What is First In, First Out (FIFO)?

The meaning of First In, First Out (FIFO) accounting refers to a cost accounting method that assumes the goods purchased or produced first are sold or used first. This method follows the principle of inventory movement in which goods that have been held in stock for the longest period of time are assumed to be sold or used first. The main benefit of this cost flow assumption is that it reflects real-world scenarios much better than other methods, such as Last In, First Out (LIFO). It also ensures accurate valuation of inventory and current costs by basing them on actual market prices rather than on older purchase prices. FIFO accounting is commonly used in manufacturing and retail businesses to manage their inventories efficiently while leading to more reliable financial statements.

In FIFO accounting, the cost of goods sold is determined by deducting the value of ending inventory from the total cost of beginning inventory and purchases. As such, this method leads to higher gross margins for businesses as compared to other methods. It also helps in tracking changes in prices due to inflation or deflation and provides a clearer picture of cost trends over time. Moreover, it incentivizes businesses to reduce their inventories quickly which can lead to better cash flow management and improved profitability. Thus, FIFO accounting is generally considered more beneficial than other alternative methods for reliable financial statement reporting.

Overall, FIFO accounting is an important cost accounting method for businesses as it helps them accurately track inventory, reflect changing market prices, and produce more reliable financial statements. It also encourages businesses to reduce their inventories quickly and enhance profitability. Therefore, FIFO accounting is an invaluable tool for businesses to improve their financial health.

Simplified Example

First in, first out (FIFO) is like a line of people waiting to go on a rollercoaster. The first person who gets in line gets to go on the rollercoaster first, then the second person, and so on. Similarly, in accounting or inventory management, FIFO is a method of keeping track of goods or assets where the oldest items are sold or used first. It's like the people waiting in line for the rollercoaster, the first one in the line goes first and the last one goes last. This method assumes that the oldest items are sold or used first, and the most recent ones will be kept for later use.

The History of Firs In, First Out (FIFO)

The FIFO (First In, First Out) method traces its roots back to the early 20th century, becoming a foundational principle in accounting and inventory management practices. While the exact inception of FIFO isn't precisely dated, its usage gained prominence as modern accounting standards and inventory valuation methods were established during the 20th century. The principle emphasizes that the earliest inventory items procured or produced are the first to be utilized or sold, shaping inventory valuation and cost of goods sold calculations in various industries. FIFO's integration into accounting practices became more standardized throughout the 20th century, solidifying its role in ensuring accurate financial reporting and inventory management across diverse sectors.


Inventory: Within the inventory system, First In, First Out (FIFO) accounting means that the first items purchased are the first items sold. This allows for an accurate recording of cost of goods sold and helps to ensure that all expenses related to inventory are accounted for correctly.

Payroll: When it comes to payroll, FIFO accounting ensures that payments made by an organization are properly recorded in a timely manner. By following FIFO, employers ensure they pay their employees in the same order they were hired or based on priority of performance.

Taxes: In the case of taxes, FIFO accounting ensures that all payments made to vendors and suppliers are properly accounted for and reported to the IRS or other relevant tax authority. This way, any deductions and credits can be accurately tracked and recorded in order to ensure compliance with applicable laws. Using FIFO also helps an organization to avoid penalties from the IRS due to untimely filing or inaccurate reporting of taxable income.

  • Capital Effiency: Capital efficiency refers to the way a business or organization uses its resources, such as money, time, and people, to get the most out of them.

  • First-Mover Advantage: First-Mover Advantage is an economic concept that refers to the advantage of being the first company in a market or industry.