Navigating LIFO Inventory Methods During Global Supply Chain Disruptions
Dec 20, 2021
State of the Global Economy
The same issues have been covered in the news cycle for months; supply chain malfunctions, production shortages, inflation, increased tariffs… all the reasons why businesses are facing heightened costs of resources this year. COVID-19-related disruptions have affected distributors and manufacturers worldwide, with gradual increases in the consumer prices index every month since the third quarter of 2020 (apart from May ‘21.) Numerous products including crude oil and petroleum products, natural gas, leather, lumber and wood, chemicals, and metal products have all seen substantial inflation (from 25% – 200%) in the last twelve months.
As costs go up, one tax leveraging option for those required to maintain inventories is the LIFO (last-in, first-out) inventory method. By using LIFO, goods sold throughout the year are deemed to come first from any goods purchased or produced during that year, then from the beginning inventory. As a result, inflation on items in the ending inventory is already included in the cost of goods sold, which may result in a lower taxable income.
LIFO is an alternative inventory valuation method, used by companies during periods of increased inflation to defer significant taxation. When adopting a LIFO inventory method, taxpayers can measure the effects of inflation on their internal and external prices by assuming the most recently purchased items are being sold first. This is achieved through an “inventory price index computation method,” using indexes published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
First, the taxpayer must ascribe value to all inventory (including beginning inventory) at cost. Then, say the LIFO method was adopted in the tax year 2020, the taxpayer should value all inventory at cost, ratably, for 2020 through 2022 and account for any necessary adjustments. In theory, the result of those adjustments would reflect the impact of inflation on company inventory and would then be deducted from taxable income and removed from the balance sheet.
It is required all taxpayers adopting the LIFO method for tax purposes, apply a LIFO computing method to book income. Additionally, all financial statements issued by the taxpayer must reflect computation under a LIFO method. To adopt LIFO, taxpayers must attach Form 970, Application to Use LIFO Inventory Method, to their federal income tax return.
Adopting a LIFO inventory method may not benefit all taxpayers. Companies considering the use of a LIFO method for the 2021 tax year should first perform a cost-benefit analysis in order to answer the following questions:
- What are the potential tax savings for the 2021 tax year if the company switched to LIFO?
- Historically, what trends has the company experience during periods of inflation?
- Do historic trends and potential tax savings warrant a switch to a LIFO inventory method?
- What costs are associated with implementing & maintaining LIFO computation in-house?
- Are the potential tax savings greater than the projected costs?
As always, our team of advisors is available to help you determine the best approach for your given situation.