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First In, First Out (FIFO)


First In, First Out (FIFO) is an accounting method used to calculate the value of unsold inventory, costs of goods sold, and other transactions. It assumes that the oldest goods are sold first and the costs are based on the price of the items when they were first bought. Hence, it operates under the principle that the first goods purchased or produced are the first to be used or sold.


The phonetic pronunciation of the phrase “First In, First Out (FIFO)” is:First In, First Out (FIFO): /fɜ:rst ɪn, fɜ:rst aʊt (faɪfoʊ)/

Key Takeaways

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  1. FIFO is an approach in accounting where the first or earliest costs of inventory are recorded as sold first.
  2. This accounting method is useful in times of inflation as it can result in a higher inventory value and lower cost of goods sold, leading to increased tax liabilities.
  3. FIFO can greatly influence a company’s financial indicators such as Gross Profit and Net Income, directly affecting their profitability and attractiveness to investors.



First In, First Out (FIFO) is an essential business/finance term used in inventory management and accounting, playing a critical role in determining the value of unsold inventory and the cost of goods sold. FIFO implies that the oldest items (first in) are sold first (first out), potentially important for businesses dealing with perishable goods where product freshness matters. It also has a profound impact on profitability and tax liabilities because during periods of inflation, using FIFO leads to a lower cost of goods sold, consequently resulting in higher reported profits and a higher tax liability. Therefore, understanding and implementing FIFO can help businesses improve inventory management, enhance financial reporting accuracy, and make informed decisions.


First In, First Out, or FIFO, is absolutely crucial in industries where the products have a limited shelf life or are subject to frequent changes in model or design. Typically used in inventory management, FIFO serves as an accounting strategy that assumes the goods produced or purchased first are the first ones to be sold. By means of this approach, the older inventory does not accumulate and turn obsolete or spoil in a warehouse. Thus, it ensures that the value of stock stays relevant and up-to-date, which is vital for accurate accounting and financial reporting.Beyond this, FIFO also has tax implications that can affect a business’s bottom line. The FIFO method is used as an inventory valuation method under various tax jurisdictions because it generally results in less taxable income since prices generally rise over time. By selling the oldest (and usually cheapest) products first, FIFO tends to increase the cost of goods sold on a company’s income statement, thereby reducing the gross profit and the amount of taxable income that the company would otherwise have to pay. Hence, the FIFO method serves multiple purposes – maintaining the relevancy of inventory, ensuring accurate financial reporting, and minimizing tax liabilities.


1. Grocery Stores: Retailers like grocery stores typically operate on a FIFO basis. When grocery stores receive shipments of food, they rotate their current inventory to ensure that the oldest products purchased are sold first. For instance, when a new delivery of milk arrives, it goes to the back of the refrigerator while the older stock is in front for customers to buy. This reduces the risk of having to throw away perishable goods that have reached their expiration dates.2. Fuel Industry: In the fuel industry, FIFO is applied when storing and selling petrol. The first fuel that is stored in the underground tank is the first to be used or sold to customers. This prevents the old fuel from staying at the bottom of the tank for too long, which could lead to degradation and potential engine problems for customers.3. Warehousing and Storage: Companies that deal with warehousing and storage utilize FIFO to manage their inventory. Goods that were stocked first will be the first ones to be shipped out when orders are processed. This is crucial for businesses dealing with products that can become obsolete quickly, like electronics, or can decay over time, like chemical materials. This ensures that the oldest items in their inventory are sold off first, reducing the chances of loss due to damage or obsolescence.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is First In, First Out (FIFO)?

First In, First Out, commonly known as FIFO, is an accounting practice where the assets that are added first are the ones to be removed or sold first. It is commonly used across different sectors, such as retail or by companies that have inventory.

Why is FIFO important in business?

FIFO is significant as it provides more accurate results for the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS), hence affecting gross profit amount. Further, using FIFO can result in higher business income tax due to higher profitability, especially during periods of inflation.

Does FIFO always maximize profit?

Not necessarily. FIFO may increase profits in times of rising prices by allowing older, lesser cost items to be recognized as sold. In periods of falling prices, the opposite could occur. Following FIFO does not always mean maximization of profit.

In which industries is FIFO commonly used?

FIFO is usually used in industries where the inventory has a high chance of spoilage or goes out-of-date quickly, such as the food industry, pharmaceuticals, or other perishables.

How does FIFO impact cash flow?

FIFO can impact cash flow, particularly in times of inflation. As it is reporting the oldest costs first, it may lower the cost of goods sold, resulting in higher profits and thus higher tax liabilities. This can reduce the business’s cash flow.

Is FIFO a requirement in financial accounting?

No, FIFO is not a requirement, it is one of the inventory management methods. The method a company employs can vary based on their needs, industry, or strategic financial management plans. Other methods include Last In, First Out (LIFO) or Average Cost method.

What is the key benefit of using the FIFO method?

The primary advantage of the FIFO method is that it mirrors the natural flow of inventory, providing a more accurate value of inventory and cost of goods sold. It also prevents inventory from becoming obsolete.

Can the FIFO method be used for services or is it exclusive to goods or products?

FIFO is primarily associated with goods and products, especially those with a risk of deterioration or obsolescence. However, it can also be conceptually applied to services, particularly when services are contract-based and performed in the order the contracts are received.

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