Backflush Costing: Definition and How System Works for Inventory

Backflush Costing

Investopedia / Laura Porter

What Is Backflush Costing?

Backflush costing is a product costing system generally used in a just-in-time (JIT) inventory system. In short, it is an accounting method that records the costs associated with producing a good or service only after they are produced, completed, or sold. Backflush costing is also commonly referred to as backflush accounting.

Key Takeaways

  • Backflush costing is used by companies who generally have short production cycles, commoditized products, and a low or constant inventory.
  • Backflush costing is an accounting method designed to record costs under specific conditions. 
  • Backflush accounting is another name for backflush costing. 
  • Backflush costing can be difficult to do and not every company meets the criteria to conduct backflush costing. 

How Backflush Costing Works

“Flushing” costs to the end of the production run eliminates the detailed tracking of expenses, such as raw material and labor costs, throughout the manufacturing process, which is a feature of traditional costing systems. This allows the company to simplify its expense tracking processes, thus saving accounting and process costs, but it may also limit the detail of information that the company retains related to individual costs for production and sales.

The total costs of a production run are recorded all at once, at the end of the process. Companies using backflush costing, therefore, primarily work backward, calculating the costs of products after they're sold, finished, or shipped. To do this, businesses assign standard charges to the goods they produce. Sometimes costs differ, so companies eventually need to recognize the variances in standard costs and actual costs.

Usually, the costs of products are calculated during various stages of the production cycle. By eliminating work-in-process (WIP) accounts, backflush costing is designed to simplify the accounting process and save businesses money.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Backflush Costing

In theory, backflushing appears to be a sensible way to avoid the many complexities associated with assigning costs to products and inventory. Not logging costs during the various production stages enable companies to save time and reduce their expenses. Companies looking for ways to reduce their bottom lines may use backflush costing, but it isn't always an easy accounting method to implement.

The process of backflush costing makes it difficult for companies to audit because it doesn't always adhere to the basic fundamentals of accounting. 

However, backflushing can also be challenging to implement and is not an option available to all companies. Moreover, there are some other big caveats: businesses that do backflush costing lack a sequential audit trail and may not always conform to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). 

Special Considerations

Companies using backflush costing generally meet the following three conditions:

  • Short production cycles: Backflush costing shouldn’t be used for goods that take a long time to manufacture. As more time goes by, it becomes increasingly difficult to assign standard costs accurately.
  • Customized products: The process is not suitable for the fabrication of customized products since this requires the creation of a unique bill of materials for each item manufactured.
  • Material inventory levels are either low or constant: When inventories, the array of finished goods held by a company, are low, the bulk of manufacturing costs will flow into the costs of goods sold, and it is not deferred as inventory cost.