A period cost is any cost that cannot be capitalized into prepaid expenses, inventory, or fixed assets. A period cost is more closely associated with the passage of time than with a transactional event. Since a period cost is essentially always charged to expense at once, it may more appropriately be called a period expense. A period cost is charged to expense in the period incurred. This type of cost is not included within the cost of goods sold on the income statement. Instead, it is typically included within the selling and administrative expenses section of the income statement. Examples of period costs are:
Travel and entertainment expenses
General and administrative expenses
Executive and administrative salaries and benefits
Interest expense (that is not capitalized into a fixed asset)
The preceding list of period costs should make it clear that most of the administrative costs of a business can be considered period costs.
Items that are not period costs are:
Costs included in prepaid expenses, such as prepaid rent
Costs included in fixed assets, such as purchased assets and capitalized interest
Thus, if the entire use to which a cost can be put is consumed in the current accounting period (such as rent or utilities) it is probably a period cost, whereas if its use is linked to a product or is spread over multiple periods, it is probably not a period cost.
A period cost is also known as a period expense.