Last week we looked at income and the various types of income as part of our mini-series on the elements of your financial statements. Today we’re looking at a very misunderstood area – the cost of sales.

Many people think that cost of sales is the cost of the goods you have bought (or made) to sell to customers. It is not – the cost of sales is the cost of each product that has actually been sold. This means that if you have paid a supplier for stock, that is not yet sold, the cost won’t be included in the cost of sales.

This is important because of where the cost of sales is reflected in the financial statements. Cost of sales is an expense which reduces your profit, and therefore your tax. Thus it should not be overstated, by reflecting all the purchases during the year. The cost should match the sales, in other words, if you sold 10 items, the sales price for those items shows as income, and the cost of those 10 items shows as an expense. The cost of any unsold items sits on the balance sheet as stock on hand.

What if you don’t sell stock, what if you offer a service? Then according to the accounting definition, you DO NOT have any cost of sales. However, this is where pure accounting and the needs of management differ.

The real cost of making the sale may include any number of expenses depending on your business. For example; a service business may consider their technical staff to be a cost of making sales. What about travel and entertainment? Management reporting could include all of these expenses as the cost of sales to help understand how the business makes money and how well it is doing that. No-one said that the management reports needed to be in the same format as the annual financial statements. The accountants can re-classify the expenses for compliance purposes, as long as management has the necessary information to make decisions.

Next week we’ll look at the net result of sales and cost of sales, gross profit.

If you’re not getting the information you need from your management reports, perhaps they read too much like an accountants report, give us a call to help you re-format them into something useful