# Variable costing versus absorption costing

Explain the difference between variable and absorption costing. How unit product cost is computed under two methods?

Variable and absorption are two different costing methods. Almost all successful companies in the world use both the methods. Variable costing and absorption costing cannot be substituted for one another because both the systems have their own benefits and limitations.

These costing approaches are known by various names. For example, variable costing is also known as direct costing or marginal costing and absorption costing is also known as full costing or traditional costing.

The information provided by variable costing method is mostly used by internal management for decision making purposes. Absorption costing provides information that is used by internal management as well as by external parties like creditors, government agencies and auditors etc.

## Computation of unit product cost under two methods:

Under absorption costing system, the product cost consists of all variable as well as all fixed manufacturing costs i.e., direct materials, direct labor and factory overhead (FOH). But when variable costing system is used, the fixed cost (both manufacturing and non-manufacturing) is treated as a period or capacity cost and is, therefore, not included in the product cost.

Following exhibition summarizes the difference between variable costing and absorption costing:

Variable versus absorption costing

For further clarification of the concept, consider the following examples:

## Example 1

A company manufactures and sells 5000 units of product X per year . Suppose one unit of product X requires the following costs:

Direct materials: \$5 per unit
Direct labor: \$4 per unit
Variable manufacturing overhead: \$1 per unit
Fixed manufacturing overhead: \$20,000 per year

The unit product cost of the company is computed as follows:

Absorption Costing: \$5 + \$4 + \$1 + \$4* = \$14

Variable Costing: \$5 + \$4 + \$1 = \$10

* \$20,000 / 5,000

Notice that the fixed manufacturing overhead cost has not been included in the unit cost under variable costing system but it has been included in the unit cost under absorption costing system. This is the primary difference between variable and absorption costing.

## Example 2

Sunshine company produces and sells only washing machines. The company uses variable costing for internal reporting and absorption costing for external reporting. The data  for the year 2016 is given below:

Direct materials: \$150/unit
Direct labor: \$45/unit
Fixed manufacturing overhead: \$160,000 per year
Fixed marketing and administrative expenses: \$110,000 per year
Variable marketing and administrative expenses: \$15/unit sold

Company produced and sold 8,000 machines during the year 2016.

Required: Compute the unite product cost under variable costing and absorption costing.

### Solution:

*\$160,000 / 8,000 Units = \$20

Note: Marketing and administrative expenses are period costs and are not relevant in the computation of unit product cost.

### 47 Thoughts on Variable costing versus absorption costing

1. Zaheer

Yes it is useful.

2. Kat

I could have used a little more explanation of the variable costing method, however this was useful.

3. Stewie

Why is marketing and administrative expenses not relevant in the second example?

1. Yolly

they are period cost in both method, not included in the computation of product cost.

4. Marko

Yes, I finally got costing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

5. salwa.alsir

Thanks ..it is very useful

6. nash

yes! I’ve learned a lot. Thank you 🙂

7. julious

very useful thanks

8. may

How about when the unit production and unit sold are different? which one we have to choose to calculate the unit product cost?

9. Accounting For Management

Always units produced. You incur production cost to produce not sell.

10. juthi

thanks a lot.it’s very help full.

11. leonard

how is begining inventory treated

12. nond

Thanx, have been helped.

13. nond

14. jeremy

Very useful. For me difference between understanding and not understanding.

15. shaima

can you help me to solve this problem
) Durante Company reported the following information about the production and sale of its only product during the first month of operations:

Selling price per unit \$300
Sales \$480,000
Direct materials used \$220,000
Direct labor \$200,000
Variable selling and administrative expenses \$20,000
Fixed selling and administrative expenses \$10,000
Ending inventory, Direct Materials 0
Ending inventory, Work-in-process 0
Ending inventory, Finished Goods 400 units

Under variable costing, the cost of finished goods ending inventory is ________.

16. Accounting For Management

Total units manufactured during the month:
Units sold + units in ending inventory
1,600* + 400
= 2,000

*480,000/300

Variable manufacturing cost:
Direct materials used + Direct labor + Variable factory overhead
220,000 + 200,000 + 60,000
= 480,000

Variable manufacturing cost per unit:
\$480,000/2,000 = \$240

Cost of finished goods ending inventory:

400units*\$240 = \$96,000

17. lia

How if the budgeted production is 40 000 and the actual production is 50 000. Which one will be use to determine the fix production overhead per unit? is it 300 000/50 000 or 300 000/40 000?

18. Lotus

at the time i will be use 50000 units for FPOH.

19. ronald

Thanks is understandable

20. tshililo

is absorption costing or variable costing system likely to be seen as more appropriate for use by the management

21. Ahsan

I think variable selling and admin fall in product cost in marginal costing. Correct me if i am wrong.

22. Marwah

why absorption includes fixed costs?
Explains effect of ending inventory on operating income?
Clear on results of Production more than sales, sales more than production and sales equals production

23. E

Thanks

24. Lia

Is powdercoating treated as overhead cost?

25. Bakarr

How non production variable and fixed overheads are treated in marginal and absorption costing

Why we not included Admin and selling expenses in absoption mathod???

27. Nasser Farahat

Sajjad Badar becaus admin& selling expenses is period costs not product costs, don,t forget we interest about product cost only that,s mean we compute manofactory expenses to detemine units cost not admin& selling expenses

28. Patrick

Now I got a clearer picture of Variable and Absorption Costing Concepts right for the first time.
Thanks alot.

Patrick O.

29. michaelyn

What is used to compute unit price? Selling units or production units

30. Kamuren

Thank you it really helped me

31. Susanna

Hey,

Is it true that absorption costing directs period costs to the product ?

32. Vashurn

which method is better for the Sunshine company?

33. thembani

I would like to be assisted with the following question:

1. The following budgeted information relates to a manufacturing company for next period:

production 14 000 sales 12000 units and fixed production costs R63000 and fixed selling costs R12000.
the normal level of activity is 14000 units per period.
using an absorption costing, the profit for the next period has been calculated as R36000.
what would be the profit for the next period using marginal costing.

34. Accounting For Management

As the inventory is increasing, the profit under absorption costing would be higher than the marginal costing.

Begining inventory: 0 units
Ending inventory: 14,000 – 12,000 = 2,000 units
Per unit fixed manufacturing cost: 63,000/14,000 = R4.5
Total cost of ending inventory: 2,000*4.5 = R9,000
Profit for the next period under marginal costing: R36,000 – R9,000 = R27,000

35. patrick

very much usefull

36. Khin

Hello,

Is that inventory and COGS under absorption costing are always higher than variable costing? If not, which one is correct statement? And how about fixed overhead expenses? Under which method has always higher fixed overhead expenses?

Thanks

37. Queen'sCommerce

As much as this is useful,

Can we conclude that in the long run, total costs incurred will be the same under a FIFO method?

I know that using one or the other can maximize net income but my question has to do with the long term nature of the cost.

If anyone can answer this it would be unreal!!

Thanks

38. Oprae Ncube

Bindu Ltd is a manufacturing company and has provided you with the following information for the two years ende 30 June 2002 and 30 June 2003

2002 units 2003 units
sales 4200 4400
production 4500 4800
fixed cost
manufacturing 36000 43200
unit data selling price 47 51
direct material 10 12
direct labour 15 18

there was no opening stock of finished goods in the ear ended 30 June
Stocks are valued on a FIFO basis
Required to calculate the closing stocks for each year using the absoption costing method and marginal costing method and the profit statements

39. John

1. Shah Nikhil

which problem bro?

40. Shah Nikhil

Variable marketing and administrative expenses: \$15/unit sold in example 2 what happen to it?

41. Shah Nikhil

Pls help…
A Business manufacture plastic bags at the begining of the year there were 1000units.During the year 10,000units bags were produced & following cost was incured….
labour:-
skilled -2 (25) /unit
unskilled – 2 (30) /unit
Materials:-
A – 5 (20) / unit
B – 3 (25) / unit
Direct cost – 40/unit
Fixed cost – 1,000,00
Pls help to solve this
(i need both Absorption & Marginal(variable) costing
Help as Possiable

42. Shah Nikhil

pls help the upper question