcome and situation in its functional currency. Although according to IAS 21 guidelines, once financial results are restated, the restated functional currency can then be read in alternate forms of currency.

When it comes to inflation and the jurisdiction it occurs in, knowing the levels is important to help businesses account for times of normal and abnormally high levels. 

Understanding the Latest Modifications to Form 1099-K Reporting Requirements

There has been updated guidance on how and when tax filers must file and report Form 1099-K, Payment Card, and Third-Party Network Transactions in 2022 and 2023. According to the December IRS release, new income and transaction reporting requirements for so-called third-party settlement organizations (TPSOs) have been delayed for one year.

A TPSO, according to the IRS, facilitates payments to “participating payees” of the platform. This type of organization can be an online marketplace, an app, or payment card processors that are used to facilitate commerce transactions. It could be a digital marketplace that holds auctions or items for sale that functions as a nexus between those selling items and those buying the items. The TPSO also is tasked with reporting the total amount of transactions to the IRS and the payee or individual who receive remittance(s) from the TPSO in conjunction with selling an item on an auction website or similar platform, based on the new $600 tax calendar year threshold.

The previous reporting threshold (which is in effect for filing taxes for the 2022 calendar year) for TPSOs to be mandated to report to the IRS was:

  1. More than 200 transactions occurring annually
  2. More than $20,000 in sales annually

Originally set to take effect for the 2022 tax calendar year and mandated in the American Rescue Plan (ARP) of 2021, the new reporting threshold is triggered when more than $600 is earned in aggregate for a single tax year, without regard to the number of transactions per calendar year. It will take effect starting Jan. 1, 2023.

When it comes to calculating tax obligations, it’s important to notice how differences exist between gains and losses. For example, the first step is to determine whether there’s been a sale or a loss. If there’s a gain, it must be reported on Schedule D and Form 8949.

Depending on the outcome of the sale (a gain or loss), the IRS gives guidance accordingly. If it’s a gain, when it comes to accounting for fees paid in conjunction with the item’s listing, the selling expenses should be reported as “a downward adjustment” on either Form 8949 or Schedule D. Another consideration on sales of personal items is determining whether it’s a short- or long-term gain. Items sold that are held for more than one year are recognized as long-term. If the item sold has been held one year or less, the capital gain is recognized as short-term. But when it comes to losses, the IRS doesn’t permit filers’ deductions.

There is one important distinction between online sellers and “personal transactions” with the 1099-K Form. When items are sold for a profit, the intent of the 1099-K Form is to ensure income earned is reported to the IRS (and state revenue agency). However, if family members or friends are using such “third-party payment platforms” to split a purchase (for a meal, entertainment, ride-share, reimbursing a bill payment, etc.), such transactions are excluded because they qualify as “personal transactions” under IRS guidance.

With the guidance for smaller transactions evolving, which will undoubtedly impact more and more filers, individuals and those professionals helping them will undoubtedly have to keep an eye on future changes to 2023’s Tax Code.

How Mark-to-Market Works in Accounting

According to the Harvard Business Review, mark-to-market accounting was what some attributed to the Great Financial Crisis of 2008. Economists such as Brian Wesbury and Steve Forbes attacked the so-called “fair value accounting” because it created further instability, leading to the eventual crash of the markets that prompted the Federal Reserve to implement the “Fed Put.” Understanding how mark-to-market asset valuation works is an essential piece of information for businesses to make the most of their accounting.

Mark-To-Market Accounting vs. Historical Cost Accounting

Mark-to-market, also known as fair value accounting, measures the current market value of an asset. Historical cost accounting values assets according to their original purchase price.

Mark-to-market is a method to assess the fair value of assets if they were sold at current market conditions with liabilities removed from the business’ obligations. It’s generally a fair assessment in times of normal market functions; but during times of volatility, it can provide a skewed assessment of value.

When businesses prepare their financial statements for a particular fiscal year and assess fair value for assets, the business would update its balance sheet with the value they would receive selling assets at current market conditions. This is opposed to what the business bought the assets for, or the asset’s historical or original purchase price.

This is especially true when it comes to trading in the markets, such as futures contracts. Futures contracts are marked to market on a daily basis at the end of the trading day. Depending on how the commodity traded intraday, short and long contract values are added to or subtracted from their starting basis, respectively.   

Traded Assets and Bad Debts

When it comes to “traded assets,” HBR gives an example of when an asset is to be marked to market every quarter. If a traded asset’s fair market value falls, it lowers the equity on its balance sheet and migrates via its income statement as a loss. For example, if a bank buys a bond for $2 million, then it falls to $1.8 million when the subsequent quarter closes (assuming the bond is still held), the business’ balance sheet will need to be adjusted (excluding any potential tax impacts). The balance sheet should reflect a $200,000 decrease in assets on the left side and a $200,000 decrease in equity. It will also be included on the bank’s income statement, reflecting a $200,000 pretax quarterly loss.

Institutions that provide loans will inevitably see a certain percentage go bad within a fiscal year. After accounting for the actual percentage of so-called uncollectable loans, they will have to re-evaluate such assets through the use of a contra account. This also can apply when companies offer pre-payment discounts to clients to encourage fast collection of accounts receivables (AR). Similarly, such assets will have to be marked down to lower values via a contra account.  


When it comes to valuing assets, businesses that understand the nuances of how accounting standards treat different types of assets will be better prepared to navigate their own tax and accounting needs.

Inventory Valuation: How Companies Can Calculate It

Inventory ValuationBy 2021, there were 20,000 warehouses in the United States and growing, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). With more warehouses expected to pop up in 2022 and beyond, one important consideration for businesses of all sizes is to keep track of their inventories. With different tracking and valuation methods, it’s important to understand how they work and what they can tell business owners.

Before inventory can be valued, it’s imperative to understand how it can be expressed mathematically:

Ending Inventory = Starting Inventory + Net Acquisitions – Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)

Now that inventory is better defined, understanding different approaches to inventory valuation is essential to keeping track. The first type of inventory valuation is referred to as FIFO or First In, First Out. This means that businesses sell their earliest produced inventory first and new inventory last.

Assume a company produces 500 widgets on day 1, costing $2 per widget. The same company then produces 500 widgets on day 2, costing $2.50 per widget. This method says that if 500 widgets are sold over the next week, the cost of goods sold (COGS), derived from the Income Statement, is $2 per widget because that’s how much the first 500 widgets cost to produce for inventory. The remaining widgets, 500 widgets at a cost of $2.50 per unit, would be accounted for under the ending inventory on the balance sheet.

One consideration, especially in an inflationary environment, for remaining inventory on the balance sheet is that a business might see a higher tax obligation. This is likely to occur because of higher net income due to a lower cost basis from the older inventory when assessing the COGS. Newer, more expensive inventory will naturally lead to a lower tax basis, especially if inflation falls and the retail cost is mitigated from decreased demand.

The next option is referred to as LIFO – or Last In, First Out. This means that businesses sell what they’ve produced first, then move on to the older inventory. If any inventory is left at the end of the accounting time-frame, it’s accounted for accordingly. Assuming the same 500 widgets were sold in the particular accounting period, the time-frame’s COGS would be $2.50 per widget, with the 500 widgets left over in inventory valued at the $2 per widget cost.  

One important caveat to this type of valuation is with regard to inventory that’s perishable or becomes obsolete quickly (cell phones, televisions, etc.). It is not an effective method because the product will either spoil or become worth next to nothing due to highly competitive industries. For this approach, using the most recently produced goods first would lend their COGS basis to be higher. In one respect, the higher COGS basis can lower profits, but can also offset taxes due to the same effect. The third type of inventory valuation is referred to as Average Cost. This method is a way to blend LIFO and FIFO, which takes the average of inventory across all production and storage timelines. This approach averages costs in proportion to the amount of widgets produced in each run, then calculates the mean cost to determine the ending inventory and COGS figures.

[(500 x $2) + (500 x $2.50)]/1,000 = ($1,000 + $1,250)/1,000 = $2,250/1,000 = $2.25

Therefore, the average cost for inventory using this method would be $2.25 per widget.

With different types of inventory valuation explained, there are considerations that businesses should be mindful for each approach. This can make a difference to those running the company and for potential investors and lenders contemplating investing in or loaning the company money.