Meaning, Definition and Use of Cost Accounting

06/04/2020 2 By indiafreenotes

Cost Accounting is a business practice in which we record, examine, summarize, and study the company’s cost spent on any process, service, product or anything else in the organization. This helps the organization in cost controlling and making strategic planning and decision on improving cost efficiency. Such financial statements and ledgers give the management visibility on their cost information. Management gets the idea where they have to control the cost and where they have to increase more, which helps in creating a vision and future plan. There are different types of cost accounting such as marginal costing, activity-based costing, standard cost accounting, lean accounting. In this article, we will discuss more objectives, advantages, costing and meaning of costs.

Features of Cost Accounting

  • It is a sub-field in accounting. It is the process of accounting for costs
  • Provides data to management for decision making and budgeting for the future
  • It helps to establish certain standard costs and budgets.
  • provides costing data that helps in fixing prices of goods and services
  • Is also a great tool to figure out the efficiency of a unit or a process. It can disclose wastage of time and resources

Types and Classification of Cost Accounting

  • Activity Based Costing
  • Lean Accounting
  • Standard Accounting
  • Marginal Costing

Standard Accounting

Standard costing is a technique where the firm compares the costs that were incurred for the production of the goods and the costs that should have been incurred for the same.

Marginal Costing

This type of costing is based on the principle of dividing all costs into fixed cost and variable cost.

Fixed costs are unrelated to the levels of production. As the name suggests these costs remain the same irrespective of the production quantities.

Variable costs change in relation to production levels. They are directly proportionate. The variable cost per unit, however, remains the same.

Importance and Objectives of Cost Accounting

  • Classification of Cost
  • Cost Control
  • Price Determination
  • Fixing of Standards


  • Measuring and Improving Efficiency
  • Identification of Unprofitable Activities
  • Fixing Prices
  • Price Reduction
  • Control over Stock
  • Evaluates the Reasons for Losses
  • Aids Future Planning


Helps in Decision Making: Cost accounting helps in decision making. It provides vital information necessary for decision making. For instance, cost accounting helps in deciding:

  1. Whether to make a product buy a product?
  2. Whether to accept or reject an export order?
  3. How to utilize the scarce materials profitably?

Helps in fixing prices: Cost accounting helps in fixing prices. It provides detailed cost data of each product (both on the aggregate and unit basis) which enables fixation of selling price. Cost accounting provides basis information for the preparation of tenders, estimates and quotations.

Formulation of future plans: Cost accounting is not a post-mortem examination. It is a system of foresight. On the basis of past experience, it helps in the formulation of definite future plans in quantitative terms. Budgets are prepared and they give direction to the enterprise.

Avoidance of wastage: Cost accounting reveals the sources of losses or inefficiencies such as spoilage, leakage, pilferage, inadequate utilization of plant etc. By appropriate control measures, these wastages can be avoided or minimized.

Highlights causes: The exact cause of an increase or decrease in profit or loss can be found with the aid of cost accounting. For instance, it is possible for the management to know whether the profits have decreased due to an increase in labour cost or material cost or both.

Reward to efficiency: Cost accounting introduces bonus plans and incentive wage systems to suit the needs of the organization. These plans and systems reward efficient workers and improve productivity as well improve the morale of the work -force.

Prevention of frauds: Cost accounting envisages sound systems of inventory control, budgetary control and standard costing. Scope for manipulation and fraud is minimized.

Improvement in profitability: Cost accounting reveals unprofitable products and activities. Management can drop those products and eliminate unprofitable activities. The resources released from unprofitable products can be used to improve the profitability of the business.

Preparation of final accounts: Cost accounting provides for perpetual inventory system. It helps in the preparation of interim profit and loss account and balance sheet without physical stock verification.

Facilitates control: Cost accounting includes effective tools such as inventory control, budgetary control and variance analysis. By adopting them, the management can notice the deviation from the plans. Remedial action can be taken quickly.


The term scope here refers to field of activity. Cost accounting refers to the process of determining the cost of a particular product or activity. It provides useful data both for internal and external reports reporting. Internal reporting presents details of cost data in a summarized and aggregate form. For instance, in case a company manufacturing electrical goods cost of each product.

In order that cost accounting satisfies the requirements of both internal and external reporting, the following are the different activities which are undertaken under cost accounting system:

Cost Determination: This is the first step in the cost accounting system. It refers to determining the cost for a specific product or activity. This is a critical activity since the other three activities, explained below, depend on it.

Cost Recording: It is concerned with recording of costs in the cost journal and their subsequent posting to the ledger. Cost recording may be done according to integral or non-integral system a separate set of books is maintained for costing and financial transactions.

Cost Analyzing: It is concerned with critical evaluation of cost information to assist the management in planning and controlling the business activates. Meaningful cost analysis depends largely upon the clear understanding of the cost finding methods used in cost accounting.

Cost Reporting: It is concerned with reporting cost data both for internal and external reporting purpose. In order to use cost information intelligently it is necessary for the managers to have good understanding of different cost accounting concepts.


In spite of the various advantages claimed by cost accounting, the discipline suffers from the following limitations:

Cost Accounting is costly to operate: It involves heavy expenditure to operate. The benefits derived by operating the system are more than the cost.

Cost Accounting involves many forms and statements: It involves usage of many forms and statements which leads to increase of paper work.

Costing may not be applicable in all types of Industries: Existing methods of cost accounting may not be applicable in all types of industries. Cost accounting methods can be devised for all types of industries, and services.

It is based on Estimations: Costing system relies on predetermined data and therefore it is not reliable. Costing system estimates costs scientifically based on past and present situations and with suitable modifications for the future. This leads to accurate cost figures based on which management can initiate decisions. But for the predetermined costs, cost accounting also becomes another ‘Historical Accounting’.

It is not an exact science: Like any others accounting system, it is not an exact science but an art that has developed through theories and practices.

Bias Judgments: Many judgments are biased and depend on individual discretion.

Difference in opinion: Different views are held by different cost accounts about the items to be includes in cost.