Today’s significantly reduced oil prices creates an financial opportunity for any business that maintains an inventory of products that are petroleum-based. Products such as heating oil, gasoline,lubricating oils, and diesel fuel are all obvious product types that use crude oil as their raw material. However, products such as plastics, fertilizers and other petrochemicals often are also based on crude oil prices.
If your company relies on one or more of those products and maintains an inventory, especially a large dollar value of inventory, then this might be the year for you to consider a “last in first out”(LIFO) inventory election.
Many taxpayers in the U.S.currently use (FIFO) “first in first out” which means they are always valuing their inventory using the purchase price closest to the date of the inventory. The assumption on the flow of cost is that the oldest products are sold first and the cost of the most recent additions to the inventory are maintained as the inventory value.
LIFO, on the other hand, reverses that assumption. LIFO maintains inventory values based on the original purchase price, typically the lowest price, and in effect allows current costs to be expensed as incurred. The end result is that many taxpayers who have elected LIFO 30 or 40 years ago are still valuing their inventory at the prices that were in affect at the time they made the LIFO election. This means that all the years of price increases have been expensed as a cost of sales for the year they were incurred, and none were trapped in inventory. In times of rising prices, this is a great benefit to the taxpayer.
Basically, the best time to consider making a LIFO election is at the time when raw material prices are at the lowest point. This election is simply done by attaching several forms to the year-end tax returns and is an automatically approved election by the Internal Revenue Service.
With crude oil prices being under $60 a barrel at the end of 2014, it sets the stage for those taxpayers that have not already elected LIFO to lock-in, what could be, the lowest oil prices we’ll see for years. This low cost would be part of their base inventory cost and they would gain the benefit in all future years, as prices most-likely climb.
If you have questions on any element associated with LIFO inventory or think it may be a valuable option for you, please contact your professional at William Vaughan Company as soon as possible.
By: Bill Horst, CPA, CMA