Classification of Costs:

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a.  On the basis of Time period:

1.      Historical Costs: Costs relating to the past period, which has already been incurred.
2.      Current Costs: Costs relating to the present period.

3.      Pre-determined Costs: Costs relating to the future period; Cost, which is computed in advance, on the basis of specification of all factors affecting it.

b.  On the basis of Behaviour / Nature / Variability:

1.     Variable Costs: These are costs which tend to vary or change in relation to volume of production or level of activity. These costs increase as production increases and vice-versa e.g. cost of raw material, direct wages etc. However, variable costs per unit are generally constant for every unit of the additional output.

2.     Fixed Costs: The cost which remain fixed irrespective of the change in the level of activity / output. These costs are not affected by volume of production e.g. Factory Rent, Insurance etc. Fixed Costs per unit vary inversely with volume of production i.e. if production increases, fixed costs per unit decreases and vice-versa. Sometimes, these are also known as Capacity Costs or Period Cost.

For decision-making purpose Fixed Costs are further sub-classified into (a) Committed Fixed Costs and (b) Discretionary Fixed Costs.

Committed Fixed Costs

Discretionary Fixed Costs

These  are  costs  that  arise  from  the
These   are   costs   incurred   as   a   result   of

possession of

management’s discretion.

building   and
It   arises   from   periodic   (usually   yearly)


decisions regarding the maximum outlay

insurance premium etc.) or

to be incurred, and

It  is  not  tied  to  a  clear  cause  and  effect

relationship between inputs and outputs

salaries of staff)

These costs remain unaffected by any
These  cannot be  changed in the  very short-

short-term  changes  in  the  volume  of


Any reduction in committed fixed costs
Discretionary  fixed  Cost  can  change  from

under  normal  activities  of  the  concern
year to year, without disturbing the long-term

would  have  adverse  repercussions  on

the concern’s long term objectives.

Such costs cannot be controlled.

These costs are controllable.

Semi-variable Costs: These are those costs which are party fixed and partly variable. These are fixed upto a particular volume of production and become variable thereafter for the next level of production. Hence, they are also called Step Costs. Some examples are Repairs and Maintenance, Electricity, Telephone etc. 
c.  On the basis of Elements:

1.      Materials – Cost of tangible, physical input used in relation to output/production, for example, cost of materials, consumable stores, maintenance items etc.

2.      Labour – Cost incurred in relation to human resources of the enterprise, for example, wages to workers, Salary to Office Staff, Training Expenses etc.

3.      Expenses – Cost of operating and running the enterprise, other than materials and labour, it is the residual category of cost. For example, Factory Rent, Office Maintenance, Salesmen Salary etc.

d.  On the basis of Relationship:

1.      Direct Costs: Costs which are directly related to / identified with / attributable to a Cost Centre or a Cost unit.

Example: Cost of basic raw material used in the finished product, wages paid to site labour in a contract etc.

2.      Indirect Costs: Costs that are not directly identified with a cost centre or a cost unit. Such costs are apportioned over different cost centers using appropriate basis. Examples: Factory Rent incurred over various departments; Salary of supervisor engaged in overseeing various construction contracts etc. Note: All indirect costs are collectively called as Overheads, since they are generally incurred over various products (cost units), various departments (cost centers) and over various heads of expenditure accounts.

e.  On the basis of Controllability

1.      Controllable Costs – Costs, which can be influenced and controlled by managerial action. However, Controllability is a relative term and is subject to the following restrictions.

(a)  Time – Certain costs are controllable in the long run and not in the short run.

(b)  Location – Certain costs are not influenced and decided at a particular location / cost centre. If lease agreements of factory premises are executed centrally at the Head Office, factory managers cannot control the incurrence of cost.

(c)  Product / Output – Certain cost are controllable by reference to one product or market segment and not by reference to the other, for example, cost of common raw material input for exports is lower than that of domestically sold goods since excise duty concessions / duty drawback is available for export sales.
2.      Uncontrollable Costs – These are the costs that cannot be influenced and controlled by a specific member of the organization. The line of difference between controllable and non-controllable costs is thin.

Note: No cost is uncontrollable. Controllability is subject to the restrictions laid down above.

f.  On the basis of Normality:

1.      Normal Cost: Cost, which can be reasonably expected to be incurred under normal, routine and regular operating conditions.

2.      Abnormal Cost: Costs over and above normal costs; Costs which is not incurred under normal operating conditions e.g. fines and penalties.

g.  On the basis of Functions or operations:

1.      Production Cost: The cost of the set of operations commencing with supply of materials, labour and services and ends with the primary packing of product. “Thus it is equal to the total of Direct Materials, Direct Labour, Direct Expenses and Production /factory Overheads.

2.      Administration Cost: The cost of formulating the policy, directing the organisation and controlling the operations of the undertaking, which is not directly related to production, selling, distribution, research or development activity or function. E.g Office Rent, Accounts Department Expenses, Audit and Legal Expenses, Directors Remuneration etc.

3.      Selling Cost: The cost of seeking to create and stimulate demand and of securing orders. These are sometimes called ‘marketing costs’ e.g. Advertisement, remuneration to Salesmen, Show-room Expenses, Cost of samples.

4.      Distribution Cost: The cost of the sequence of operations which begins with making the packed product available for dispatch and ends with making the reconditioned returned empty package, if any, available for re-use. E.g Distribution packing (secondary packing), carriage outwards maintenance of delivery vans, expenditure incurred in transporting articles to central or local storage, expenditure incurred in moving articles to and from prospective customers (as in Sale or Return) etc.

5.      Research Cost: The cost of researching for new or improved products, new applications of materials or improved methods.

6.      Development Cost: The cost of the process which begins with the implementation of the decision to produce a new or improved product, or to employ a new or improved method and ends with commencement of formal production of that product or by that method.

7.      Pre-production Cost: The part of development cost incurred in making a trial production run prior to formal production.

Conversion Cost: The sum of direct wages, direct expenses and overhead cost of converting raw materials to the finished stage or converting a material from one stage of production to the other.

h.  On the basis of Attributability to the product:

1.      Period Cost: These are the costs, which are not assigned to the products but are charged as expenses against the revenue of the period in which they are incurred. Non-manufacturing costs e.g. Selling and Distribution Costs are generally recognised as period costs. These costs are not included in inventory valuation.

2.      Product Cost: These are the costs, which are assigned to the product and are included in inventory valuation. These are also called as Inventoriable costs. Under absorption costing, total manufacturing costs are regarded as product costs while under marginal costing, only variable manufacturing costs are considered. The purposes of computing product costs are as under:

(a)  Preparation of Financial Statements – with focus on inventory valuation.

(b)  Product pricing – focus on costs assigned and incurred on the product till it is made available to the customer / user.

(c)  Cost-plus-Contracts with Government Agencies – where the focus is on reimbursement of costs specifically assigned to the particular job/contract.

i.  On the basis of Decision Making

A.  Relevant Costs: The costs, which are relevant and useful for decision-making purposes.

1.     Marginal Cost – Marginal cost is the total variable cost i.e. prime cost plus variable overheads. It is assumed that variable cost varies directly with production whereas fixed cost remains fixed irrespective of volume of production. Marginal cost is a relevant cost for decision taking, as this cost will be incurred in future for additional units of production.

2.     Differential Cost – It is the change in costs due to change in the level of activity or pattern or method of production. Where the change results in increase in cost it is called incremental cost, whereas if costs are reduced due to increase of output, the difference is called decremental costs. The differential costs are relevant costs.

3.     Opportunity Cost – This cost refers to the value of sacrifice made or benefit of opportunity foregone in accepting an alternative course of action.

For example:

(1)  a firm financing its expansion plans by withdrawing money from its bank deposits. In such a case the loss of interest on the bank deposit is the opportunity cost for carrying out the expansion plan.

(2)  The opportunity cost of using a machine to produce a particular product is the earning forgone that would have been possible if the machine was used to produce other products.

(3)  The opportunity cost of one’s time is the earning which he would have earned from his profession.

     Opportunity cost is a relevant cost where alternatives are available. However, opportunity cost does not find any place in formal accounts and is computed only for comparison purposes.

4.     Discretionary costs – These are “escapable” or “avoidable” costs. In other words these are costs, which are not essential for the accomplishment of a managerial objective.

5.     Replacement Cost – It is the cost at which there could be purchase of an asset or material identical to that which is being replaced or devalued. It is the cost of replacement at current market price and is relevant for decision-making.

6.     Imputed Costs – These are notional costs appearing in the cost accounts only e.g. notional rent charges, interest on capital for which no interest has been paid. These are relevant costs for decision-making. Where alternative capital investment projects are being evaluated, it is necessary to consider the Imputed interest on capital before a decision is arrived at as to which is the most profitable project.

7.     Out-of pocket cost – These are the costs, which entail current or near future cash outlays for the decision at hand as opposed to cost, which do not require any cash outlay (e.g. depreciation). Such costs are relevant for decision-making, as these will occur in near future. This cost concept is a short-run concept and is used in decisions relating to fixation of selling price in recession, make or buy, etc. Out-of-pocket costs can be avoided or saved if a particular proposal under consideration is not accepted.

B.   Irrelevant Costs: The costs, which are not relevant or useful for decision-making.

1.      Sunk Cost – It is the cost, which has already been incurred or sunk in the past. It is not relevant for decision-making and is caused by complete abandonment as against temporary shutdown. Thus if a firm has obsolete stock of materials amounting to Rs.50,000 which can be sold as scrap for Rs.5,000 or can be utilised in a special job, the value of opening stock of Rs.50,000 is a sunk cost and is not relevant for decision-making.

2.      Committed Cost – A cost, which has been committed by the management, is not relevant for decision making. This should be contrasted with discretionary costs, which are avoidable costs.

3.      Absorbed Fixed Cost – Fixed costs which do not change due to increase or decrease in activity is irrelevant for decision-making. Although such fixed costs are absorbed in cost of production on a normal rate, such costs are irrelevant for managerial decision-making. However if fixed costs are specific, they become relevant for decision-making.

Explicit and Implicit Costs:

Explicit Costs – These are also known as out of pocket costs. They refer to costs involving immediate payment of cash. Salaries, wages, postage & telegram, printing & stationery, interest on loan etc. are some examples of explicit costs involving immediate cash payment.

Implicit Costs – These costs do not involve any immediate cash payment. They are not recorded in the books of account. They are also known as economic costs.

Estimated cost:

     “the expected cost of manufacture or acquisition, often in terms of a unit of product computed on the basis of information available in advance of actual production or purchase”. Estimated costs are prospective costs since they refer to prediction of costs.
Shut down costs:

        Those costs, which continue to be, incurred even when a plant is temporarily shutdown, 
        e.g. rent, rates, depreciation, etc. These costs cannot be eliminated with the closure of the
        plant. In other words, all fixed costs which cannot be avoided during the temporary closure 
        of a plant will be know as shut down costs.

Absolute Cost:

     These costs refer to the cost of any product, process or unit in its totality. When costs are presented in a statement form, various cost components are shown in absolute amount or as a percentage of total-costs or as per unit cost or all together. Here the cost depicted in absolute amount may be called absolute costs and are base costs on which further analysis and decisions are based. 

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