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Activity-Based Costing (ABC)


Activity-Based Costing (ABC) is a financial management methodology that assigns costs to products and services based on the specific activities and resources they consume. The approach emphasizes the identification and tracking of overhead costs associated with these activities, enabling a more accurate cost allocation. This method aids companies in identifying inefficient processes, measuring profitability, and enhancing overall cost management.


The phonetics of the keyword “Activity-Based Costing (ABC)” is: æk-tɪ-vɪ-ti beɪst ˈkɒstɪŋ (ABC)

Key Takeaways

  1. Activity-Based Costing (ABC) is an accounting method that allows businesses to gather data about their operating costs and then apportion these costs more accurately to specific products, services, or customer segments. This form of costing helps to understand resource and overhead expenses better.
  2. ABC is highly effective in complex environments, where the production processes involve multiple activities and use a diverse range of resources. It can help businesses identify inefficient areas, improve resource allocation, and maximize profit by correctly pricing products or services according to their actual costs.
  3. Despite its benefits, ABC can also bring challenges, including needing significant time and resources to implement and maintain. Furthermore, while it allows for a more precise allocation of overhead costs, the robustness of the cost pool and cost driver assumptions can significantly impact the accuracy of this costing technique.


Activity-Based Costing (ABC) is an essential concept in business and finance, as it allows companies to more accurately determine the true cost of producing a product or delivering a service by taking into consideration all related activities. Unlike traditional costing methods which may apply costs uniformly across products and services, ABC identifies the specific activities that contribute to the cost of production and assigns overhead costs based on each product’s usage of these activities. This increased accuracy in cost assignment equips businesses with detailed insight into profitability across their product or service range. The outcome can better inform strategic decision-making, pricing strategies, process improvement, and cost control measures, ultimately impacting a company’s overall financial health and competitive edge.


Activity-Based Costing (ABC) is a systematic approach to allocating overhead costs to products, services, or activities, based on their consumption of resources. The main purpose of ABC is to provide a more accurate understanding of the true costs associated with producing a specific product or delivering a service. This accounting method enables companies to identify potentially wasteful practices or inefficiencies in their operations, allowing for more precise cost control and management. It helps to determine which products, services, or activities are profitable and which ones aren’t, thus informing business strategy and decision-making. ABC is used primarily for internal decision-making and performance evaluation. Aside from determining product/service profitability, it can guide decisions on pricing, outsourcing, process improvement, and even elimination of products or services that are unprofitable or inefficient. By shedding light on the cost consumption against the revenue generated, ABC can provide crucial insights that traditional costing methods (which may allocate costs more arbitrarily) might miss. Overall, Activity-Based Costing is vital for businesses aiming for cost optimization and improved profitability.


1. Manufacturing Industry: A company producing a variety of consumer goods like electronics, furniture, and clothing can use ABC to allocate overhead costs to each product line based on the activities needed. For instance, if the electronics product line requires more testing or consumes more power during manufacturing, more costs will be assigned to that line as per ABC. 2. Healthcare Sector: Hospitals can use ABC for cost management. Activities like patient admission, surgeries, patient care, and medication distribution can incur different amounts of overhead costs. Under ABC, each of these activities is allocated a proportion of the total overhead costs in line with its specific requirements. This helps hospitals understand the cost of each patient or procedure accurately and manage resources more efficiently. 3. Service Industry: An IT consulting business can apply ABC to allocate costs to different projects or services based on the activities involved. If a specific project involves more hours of programming and testing, then a greater portion of the overhead costs (such as salaries, office space rent, and utilities) would be allocated to that project. This can also help in pricing services more accurately, as it provides a more precise understanding of the actual costs involved in the various services provided by the firm.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Activity-Based Costing (ABC)?
Activity-Based Costing (ABC) is a method of assigning indirect costs to products and services. It identifies activities in an organization and assigns the cost of each activity to all products and services according to the actual consumption by each.
Why is Activity-Based Costing (ABC) important?
ABC provides a more accurate method of product/service costing, leading to more informed management decisions. It aids in identifying inefficient products, departments, or activities, promoting the efficient allocation of resources and setting prices more effectively.
How does Activity-Based Costing (ABC) differ from traditional costing?
Traditional costing assigns costs based on a single, volume-based cost driver, such as labor hours or machine hours. Conversely, ABC recognizes the causal relationship of cost drivers to activities and allocates overheads to specific activities related to the use of the overhead item.
What type of businesses can benefit from using Activity-Based Costing (ABC)?
Businesses with high overhead costs or those offering diverse products and services can benefit most by using ABC. Industries such as manufacturing, service sectors, healthcare, and telecommunications commonly use ABC for accurate cost allocation.
What are some limitations or disadvantages of Activity-Based Costing (ABC)?
ABC can be time-consuming and expensive to implement due to the complexity involved in identifying and categorizing activities. It may also lead to inaccurate cost allocation if not properly set up and managed, especially if the business environment changes frequently.
Does Activity-Based Costing (ABC) affect the total company profit?
No, whether a company uses ABC or traditional costing methods, it doesn’t change the total costs of the business or its profitability. The difference lies in the allocation of costs to individual products or services.
What are the key steps involved in the implementation of Activity-Based Costing (ABC)?
The key steps include identifying the activities that incur costs, assigning a cost to those activities, determining the cost driver, and then distributing the costs according to the use of the cost driver by each product or service.
Is Activity-Based Costing (ABC) fit for small businesses?
While ABC can provide valuable insights into the true cost of activities, it may not be best for small businesses with less complex operations or fewer overheads due to its complexity and costliness to set up and maintain.

Related Finance Terms

  • Cost Driver
  • Overhead Rate
  • Direct Costing
  • Indirect Costing
  • Cost Pool

Sources for More Information

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