Taxpayers With Rising Inventory Costs May Benefit From Lifo

lifo conformity rule

LIFO is a method to defer taxes until the “beginning” inventory is sold . If this event occurs, the lower cost of goods will result in higher income and correspondingly higher income taxes. In other words, the taxes deferred during earlier times will now become payable, assuming there have been no changes in tax law/rates. There are four financial reports that make up lifo conformity rule a group known as the financial statements. We will take a walk with one of those reports – the balance sheet – and learn what it is, what items are included on it and what its role in the group is. Because the International Accounting Standards Board doesn’t allow LIFO to be used, one might think LIFO would fade away if the U.S. were to adopt international standards.

lifo conformity rule

This principle justifies all legitimate efforts to minimize tax payments and exposes the unfairness of the conformity artifice that discourages taxpayers from freely choosing LIFO. Consequently, while making the transition to IFRS, business owners must be conscious of the tax consequences of this transition. Harold Averkamp has worked as a university accounting instructor, accountant, and consultant for more than 25 years.

The taxpayer’s use of an inventory method other than LIFO for purposes of ascertaining information reported as a supplement to or explanation of the taxpayer’s primary presentation of the taxpayer’s income, profit, or loss for a taxable year in credit statements or financial reports . See paragraph of this section for rules relating to the reporting of supplemental and explanatory information ascertained by the use of an inventory method other than LIFO. In 1981, the Internal Revenue Service substantially modified the conformity rule.71 The new rule has a number of important features. One, supplementary disclosure of income is permissible on any basis, as long as LIFO income is the primary income presentation.72 Two, in valuing the asset inventory on the balance sheet any method may be used. Three, even primary income may be reported using any method if the income report is to be used for internal management reports or for interim statements. Four, lower of LIFO cost or market may be used in calculating even primary LIFO income. If you currently use FIFO and are contemplating a switch to LIFO, beware of the IRS’s LIFO conformity rule.


(This idea justifies taxing capital gains only when they’re realized, for example.) By eliminating conformity, Congress would be free to grapple with LIFO’s acceptability on its own merits. Marcum LLP is a top-ranked national accounting and advisory services firm dedicated to helping entrepreneurial, middle-market companies and high net worth individuals achieve their goals. Marcum offers industry-focused practices with specialized expertise to retained earnings balance sheet privately held and publicly registered companies, and nonprofit and social sector organizations. These Congressional relief provisions are important because they allow charging cost of goods sold with a replacement price rather than an actual price. The next goods bought are charged to cost of goods sold, which led to the name, next-in, first-out . However, it is hard to believe that the Internal Revenue Service required these three conditions.

In this lesson, you will learn how to record notes receivable on the balance sheet. Moreover, if a C corporation elects S corporation status, the business must include a “LIFO recapture amount” in income for the C corporation’s last tax year. The recapture amount is the excess of your inventory’s value using FIFO over its value using LIFO. The use of inventory costs unreduced by any adjustment required by the application of section 108 and section 1017, relating to discharge of indebtedness.

But a company cannot use a non-LIFO method of reporting on financial statements and use LIFO for taxes. Another condition is that the inventory should be of a homogeneous nature. They guarantee the materiality of the difference between LIFO and FIFO. Surprisingly, the report does not distinguish between the conditions which guarantee the materiality of the difference between Certified Public Accountant LIFO and FIFO, and conditions for which LIFO was considered appropriate. The report lists, for instance, the requirement that inventories be a significant percentage of assets. Obviously, if inventory is insignificant, the inventory valuation method is immaterial. A company with higher reported profits has to pay more taxes than a company with lower reported profits.

Treasury has pushed the envelope as far as it can with respect to interpreting the LIFO conformity requirement. A thoughtful reading of the LIFO conformity regulations leads to the inevitable conclusion that as a matter of tax policy, LIFO conformity exists in form only. The LIFO conformity requirement was originally something of a “put your money where your mouth is” condition. If a firm was arguing that LIFO was a best practice for income tax purposes, it certainly must be a best practice for financial reporting purposes.

Early in 1981, the Internal Revenue Service liberalized the conformity rule in general. The first two areas of conflict with the conformity rule stemmed from Opinion 16 and Opinion 20 of the Accounting Principles Board.


Due to increased international presence of midsize manufacturers, International Financial Reporting Standards is now adding complexity to this rule. The goal of IFRS is to have a global common method of maintaining books and records so that the financial statements in each country are comparable and understandable. LIFO is not an accepted way of reporting inventory under these standards. This could cause LIFO conformity issues if a U.S. company is part of a larger consolidated group with various foreign entities in countries that have adopted IFRS. Assuming your inventory costs generally increase over time, LIFO offers a definite tax advantage over other inventory reporting methods. By allocating the most recent — and, therefore, higher — costs first, It maximizes your cost of goods sold, which minimizes your taxable income. The companies in these industries sold goods from their LIFO stock which had been acquired earlier at very low prices.

  • This could cause LIFO conformity issues if a U.S. company is part of a larger consolidated group with various foreign entities in countries that have adopted IFRS.
  • If the LIFO reserve is determined with reference to an inventory valuation using FIFO, the amount of the LIFO reserve also represents the cumulative effect on income of changing from LIFO to FIFO.
  • Taxpayer in turn is wholly owned a foreign corporation, which is a lower-tier subsidiary of Foreign Parent.
  • The proponents of LIFO never claimed that LIFO represents the actual flow of goods, nor did they require that the actual flow of goods correspond to LIFO.
  • For these reasons, the taxpayer’s request for a refund is found to be meritorious.

The rule is designed to prevent organizations from using LIFO accounting to reduce the amount of their taxable income, while using a different inventory cost flow method to derive a higher income figure in their financial statements. One of the most important features of the Revenue Act is the con-formity rule—any company using LIFO for taxes must also use LIFO for financial reports. A company may use accelerated depreciation for tax purposes and at the same time use straight-line depreciation for its financial reports.

A What Is The Lifo Conformity Rule? B How Has The Rule Changed Since It Was First Adopted? A

In that year Congress made the first move to allow LIFO for tax purposes. Specifically, Congress allowed the use of LIFO for certain raw materials of tanners and brass smelters and refiners. Once the base stock is valued, the problem remains of valuing the difference between ending inventory and base stock inventory. If the quantity of ending inventory is greater than base stock, the excess is valued by using any conventional cost method.

Since the Internal Revenue Service never allowed the base stock method for income tax calculation, the company had to keep two sets of books. Between the years 1913 and 1920, the market price per pound of pig lead, National Lead Company’s raw material, moved up from 3.4 cents to about 12 cents and back down to 4.75 cents. In its 1925 annual report, the company discloses that each one cent a pound change in the market price of lead would affect profit by $2 million. Since the company did not show any profits on the rise in the value of the inventories, it did not have to write down the inventories when prices fell.

lifo conformity rule

The IRS concluded that this company violated the three LIFO conformity rules. First of all, it used an inventory method other than LIFO to calculate income.

Method Lessons Learned

NADA is trying to negotiate a system for complying with the conformity rule. Taxpayers maintaining inventories using a specific identification, FIFO, or other method and experiencing rising costs may want to consider adopting the LIFO method.

Secondly, these financial statements were then used for a letter of credit, which is deemed “for credit purposes.” And finally, this company failed to provide supplementary or explanatory information. Congress may have reasoned that since LIFO proponents claim that only LIFO presents a true picture of earnings, companies using LIFO for tax purposes must use it for financial reporting. Firmin36 claims that the intention of Congress was to allow LIFO only when the actual flow of goods is roughly identical to LIFO. Congress believed that no auditor would certify statements of a company that was assuming a LIFO flow when the actual flow was FIFO.

Lifo Conformity Rules

These states have their own unique set of laws although they often resemble the tax laws applied by the federal government. Recognize that three cost flow assumptions are particularly popular in the United States. The conformity requirement is embodied in 26 U.S.C. § 472 and , but only subsection is relevant to our consideration. LIFO requires significant record keeping and careful management of purchases.

Irs Practice Unit: Lifo Conformity Of U S Controlled Foreign Subsidiaries Irc §

It generally requires you to use the same inventory accounting method for tax and financial statement purposes. Switching to LIFO may reduce your tax bill, but it will also depress your earnings and reduce the value of inventories on your balance sheet, which may place you at a disadvantage in comparison to competitors that don’t use LIFO. There are various issues to address and forms to complete, so be fully informed and consult your tax advisor before making a switch.

For another, financial reporting considerations simply must not impact an assessment of whether permitting or eliminating LIFO is good tax policy. One of the biggest challenges in using it is retained earnings the need to measure changes in inventory costs. If you currently use this method, you may be able to enjoy additional savings by electing to use the inventory price index computation method.

In response to these criticisms, Congress appointed a committee to rewrite the tax law relating to LIFO.35 The committee’s work resulted in the more general acceptance of LIFO in the 1939 Revenue Act. The quality of the 1939 Revenue Act may be judged by the fact that, except for a recent relaxation of the conformity rule, it has continued in the Internal Revenue Code without material change until the present day. When the base stock method was disallowed for tax purposes, a search for a suitable alternative began, The acceptance of LIFO by professional groups and by Congress in the Revenue Acts of 1938 and 1939 represents the final phase of the early development of LIFO.

Two additional copies of this financial statement were sent, one to Mr. David M. Forker, Powell’s Chairman of the Board, and one to Mr. V. Anderson Coombe, the President of Powell. The balance sheet and statement of earnings and retained earnings included in this financial statement were set forth in FIFO. In April, 1974, seven of these statements were distributed to the members of the plaintiff’s board of directors. Two more were forwarded to the Thomas E. Wood Insurance Agency, and one was sent to First National. In September, 1974, Powell contacted each of the above persons or companies and requested that this statement be returned. Powell also forwarded to these persons and companies a revised financial statement in LIFO. Currently, IFRS do not allow for the use of the LIFO inventory method, jeopardizing its use for U.S. tax purposes due to the LIFO conformity requirement in Sec. 472.

The conformity rule in its present form will probably not require any further modifications. It is quite possible that the majority of the Committee also saw the merits of the base stock method. Carson10 believes that the majority view was dictated by the necessity of collecting taxes. If everyone adopted the base stock method, revenue collection could become problematic. In 1918, the question of the base stock method was examined by a Committee appointed by the Ministry of Reconstruction. This Committee rejected all proposals to extend the applicability of the base stock method.

For example, taxpayers who encounter high medical costs or casualty losses are entitled to a tax break. Donations conveyed to an approved charity can also reduce a taxpayer’s tax bill.

The rule has tended to reduce the adoption of the LIFO method by businesses.

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