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Principles of Accounting, Volume 2: Managerial Accounting

6.4 Compare and Contrast Traditional and Activity-Based Costing Systems

Principles of Accounting, Volume 2: Managerial Accounting6.4 Compare and Contrast Traditional and Activity-Based Costing Systems
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  1. Preface
  2. 1 Accounting as a Tool for Managers
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 1.1 Define Managerial Accounting and Identify the Three Primary Responsibilities of Management
    3. 1.2 Distinguish between Financial and Managerial Accounting
    4. 1.3 Explain the Primary Roles and Skills Required of Managerial Accountants
    5. 1.4 Describe the Role of the Institute of Management Accountants and the Use of Ethical Standards
    6. 1.5 Describe Trends in Today’s Business Environment and Analyze Their Impact on Accounting
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. Multiple Choice
    10. Questions
    11. Exercise Set A
    12. Exercise Set B
    13. Thought Provokers
  3. 2 Building Blocks of Managerial Accounting
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 2.1 Distinguish between Merchandising, Manufacturing, and Service Organizations
    3. 2.2 Identify and Apply Basic Cost Behavior Patterns
    4. 2.3 Estimate a Variable and Fixed Cost Equation and Predict Future Costs
    5. Key Terms
    6. Summary
    7. Multiple Choice
    8. Questions
    9. Exercise Set A
    10. Exercise Set B
    11. Problem Set A
    12. Problem Set B
    13. Thought Provokers
  4. 3 Cost-Volume-Profit Analysis
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 3.1 Explain Contribution Margin and Calculate Contribution Margin per Unit, Contribution Margin Ratio, and Total Contribution Margin
    3. 3.2 Calculate a Break-Even Point in Units and Dollars
    4. 3.3 Perform Break-Even Sensitivity Analysis for a Single Product Under Changing Business Situations
    5. 3.4 Perform Break-Even Sensitivity Analysis for a Multi-Product Environment Under Changing Business Situations
    6. 3.5 Calculate and Interpret a Company’s Margin of Safety and Operating Leverage
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. Multiple Choice
    10. Questions
    11. Exercise Set A
    12. Exercise Set B
    13. Problem Set A
    14. Problem Set B
    15. Thought Provokers
  5. 4 Job Order Costing
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 4.1 Distinguish between Job Order Costing and Process Costing
    3. 4.2 Describe and Identify the Three Major Components of Product Costs under Job Order Costing
    4. 4.3 Use the Job Order Costing Method to Trace the Flow of Product Costs through the Inventory Accounts
    5. 4.4 Compute a Predetermined Overhead Rate and Apply Overhead to Production
    6. 4.5 Compute the Cost of a Job Using Job Order Costing
    7. 4.6 Determine and Dispose of Underapplied or Overapplied Overhead
    8. 4.7 Prepare Journal Entries for a Job Order Cost System
    9. 4.8 Explain How a Job Order Cost System Applies to a Nonmanufacturing Environment
    10. Key Terms
    11. Summary
    12. Multiple Choice
    13. Questions
    14. Exercise Set A
    15. Exercise Set B
    16. Problem Set A
    17. Problem Set B
    18. Thought Provokers
  6. 5 Process Costing
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 5.1 Compare and Contrast Job Order Costing and Process Costing
    3. 5.2 Explain and Identify Conversion Costs
    4. 5.3 Explain and Compute Equivalent Units and Total Cost of Production in an Initial Processing Stage
    5. 5.4 Explain and Compute Equivalent Units and Total Cost of Production in a Subsequent Processing Stage
    6. 5.5 Prepare Journal Entries for a Process Costing System
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. Multiple Choice
    10. Questions
    11. Exercise Set A
    12. Exercise Set B
    13. Problem Set A
    14. Problem Set B
    15. Thought Provokers
  7. 6 Activity-Based, Variable, and Absorption Costing
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 6.1 Calculate Predetermined Overhead and Total Cost under the Traditional Allocation Method
    3. 6.2 Describe and Identify Cost Drivers
    4. 6.3 Calculate Activity-Based Product Costs
    5. 6.4 Compare and Contrast Traditional and Activity-Based Costing Systems
    6. 6.5 Compare and Contrast Variable and Absorption Costing
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. Multiple Choice
    10. Questions
    11. Exercise Set A
    12. Exercise Set B
    13. Problem Set A
    14. Problem Set B
    15. Thought Provokers
  8. 7 Budgeting
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 7.1 Describe How and Why Managers Use Budgets
    3. 7.2 Prepare Operating Budgets
    4. 7.3 Prepare Financial Budgets
    5. 7.4 Prepare Flexible Budgets
    6. 7.5 Explain How Budgets Are Used to Evaluate Goals
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. Multiple Choice
    10. Questions
    11. Exercise Set A
    12. Exercise Set B
    13. Problem Set A
    14. Problem Set B
    15. Thought Provokers
  9. 8 Standard Costs and Variances
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 8.1 Explain How and Why a Standard Cost Is Developed
    3. 8.2 Compute and Evaluate Materials Variances
    4. 8.3 Compute and Evaluate Labor Variances
    5. 8.4 Compute and Evaluate Overhead Variances
    6. 8.5 Describe How Companies Use Variance Analysis
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. Multiple Choice
    10. Questions
    11. Exercise Set A
    12. Exercise Set B
    13. Problem Set A
    14. Problem Set B
    15. Thought Provokers
  10. 9 Responsibility Accounting and Decentralization
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 9.1 Differentiate between Centralized and Decentralized Management
    3. 9.2 Describe How Decision-Making Differs between Centralized and Decentralized Environments
    4. 9.3 Describe the Types of Responsibility Centers
    5. 9.4 Describe the Effects of Various Decisions on Performance Evaluation of Responsibility Centers
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. Multiple Choice
    9. Questions
    10. Exercise Set A
    11. Exercise Set B
    12. Problem Set A
    13. Problem Set B
    14. Thought Provokers
  11. 10 Short-Term Decision Making
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 10.1 Identify Relevant Information for Decision-Making
    3. 10.2 Evaluate and Determine Whether to Accept or Reject a Special Order
    4. 10.3 Evaluate and Determine Whether to Make or Buy a Component
    5. 10.4 Evaluate and Determine Whether to Keep or Discontinue a Segment or Product
    6. 10.5 Evaluate and Determine Whether to Sell or Process Further
    7. 10.6 Evaluate and Determine How to Make Decisions When Resources Are Constrained
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary
    10. Multiple Choice
    11. Questions
    12. Exercise Set A
    13. Exercise Set B
    14. Problem Set A
    15. Problem Set B
    16. Thought Provokers
  12. 11 Capital Budgeting Decisions
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 11.1 Describe Capital Investment Decisions and How They Are Applied
    3. 11.2 Evaluate the Payback and Accounting Rate of Return in Capital Investment Decisions
    4. 11.3 Explain the Time Value of Money and Calculate Present and Future Values of Lump Sums and Annuities
    5. 11.4 Use Discounted Cash Flow Models to Make Capital Investment Decisions
    6. 11.5 Compare and Contrast Non-Time Value-Based Methods and Time Value-Based Methods in Capital Investment Decisions
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. Multiple Choice
    10. Questions
    11. Exercise Set A
    12. Exercise Set B
    13. Problem Set A
    14. Problem Set B
    15. Thought Provokers
  13. 12 Balanced Scorecard and Other Performance Measures
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 12.1 Explain the Importance of Performance Measurement
    3. 12.2 Identify the Characteristics of an Effective Performance Measure
    4. 12.3 Evaluate an Operating Segment or a Project Using Return on Investment, Residual Income, and Economic Value Added
    5. 12.4 Describe the Balanced Scorecard and Explain How It Is Used
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. Multiple Choice
    9. Questions
    10. Exercise Set A
    11. Exercise Set B
    12. Problem Set A
    13. Problem Set B
    14. Thought Provokers
  14. 13 Sustainability Reporting
    1. Why It Matters
    2. 13.1 Describe Sustainability and the Way It Creates Business Value
    3. 13.2 Identify User Needs for Information
    4. 13.3 Discuss Examples of Major Sustainability Initiatives
    5. 13.4 Future Issues in Sustainability
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. Multiple Choice
    9. Questions
    10. Thought Provokers
  15. Financial Statement Analysis
  16. Time Value of Money
  17. Suggested Resources
  18. Answer Key
    1. Chapter 1
    2. Chapter 2
    3. Chapter 3
    4. Chapter 4
    5. Chapter 5
    6. Chapter 6
    7. Chapter 7
    8. Chapter 8
    9. Chapter 9
    10. Chapter 10
    11. Chapter 11
    12. Chapter 12
    13. Chapter 13
  19. Index

Calculating an accurate manufacturing cost for each product is a vital piece of information for a company’s decision-making. For example, knowing the cost to produce a unit of product affects not only how a business budgets to manufacture that product, but it is often the starting point in determining the sales price.

An important component in determining the total production costs of a product or job is the proper allocation of overhead. For some companies, the often less-complicated traditional method does an excellent job of allocating overhead. However, for many products, the allocation of overhead is a more complex issue, and an activity-based costing (ABC) system is more appropriate.

Another factor to consider in determining which of the two major overhead allocation methods to use is the cost associated with collecting and analyzing information. When making their decision regarding which method to use, the company must consider these costs, both in time and money. Table 6.4 compares overhead in the two systems. In many cases, the ABC method is more expensive in terms of time and other costs.

The difference between the traditional method (using one cost driver) and the ABC method (using multiple cost drivers) is more complex than simply the number of cost drivers. When direct labor is a large portion of the product cost, the overhead costs tend to be consistently driven by one cost driver, which is typically direct labor or machine hours; the traditional method appropriately allocates those costs. When technology is a large portion of the product cost, the overhead costs tend to be driven by multiple drivers, so using multiple cost drivers in the ABC method allows for a more precise allocation of overhead.

Overhead in Traditional versus ABC Costing
  Traditional ABC
Overhead assigned Single cost driver Multiple cost drivers
Optimal usage When direct labor is a large portion of the product cost When technology is a large portion of the product cost
Orientation Cost driven Process driven
Table 6.4

As shown with Musicality’s products, not only are there different costs for each product when comparing traditional allocation with an activity-based costing, but ABC showed that the Solo product creates a loss for the company. Activity-based costing is a more accurate method, because it assigns overhead based on the activities that drive the overhead costs. It can be concluded, then, that the cost and subsequent gross loss for each unit’s sales provide a more accurate picture than the overall cost and gross profit under the traditional method. Table 6.4 compares the cost per unit using the different cost systems and shows how different the costs can be depending on the method used.

Solo, Band, and Orchestra, respectively. Cost per Unit via ABC: $22.50, $16.90, $17.70. Cost per Unit via Traditional: 18.50, 16.75, 20.00. Difference: $4.00, $0.15, $(2.30).

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Traditional Method of Calculating Overhead

The traditional allocation system assigns manufacturing overhead based on a single cost driver, such as direct labor hours, direct labor dollars, or machine hours, and is optimal when there is a relationship between the activity base and overhead. This most often occurs when direct labor is a large part of the product cost. The theory supporting the single cost driver is that the cost driver selected increases as overhead increases, and further analysis is more costly than it is valuable. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. These are advantages of the traditional method:

  • All manufacturing costs are classified as material, labor, or overhead and assigned to products regardless of whether they drive or are driven by production.
  • All manufacturing costs are considered to be part of the product cost, whereas nonmanufacturing costs are not considered to be production costs and are not assigned to products, regardless of whether the costs are based on the products. For example, the machines used to receive and process customer orders are necessary because product orders must be taken, but their costs are not allocated to particular products.
  • There is only one overhead cost pool and a single measure of activity, such as direct labor hours, which makes the traditional method simple and less costly to maintain. The predetermined overhead rate is based on estimated costs at the budgeted level of activity. Therefore, the overhead rate is consistent across products, but overhead may be over- or underapplied.

Disadvantages of the traditional method include:

  • The use of the single cost driver does not allocate overhead as accurately as using multiple cost drivers.
  • The use of the single cost driver may overallocate overhead to one product and underallocate overhead to another product, resulting in erroneous total costs and potentially setting an incorrect sales price.
  • Traditional allocation assigns costs as period or product costs, and all product costs are included in the cost of inventory, which makes this method acceptable for generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP).

Think It Through

ABC Method and Financial Statements

There are pros and cons to both the traditional and the ABC system. One advantage of the ABC system is that it provides more accurate information on the costs to manufacture products, but it does not show up on the financial statements. Explain how this costing information has value if it does not appear on the financial statements.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Creating an Activity-Based Costing System for Allocating Overhead

While ABC systems more accurately allocate the costs based on the various resources used to make the product, they cost more to use and, therefore, are not always the best method. Management needs to consider each system and how it will work within its own organization. Some advantages of activity-based costing include:

  • There are multiple overhead cost pools, and each has its own unique measure of activity. This provides more accurate rates for applying overhead, but it takes more time to implement and results in a higher cost.
  • The allocation bases (i.e., measures of activity) often differ from those used in traditional allocation. Multiple cost pools allow management to group costs being influenced by similar drivers and to consider cost drivers beyond the typical labor or machine hour. This results in a more accurate overhead application rate.
  • The activity rates may consider the level of activity at capacity instead of the budgeted level of activity.
  • Both nonmanufacturing costs and manufacturing costs may be assigned to products. The main rationale in assigning costs is the relationship between the cost and the product. If the cost increases as the volume of the product increases, it is considered part of overhead.

There are disadvantages to using ABC costing that management needs to consider when determining which method to use. Those disadvantages include:

  • Some manufacturing costs may be excluded from product costs. For example, the cost to heat the factory may be excluded as a product cost because, while it is necessary for production, it does not fit into one of the activity-driven cost pools.
  • It is more expensive, as there is a cost to collect and analyze cost driver information as well as to allocate overhead on the basis of multiple cost drivers.
  • An ABC system takes much more to implement and operate, as information on cost drivers must be collected in an objective manner.

The advantages and disadvantages of both methods are as previously listed, but what is the practical impact on the product cost? There are several items to consider at the product costs level:

  • Adopting an ABC overhead allocation system can allow a company to shift manufacturing overhead costs between products based on their volume.
  • Using an ABC method to better assign unit-level, batch-level, product-level, and factory-level costs can increase the per-unit costs of the low-volume products and decrease the per-unit costs of the high-volume products.
  • The effects are not symmetrical; there is usually a larger change in the per-unit costs of the low-volume products.
  • The cost of the products may include some period costs but not some of the product costs, so it is not considered GAAP compliant. The information is supplemental and very helpful to management, but the company still needs to compute the product’s cost under the traditional method for financial reporting.
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