Question: A periodic system is cheap and easy to operate. It does, though, present some practical problems.
Assume that a company experiences a fire, flood, or other disaster and is attempting to gather evidence—for
insurance or tax purposes—as to the amount of merchandise that was destroyed. How does the company support
its claim? Or assume a company wants to produce interim financial statements for a single month or quarter
(rather than a full year) without going to the cost and trouble of taking a complete physical inventory count. If the
information is needed, how can a reasonable approximation of the inventory on hand be derived when a periodic
system is in use?
Answer: One entire branch of accounting—known as “forensic accounting”—specializes in investigations where
information is limited or not available (or has even been purposely altered to be misleading). For example, assume
that a hurricane floods a retail clothing store in Charleston, South Carolina. Only a portion of the merchandise
costing $80,000 is salvaged1. In trying to determine the resulting loss, the amount of inventory in the building
prior to the storm needs to be calculated. A forensic accountant might be hired, by either the owner of the store
or the insurance company involved, to produce a reasonable estimate of the merchandise on hand at the time.
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