The financial statements of any business are greatly affected by the choice of inventory valuation method. The balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement, and other key financial ratios reflect the choice and impact stakeholders’ decisions. LIFO reserve quantifies the difference between the FIFO and LIFO inventory valuation methods. In accounting, it represents the contra account that includes that difference.LIFO reserve is crucial when companies use these methods simultaneously. On top of that, it also applies to investors who want to compare various companies that use different approaches.

Once March rolls around, it purchases 25 more flowering plants for $30 each and 125 more rose bushes for $20 each. It sells 50 exotic plants and 25 rose bushes during the first quarter of the year for a total of 75 items. When calculating LIFO reserve, companies can use the following formula.

Understanding the LIFO Reserve

The most recent inventory stock is used in the LIFO method first, and the older stock is used later. The LIFO reserve is designed to show how the LIFO and FIFO inventory valuation systems work and the financial differences between the two. Many countries, such as Canada, India and Russia are required to follow the rules set down by the IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) Foundation.

The IFRS provides a framework for globally accepted accounting standards. The LIFO method assumes that Brad is selling off his most recent inventory first. Since customers expect new novels to be circulated onto Brad’s store shelves regularly, then it is likely that Brad has been doing exactly that. In fact, the oldest books may stay in inventory forever, never circulated. This is a common problem with the LIFO method once a business starts using it, in that the older inventory never gets onto shelves and sold.

However, for financial reporting purposes, it’s required to calculate what the inventory’s value would be if it used FIFO, which would be lower. The LIFO method places a higher rate of cost on all the goods that a company sells over the period of a year. With reports that show a higher cost to the company, it also means that less income eligible for taxes is reported alongside it. This is specifically important when sharing things like tax returns with the government because it means the amount of taxes the company accrues is likely to be lower. This allows companies to better adjust their financial statements and budget in regards to sales, costs, taxes, and profits.

Accounting Terms: XYZ

The objective of using LIFO for external purposes is the inflationary economic conditions resulting in higher inventory costs. GAAP requires all businesses to report the LIFO reserve for bookkeeping purposes. LIFO reserve enables the stakeholders to compare the performance of any business without getting confused about inventory methods. But these impact the tax liability, profits, cash flows, and other financial aspects. These methods are FIFO(First In, First Out) Inventory, LIFO(Last In, First Out) Inventory, Specific Identification Method, and Weighted Average Cost.

Example of a LIFO Reserve

For instance, the current ratio is the most used and popular ratio to assess a company’s liquidity. Over 1.8 million professionals use CFI to learn accounting, financial analysis, modeling and more. Start with a free account to explore 20+ always-free courses and hundreds of finance templates and cheat sheets. Accounting professionals have discouraged the use of the word “reserve,” encouraging accountants to use other terms like “revaluation to LIFO,” “excess of FIFO over LIFO cost,” or “LIFO allowance.” Almost all analysts look at a publicly-traded company’s LIFO reserve. Often earnings need to be adjusted for changes in the LIFO reserve, as in adjusted EBITDA and some types of adjusted earnings per share (EPS).

Important Points About LIFO Reserve

As indicated above, the LIFO reserve is important for a company because it explains any differences between the LIFO and FIFO accounting methods. In other words, the LIFO reserve is critical because it ultimately offers the most accurate and most complete picture of a company’s inventory, sales, revenue, and profits. US GAAP allows companies to adopt LIFO cost-flow assumption in inventory accounting but IFRS allows only FIFO and weighted-average methods. Disclosure about LIFO reserve is important in such scenarios for comparability of financial results. LIFO reserve is the difference between the carrying amount of a company’s inventories under the first-in first-out (FIFO) method and under the last-in first-out (LIFO) method.


The primary purpose of using two different valuation methods (LIFO and FIFO), is to prepare internal and external financial reports in the most advantageous way possible. The FIFO method is applied to internal reports, and often fuels greater profitability. This is more attractive to internal users of the financial statements, such as shareholders, and typically provides a more real or true profit potential of the business. Company ABC used the LIFO method, whereas another competitor company used the FIFO method for inventory valuation.

The most important benefit is that it allows a comparison between LIFO and FIFO and the ability to understand any differences, including how taxes might be impacted. An additional benefit of electing LIFO during a period of high inflation is that it reduces the chance of materially recapturing the LIFO reserve in future periods. It is important to note that LIFO is subject to specific accounting regulations, and its application requires consistency.

By doing little tweaks in the formula for LIFO Reserve, the financial statements of a business using LIFO and another company using FIFO methods can be made comparable. It indicates the difference between LIFO and FIFO inventory method reporting. The LIFO method is used in the COGS (Cost of Goods Sold) calculation when the costs of producing a product or acquiring inventory has been increasing. During economic downturns, LIFO liquidation could result in higher gross profit than would otherwise be realized.

After joining the firm in 1988, Jim has spent his career working in a variety of industries, including manufacturing and distribution. In addition, he shares his knowledge and experiences with manufacturing specialists throughout the firm as well as local and regional organizations and trade associations focused on the manufacturing industry. To recognize his accomplishments, Jim was named Business Professional of the Year in August 2019 by the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce. Manufacturers and distributors interested in electing LIFO, especially those whose year ends in December, should begin planning now.

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