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Historical Cost


Historical cost refers to the original nominal monetary value of an asset, as recorded upon its acquisition. It is the actual amount of money spent to purchase, construct, or otherwise obtain an asset. This cost does not change over time due to inflation or changes in market value.


The phonetics of the keyword “Historical Cost” is: /hɪˈstɔrɪkəl kɒst/

Key Takeaways

<ol><li>Historical cost refers to the original monetary value of an asset, as recorded on a balance sheet. It is based on the actual amount paid at the time of acquisition, not the asset’s current worth or any future value it might have. This principle is important in financial accounting as it allows for a consistent methodology in assigning values to assets.</li><li>While historical cost provides an objective measure for accountants to record business transactions, it does not always reflect the true economic value of an asset. For instance, due to inflation, the purchase price of an asset may be significantly lower than its current marketplace value. This can result in underestimations of the asset’s value on the company’s financial statements.</li><li>Another key aspect of the historical cost concept is its impact on a company’s income statement. It affects the value of depreciation, which is based on the cost of the asset and its useful life. By using the historical cost principle, the depreciation expense can be consistently applied over the asset’s lifespan, providing a standardized method for expense recognition.</li></ol>


Historical cost is a crucial concept in business/finance as it represents the initial value of an asset when it was first acquired. This cost serves as the baseline for its account record and indicates the original outlay of economic resources used to obtain the asset, assuring stability and consistency in financial reporting. It helps in making accurate business decisions such as asset depreciation, tax deductions, and profit analysis. Historical cost also supports integrity and clarity in financial reports, mitigating misleading fluctuations or distortions caused by changes in the market value. Therefore, comprehending the historical cost is integral to both financial planning and analysis, and for maintaining transparent and reliable financial transparency.


Historical cost in finance and business is a measure of value used in accounting where the value of an asset on the balance sheet is recorded at its original cost when acquired by the company. The purpose of the historical cost method is to help businesses keep track of their long-term financial investments and provide an accurate depiction of profitability over time. It creates a consistent standard for tracking and reporting financial transactions, as it does not adjust to reflect market fluctuations. By recording at original costs, it provides a clear and consistent record of what was paid for each asset. This brings uniformity in financial reporting and makes financial statements easier to compare across multiple periods.Historical costs are primarily used in financial accounting. They function as the basis for many calculations used to assess a company’s financial health including capital, profit, and depreciation among others. These costs are also frequently used by external associates such as investors or creditors to evaluate the value of a company’s assets. However, note that while historical cost allows for clear tracking and comparisons over time, it does not account for inflation or potential current market value. Thus, its use is also subject to criticism, particularly in times of high inflation or volatile market prices. Nonetheless, the use of historical cost aids in keeping the financial reporting objective, consistent and reliable.


1. Real Estate Investment: Let’s say an individual buys a property for $200,000. Over the years, the market price of the property may fluctuate. However, regardless of its current market value, the historical cost for the individual remains $200,000, which is the price initially paid to acquire the property.2. Purchasing Equipment for Business: A company bought manufacturing equipment for $500,000 ten years ago. Today, the same equipment may be worth $300,000 due to wear and tear or technological advancements. Still, for the company, the historical cost of this equipment on the books will remain $500,000, not the current reduced value.3. Investing in Stocks: An investor purchases 100 shares of a company for $10 each, resulting in an investment of $1000. Five years later, those stocks may be valued at $20 each due to company growth. Despite the increase in value, the historical cost of these stocks for the investor continues to be the original $1000.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the meaning of Historical Cost?

Historical Cost refers to the original monetary value of an asset or liability. It is the amount paid or liability incurred to acquire an asset, often measured in terms of the cash paid at the time of its original acquisition.

Is the Historical Cost adjusted for inflation?

No, the Historical Cost of an asset or liability does not typically account for adjustments due to inflation or other market fluctuations.

What is an example of Historical Cost?

If a company purchases equipment for $50,000 – this is its Historical Cost. No matter the current market value of the equipment or appreciation, the historical cost will remain $50,000.

How does Historical Cost affect business accounting?

In business accounting practices, Historical Cost is used for valuation purposes in the financial statements. The method provides a clear and certain measure of what was paid for the resource.

Can Historical Cost change over time?

No, the Historical Cost of an asset remains the same over time: it doesn’t change to reflect current values.

Is using Historical Cost an advantage or a disadvantage?

It can be both. The advantage of using Historical Cost is that it’s objective, verifiable, and reliable. On the other hand, the main disadvantage is that it ignores the effects of inflation, meaning that if prices rise significantly, the value of the asset may be severely understated.

Can Historical Cost be used for all types of assets?

The Historical Cost concept is usually applied to tangible assets because they are bought for a readily measurable cash amount. It’s more difficult though not impossible, to apply to intangible assets that might be internally generated and not purchased.

How does Historical Cost impact profit calculation?

Historical Cost impacts the profit calculation as the cost of goods sold and depreciation are based on the Historical Cost, not the current market price. Therefore, changes in cost tend to impact the profit margin.

Does the Historical Cost principle apply in every accounting system?

Historical Cost is a cornerstone of most accounting systems. However, it is worth noting that some financial reporting systems, particularly during periods of high inflation, allow for adjustments to be made to historical cost through price indexes.

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