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8.3 The Calculation of Cost of Goods Sold

Learning Objectives

At the end of this section, students should be able to meet the following objectives:

  1. Explain the meaning of the FOB point in connection with an inventory purchase and its impact on the recording of this transaction.
  2. Identify the time at which cost of goods sold is computed in a perpetual inventory system as well as the recording made at the time of sale.
  3. Identify the time at which cost of goods sold is computed in a periodic inventory system as well as the recording made at the time of sale.
  4. Compute cost of goods sold in a periodic inventory system and prepare the adjustment to enter the appropriate balances into the accounting system.
  5. Understand the necessity of taking a physical inventory count.

Recording Purchases Based on the FOB Point

Question: Rider Inc. (the sporting goods company) buys a bicycle for sales purposes. The company can record the transaction using either a perpetual system (debit Inventory) or periodic system (debit Purchases of Inventory). When should an inventory purchase be recorded? Assume, for example, that Builder Company (the manufacturer of this bicycle) is located in Wisconsin, whereas the retail store operated by Rider is in Kentucky. Delivery takes several days at a minimum. The precise moment for recording the transaction is probably not critical except near the end of the year when the timing of journal entries will impact balances that are included on the financial statements.

To illustrate, assume this bicycle is ordered by Rider Inc. on December 27 of Year One. It is shipped by Builder Company from Wisconsin on December 29 of Year One and arrives at the retail store on January 4 of Year Two. When Rider produces financial statements for Year One, should the inventory cost and related payable be included even though the bicycle was not physically received until Year Two?


Answer: Documents prepared in connection with inventory shipments are normally marked with an “FOB” point. FOB stands for “Free On Board” (a traditional maritime term that has gained a wider use over the years) and indicates when legal title to property is transferred from seller to buyer. At that moment, ownership of the bicycle is conveyed. The FOB point signifies the appropriate date for recording.

If Builder Company specifies that the sale of this bicycle is made FOB shipping pointTerms of sale stipulating that legal title to shipped goods passes to the buyer at the time of shipment so that the buyer is responsible for transportation costs and any damages or losses in transit. and Rider Inc. agrees to this condition, conveyance occurs on December 29, Year One, when the bicycle leaves the seller. Consequently, both the asset and the liability appear on the December 31, Year One, balance sheet prepared by the buyer. For the same reason, Builder records sales revenue in Year One.

However, if the contract states that the transaction is made FOB destinationTerms of sale stipulating that legal title to shipped goods passes to the buyer when they arrive at the final destination so that the seller is responsible for transportation costs and any damages or losses in transit., the seller maintains ownership until the bicycle arrives at Rider’s store on January 4, Year Two. Neither party records the transaction until that date. The date of recognition is based on the FOB point.

The FOB point can be important for two additional reasons.

  • The party that holds legal title to merchandise during its delivery from seller to buyer normally incurs all transportation costs. If no other arrangements are negotiated, “FOB shipping point” means that Rider Inc. as the buyer is responsible for the delivery. “FOB destination” assigns this cost to Builder, as the seller.
  • Any losses or damages that occur in route affect the party holding legal title (again, unless other arrangements are agreed upon by the parties). If shipment from Wisconsin to Kentucky was noted as FOB shipping point and the bicycle breaks as the result of an accident in Illinois, it is the buyer’s inventory that was harmed. However, it is the seller’s problem if the shipment is marked as FOB destination. The legal owner bears the cost of any damages that occur during the physical conveyance of property.

Test Yourself


A company buys 144 inventory items at a total cost of $4,000. The shipment was made in Year One but did not arrive at the buyer’s location until early in Year Two. Both the buyer and the seller believed the goods had been sold FOB destination so they each recorded the sale in that manner. However, a review of the documents indicates that the sale was actually made FOB shipping point. Which of the following is correct about the Year One financial statements?

  1. The seller’s sales account for Year One is overstated.
  2. The seller’s cost of goods sold account for Year One is overstated.
  3. The buyer’s inventory account at the end of Year One is overstated.
  4. The buyer’s accounts payable account at the end of Year One is understated.


The correct answer is choice d: The buyer’s accounts payable account at the end of Year One is understated.


Both companies believe the sale was FOB destination. The goods arrived at the buyer’s business in Year Two. Thus, nothing was reported in Year One for accounts receivable, sales, and cost of goods sold (by the seller) or for inventory and accounts payable (by the buyer). It was actually FOB selling point. All five accounts are understated. Use of a periodic or perpetual system is not important because the question only asks about financial statements and not the method of recording.

Recording Cost Of Goods Sold: Perpetual and Periodic

Question: When a sale of inventory is made, the seller recognizes an expense that has previously been identified as “cost of goods sold” or “cost of sales.” For example, Best Buy reported “cost of goods sold,” for the year ended February 26, 2011, as $37.611 billion. When should cost of goods sold be determined?

To illustrate, assume that Rider Inc. begins the current year holding three Model XY-7 bicycles costing $260 each—$780 in total. During the period, another five units of this same model are acquired, again for $260 apiece or $1,300 in total. At this introductory stage, utilizing a single cost of $260 for all items eliminates a significant theoretical problem, one that will be discussed in detail in the following chapter.

Eventually, a customer buys seven of these bicycles for her family and friends paying cash of $440 each or $3,080 in total. No further sales are made of this model during the current period so that only a single bicycle remains (3 + 5 − 7). One is still in stock while seven have been sold. What is the proper method of recording the company’s cost of goods sold?


Answer: The answer here depends on whether a perpetual or a periodic system is used by the company.

Perpetual inventory system. The acquisition and subsequent sale of inventory when a perpetual system is in use was demonstrated briefly in an earlier chapter. The accounting records maintain current balances so that officials are cognizant of (a) the amount of merchandise on hand and (b) the cost of goods sold for the year to date. These figures are readily available in general ledger T-accounts. In addition, separate subsidiary ledger balances are usually established for the individual items in stock, showing the quantity on hand and the cost. When each sale is made, the applicable cost is reclassified from the inventory account on the balance sheet to cost of goods sold on the income statement. Simultaneously, the corresponding balance in the subsidiary ledger is lowered.

In this example, bicycles were acquired by Rider Inc. Seven of them, costing $260 each (a total of $1,820), are then sold to a customer for $440 apiece or $3,080. When a perpetual system is in use, two journal entries are prepared at the time of each sale: one for the sale and a second to shift the cost of the inventory from asset to expense.

Figure 8.5 Journal Entries for Sale of Seven Model XY-7 Bicycles—Perpetual Inventory System

Removing $1,820 from inventory leaves a balance of $260 ($780 + $1,300 – $1,820) representing the cost of the one remaining unit. The $1,260 difference between revenue and cost of goods sold ($3,080 minus $1,820) is the markup (also known as gross profitDifference between sales and cost of goods sold; also called gross margin or markup. or “gross margin”) earned on the sale.

Periodic inventory system. In contrast, a periodic system monitors the various inventory expenditures but makes no attempt to maintain a record of the merchandise on hand or the cost of goods sold during the year. Although cheap to create and operate, the information available to company officials is extremely limited.

At the time the sale of these seven bicycles takes place, the first journal entry shown in Figure 8.5 "Journal Entries for Sale of Seven Model XY-7 Bicycles—Perpetual Inventory System" is still made to recognize the revenue. Cash is debited for $3,080 and Sales Revenue-Merchandise is credited for $3,080. However, if a periodic system is in use, the second entry is omitted. Cost of goods sold is neither calculated nor recorded when a sale occurs. The available information is not sufficient to determine the amount. The inventory balance remains unadjusted throughout the year. Eventually, whenever financial statements are prepared, the figure to be reported for the asset (inventory) on that date must be determined along with the expense (cost of goods sold) for the entire period.

Because totals are not updated, the only accounts found in the general ledger relating to inventory show balances of $780 (beginning balance) and $1,300 (purchases of inventory).

General Ledger Balances—Periodic Inventory System
Inventory (beginning balance remains unadjusted during the period): 3 units at $260 each or $780
Purchases of Inventory (total inventory costs incurred during the period; for this example, the balance includes the invoice price, sales discount, transportation-in, and assembly, although they would have been kept separate in the actual recording): 5 units at $260 each or $1,300

Based on this information, total inventory available to be sold by Rider Inc. during this period is eight units costing $2,080 ($780 plus $1,300).

When using a periodic system, cost of goods sold is computed as a prerequisite step in preparing financial statements. Inventory on hand is counted (a process known as a physical inventoryA count of inventory on hand; necessary for reporting purposes when using a periodic system but also required for a perpetual system to ensure the accuracy of recorded information.), and all units that are no longer present are assumed to have been sold. The resulting figure is then reported as the company’s cost of goods sold for the period. Because complete inventory records are not available, any units that are lost, stolen, or broken cannot be separately derived. All missing inventory is grouped into one expense—cost of goods sold.

In this example, a physical inventory count will be taken by the employees of Rider Inc. on or near the last day of the year so that financial statements can be produced. Because eight bicycles (Model XY-7) were available during the year but seven have now been sold, one unit—costing $260—remains (if no accident or theft has occurred). This amount is the inventory figure that appears in the asset section of the balance sheet.

Cost of goods sold is then computed by the following formula.

Figure 8.6 Computation of Cost of Goods Sold in a Periodic SystemThe Purchases figure here could have also been shown by displaying the various cost components such as the invoice price, purchases discount, transportation-in, and assembly. That breakdown is important for internal decision making and control but probably of less interest to external parties.

In a periodic system, three costs are used to arrive at the amount reported as cost of goods sold. It is important to understand how each of these figures is derived.

  • Beginning inventory was derived by a count taken at the end of the previous year. After determining the number of units on hand (three bicycles), the accountant inserts the cost of these items based on the amount paid during the period ($260 each). The resulting monetary balance was recorded in the inventory T-account at the end of that year and has remained unchanged until the end of the current year. A periodic system only updates general ledger accounts when financial statements are prepared.
  • The purchases figure has been maintained throughout the year in the general ledger to provide a record of the amounts expended ($1,300) for all normal and necessary costs (invoice price, discounts, transportation-in, assembly costs, and the like) needed to get the inventory into position and condition to be sold.
  • Ending inventory is found by making a new physical count at the end of the current period. The number of units that are still held (one, in this case) is multiplied by the unit cost ($260) to arrive at the proper inventory total reported on the balance sheet.

Test Yourself


Lincoln Corporation buys and sells widgets and uses a periodic system for accounting purposes. According to counts that were taken, the company started the year with 4,000 units and ended the year with 5,000. However, during the period, an additional 17,000 widgets were acquired. All inventory items are bought by the company for $7 each, a figure that includes all normal and necessary costs. What was cost of goods sold for this period?

  1. $112,000
  2. $118,000
  3. $119,000
  4. $125,000


The correct answer is choice a: $112,000.


Beginning inventory cost $28,000 (4,000 units at $7 each) while purchases for the period totaled $119,000 (17,000 × $7). Thus, the total cost of the goods available for sale during the year was $147,000 ($28,000 plus $119,000). Ending inventory is $35,000 (5,000 units at $7 each). Thus, inventory with a cost of $112,000 is missing at year’s end ($28,000 plus $119,000 less $35,000). In a periodic system, all missing inventory is assumed to make up the cost of the goods sold.

Periodic Inventory—Year-End Recording Process

Question: In a perpetual inventory system, cost of goods sold is determined at the time of each sale. Figures retained in a subsidiary ledger provide the cost of the specific item being surrendered so that an immediate reclassification from asset to expense is made.

With a periodic system, cost of goods sold is not calculated until financial statements are prepared. The beginning inventory balance (the ending amount from the previous year) is combined with the total acquisition costs for the current period. Merchandise still on hand is counted, and its cost is determined. All missing inventory is assumed to reflect the cost of goods sold. When a periodic inventory system is used, how are ending inventory and cost of goods sold for the year physically entered into the accounting records? These figures have not been recorded on an ongoing basis; the general ledger must now be updated to agree with the reported balances.


Answer: In the bicycle example, opening inventory for the period was three items costing $780. Another five were bought during the year for $1,300. The total cost of these eight units is $2,080. Because the financial impact of lost or broken units cannot be ascertained in a periodic system, the entire $2,080 is assigned to either ending inventory (one unit at a cost of $260) or cost of goods sold ($780 + $1,300 - $260 or $1,820). No other account exists in which to record inventory costs in a periodic system. The goods are assumed to be on hand or to have been sold.

For a periodic inventory system, a year-end adjusting entry is prepared so that these newly computed amounts are reflected as the final account balances. Transportation and assembly costs are included within the purchases figure in this entry for convenience.

Figure 8.7 Adjusting Entry—Recording Inventory and Cost of Goods Sold as Determined in Periodic Inventory SystemAs mentioned previously, if separate T-account balances are established for cost components such as transportation-in, assembly costs, and the like, they must be included in this entry rather than just a single Purchases figure.

In this entry, the cost of the beginning inventory and the purchases for the period are basically switched to cost of goods sold and ending inventory.

Note that the reported costs on the financial statements ($260 for ending inventory and $1,820 for cost of goods sold) are identical under both perpetual and periodic systems. As will be demonstrated in another chapter, this agreement does not always exist when inventory items are acquired during the year at differing costs.

Key Takeaway

The legal conveyance of inventory from seller to buyer establishes the timing for recording the transaction and is based on the FOB point specified. This designation also identifies the party responsible for transportation costs and any items damaged while in transit. In contrast, the method of recording cost of goods sold depends on the inventory system in use. For a perpetual system, the reclassification of an item from inventory to expense occurs at the time of each sale. A periodic system makes no attempt to monitor inventory totals. Thus, cost of goods sold is unknown until the preparation of financial statements. The expense is calculated by adding beginning inventory to the purchase costs for the period and then subtracting ending inventory. The ending inventory figure comes from a year-end count of the merchandise on hand. A year-end adjusting entry updates the various general ledger accounts.