HIFO Cost Basis: HIFO Definition and Examples


In the intricate landscape of inventory accounting, the highest in, first out (HIFO) method emerges as a distinctive approach. This methodology dictates that items with the highest purchase cost take precedence in consumption. While potentially advantageous in reducing taxable income, HIFO is an unconventional choice, not aligning with the established standards of generally accepted accounting practices (GAAP).

Understanding HIFO inventory method

Unlike conventional methods such as last in, first out (LIFO) and first in, first out (FIFO), HIFO disrupts the norm by prioritizing the highest-cost inventory for usage. This strategic maneuver ensures that the cost of goods sold (COGS) reflects the maximum possible expense for a given period, consequently lowering taxable income.

Weigh the risks and benefits

Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.

  • Strategic reduction of taxable income
  • Maximization of COGS for financial impact
  • Non-alignment with GAAP
  • Potential scrutiny from auditors
  • Risk of inventory obsolescence, particularly in inflationary environments
  • Reduction in net working capital and borrowing eligibility

Implications of HIFO

Scrutiny from auditors

Using HIFO might subject a company’s books to increased scrutiny, given its non-recognition by GAAP. This could lead to auditors issuing opinions other than unqualified ones.

Obsolescence risk

In an inflationary environment, inventory subjected to HIFO may face a higher risk of obsolescence. The items taken in first may lose relevance or value over time.

Impact on net working capital

Implementing HIFO results in a reduction in net working capital, which may affect a company’s liquidity and financial flexibility.

Borrowing eligibility

Companies relying on asset-based loans may experience decreased borrowing eligibility due to the lower valuation of inventory under the HIFO method.

Frequently asked questions

Is HIFO commonly used in accounting?

Answer: No, HIFO is considered a rare inventory accounting method and is not recognized by GAAP.

How does HIFO differ from LIFO and FIFO?

Answer: HIFO prioritizes the highest-cost inventory, whereas LIFO uses the last purchased items first, and FIFO uses the oldest inventory first.

Can HIFO be beneficial in specific financial strategies?

Answer: Yes, companies may opt for HIFO to strategically decrease taxable income, but it comes with potential implications such as increased auditor scrutiny and risks of obsolescence.

Does HIFO impact working capital and borrowing eligibility?

Answer: Yes, HIFO may lead to a reduction in net working capital and lower borrowing eligibility, particularly for companies relying on asset-based loans.

Key takeaways

Key takeaways

  • HIFO prioritizes the highest-cost inventory for consumption.
  • Strategically implementing HIFO may decrease taxable income.
  • HIFO is unconventional and not recognized by GAAP.
  • Considerations include auditor scrutiny, obsolescence risk, and impact on working capital and borrowing eligibility.
View article sources
  1. Tax Externalities of Equity Mutual Funds – The University of Texas at Austin
  2. Likely Benefits from HIFO Accounting – Hillsdale College
  3. Cost Basis: How To Track and Calculate It? – SuperMoney