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The Meaning of Cost Accounting

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The Meaning of Cost Accounting

Meaning of Cost Accounting

Previously, cost accounting was considered to be a technique for the ascertainment of costs of products or services on the basis of historical data. In time, due to the competitive nature of the market, it was realized that ascertaining of cost is not as important as controlling costs. Cost accounting started to be considered more as a technique for cost control as compared to cost ascertainment. Due to the technological developments in all fields, cost reduction has also come within the ambit of cost accounting. Cost accounting is, thus, concerned with recording, classifying and summarizing costs for determination of costs of products or services, planning, controlling and reducing such costs and furnishing of information to management for decision making.

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

1. Fixed, Variable and Semi-Variable Costs

The cost which varies directly in proportion with every increase or decrease in the volume of output or production is known as variable cost. Some of its examples are as follows:

• Wages of laborers

• Cost of direct material

• Power

The cost which does not vary but remains constant within a given period of time and a range of activity in spite of the fluctuations in production is known as fixed cost. Some of its examples are as follows:

• Rent or rates

• Insurance charges

• Management salary

The cost which does not vary proportionately but simultaneously does not remain stationary at all times is known as semi-variable cost. It can also be named as semi-fixed cost. Some of its examples are as follows:

• Depreciation

• Repairs

Fixed costs are sometimes referred to as “period costs” and variable costs as “direct costs” in system of direct costing. Fixed costs can be further classified into:

• Committed fixed costs

• Discretionary fixed costs

Committed fixed costs consist largely of those fixed costs that arise from the possession of plant, equipment and a basic organization structure. For example, once a building is erected and a plant is installed, nothing much can be done to reduce the costs such as depreciation, property taxes, insurance and salaries of the key personnel etc. without impairing an organization’s competence to meet the long-term goals.

Discretionary fixed costs are those which are set at fixed amount for specific time periods by the management in budgeting process. These costs directly reflect the top management policies and have no particular relationship with volume of output. These costs can, therefore, be reduced or entirely eliminated as demanded by the circumstances. Examples of such costs are research and development costs, advertising and sales promotion costs, donations, management consulting fees etc. These costs are also termed as managed or programmed costs.

In some circumstances, variable costs are classified into the following:

• Discretionary cost

• Engineered cost

The term discretionary cost is generally linked with the class of fixed cost. However, in the circumstances where management has predetermined that the organization would spend a certain percentage of its sales for the items like research, donations, sales promotion etc., discretionary costs will be of a variable character.

Engineered variable costs are those variable costs which are directly related to the production or sales level. These costs exist in those circumstances where specific relationship exists between input and output. For example, in an automobile industry there may be exact specifications as one radiator, two fan belts; one battery etc. would be required for one car. In a case where more than one car is to be produced, various inputs will have to be increased in the direct proportion of the

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