COGS Explained: What is Cost of Goods Sold

A comprehensive guide to understanding cost of goods sold (cogs): definition, explanation & examples

What is COGS (Cost of Goods Sold)?

COGS, or Cost of Goods Sold, is a crucial term in the field of economics and finance. It refers to the direct costs associated with the production of goods sold by a company. This includes the cost of materials, labor involved in creating the product, and any other direct costs related to the production process. However, it does not include indirect expenses such as distribution costs and sales force costs.

Importance of COGS

Understanding the concept of COGS is vital for businesses as it plays a significant role in determining a company’s gross profit margin. By subtracting the COGS from the revenue, businesses can calculate their gross profit. This figure is a key indicator of a company’s operational efficiency and profitability.

COGS and Inventory

COGS is closely related to a company’s inventory. The costs of purchasing new inventory are added to the COGS, while the costs of inventory at the end of the accounting period are subtracted. This calculation ensures that the costs associated with the goods that are actually sold during the period are taken into account.

How COGS Works

The calculation of COGS varies depending on the inventory accounting method a company uses. The most common methods are First-In, First-Out (FIFO), Last-In, First-Out (LIFO), and Average Cost Method.

FIFO Method

In the FIFO method, it is assumed that the oldest inventory items are sold first. Therefore, the cost of the oldest inventory is considered as the COGS.

LIFO Method

In contrast, the LIFO method assumes that the most recent inventory is sold first. Hence, the cost of the newest inventory is considered as the COGS.

Average Cost Method

The Average Cost method, as the name suggests, takes the average cost of all the goods available for sale during the period as the COGS.

COGS in Financial Statements

COGS is a key item in a company’s income statement. It is subtracted from the company’s revenues to calculate the gross profit. This gross profit is then used to calculate net profit by subtracting operating expenses, taxes, and other costs. Therefore, a lower COGS can lead to a higher gross profit, assuming revenues remain constant.


Understanding the concept of COGS is crucial for businesses, investors, and financial analysts. It provides valuable insights into a company’s operational efficiency, cost management, and profitability. By effectively managing their COGS, companies can improve their bottom line and create value for their shareholders.


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