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    The First-in, First-out Method (FIFO) | FIFO Inventory Method

    Overview of the First-in, First-out Method

    The first in, first out (FIFO) method of inventory valuation is a cost flow assumption that the first goods purchased are also the first goods sold. In most companies, this assumption closely matches the actual flow of goods, and so is considered the most theoretically correct inventory valuation method. The FIFO flow concept is a logical one for a business to follow, since selling off the oldest goods first reduces the risk of obsolescence.

    Under the FIFO method, the earliest goods purchased are the first ones removed from the inventory account. This results in the remaining items in inventory being accounted for at the most recently incurred costs, so that the inventory asset recorded on the balance sheet contains costs quite close to the most recent costs that could be obtained in the marketplace. Conversely, this method also results in older historical costs being matched against current revenues and recorded in the cost of goods sold; this means that the gross margin does not necessarily reflect a proper matching of revenues and costs. For example, in an inflationary environment, current-cost revenue dollars will be matched against older and lower-cost inventory items, which yields the highest possible gross margin.

    The FIFO method is allowed under both Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and International Financial Reporting Standards. The FIFO method provides the same results under either the periodic or perpetual inven­tory system.

    Example of the First-in, First-out Method

    Milagro Corporation decides to use the FIFO method for the month of January. During that month, it records the following transactions:

    Unit Cost
    Total Cost
      +100 $210 $21,000
    Sale -75    
    Purchase (layer 2) +150 280 42,000
    Sale -100    
    Purchase (layer 3) +50 300 15,000
    Ending inventory = 125    

    The cost of goods sold in units is calculated as:

    100 Beginning inventory + 200 Purchased – 125 Ending inventory = 175 Units

    Milagro’s controller uses the information in the preceding table to calculate the cost of goods sold for January, as well as the cost of the inventory balance as of the end of January.

      Units Unit Cost Total Cost
    Cost of goods sold      
       FIFO layer 1 100 $210 $21,000
       FIFO layer 2 75 280 21,000
      175   $42,000
     Ending inventory      
       FIFO layer 2 75 280 $21,000
       FIFO layer 3 50 300 15,000
      125   $36,000

    Thus, the first FIFO layer, which was the beginning inventory layer, is completely used up during the month, as well as half of Layer 2, leaving half of Layer 2 and all of Layer 3 to be the sole components of the ending inventory.

    Note that the $42,000 cost of goods sold and $36,000 ending inventory equals the $78,000 combined total of beginning inventory and purchases during the month.

    Related Topics

    FIFO vs. LIFO accounting
    Last-in first-out method
    Specific identification method
    Weighted average method
    What are perpetual LIFO and periodic LIFO?