LAST-IN, FIRST-OUT (LIFO). LIFO is the opposite of FIFO: the most recent costs are moved to expense as sales are made.
Theoretically, the LIFO assumption is often justified as more in line with the matching principle. Shirt One
was bought on October 26 whereas Shirt Two was not acquired until December 29. Revenue was earned on
December 31. Proponents of LIFO argue that matching the December 29 cost with the December 31 revenue is
more appropriate than using a cost incurred months earlier. According to this reasoning, income is more properly
determined with LIFO because a relatively current cost is shown as cost of goods sold rather than a figure that is
out-of-date. The difference is especially apparent in periods of high inflation. “By matching current costs against
current sales, LIFO produces a truer picture of income; that is, the quality of income produced by the use of LIFO
is higher because it more nearly approximates disposable income” (Rumble, 1983). Note 1 to the 2008 financial
statements for ConocoPhillips reiterates that point: “LIFO is used to better match current inventory costs with
The last cost incurred in buying two blue shirts was $70 so that amount is reclassified to expense at the time of
the first sale.
Figure 9.2 Journal Entry—Reclassification of the Cost of One Piece of Inventory Using LIFO
Although the physical results of these transaction are the same (one unit was sold, one unit was retained, and the
company holds $110 in cash), the financial picture painted using the LIFO cost flow assumption is quite different
from in the earlier FIFO example.
Cost of Goods Sold (One Unit—the Last One) $70
Gross Profit ($110 Less $70) $40
Ending Inventory (One Unit—the First One) $50
Characteristics commonly associated with LIFO can be seen in this example. When prices rise, LIFO companies
report lower net income (the most recent and, thus, the most costly purchases are moved to expense) and a lower
inventory account on the balance sheet (because the earlier and cheaper costs remain in the inventory T-account).
As will be discussed in a subsequent section, LIFO is popular in the United States because it helps reduce the
amount companies pay in income taxes.
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