marginal costing

Marginal Cost Formula — Definition, Examples, Calculate Marginal Cost

marginal costing

Marginal cost represents the incremental costs incurred when producing additional units of a good or service. It is calculated by taking the total change in the cost of producing more goods and dividing that by the change in the number of goods produced.

The usual variable costsVariable CostsVariable costs are expenses that vary in proportion to the volume of goods or services that a business produces. In other words, they are costs that vary included in the calculation are labor and materials, plus the estimated increases in fixed costs (if any), such as administration, overhead, and selling expenses.

The marginal cost formula can be used in financial modelingWhat is Financial ModelingFinancial modeling is performed in Excel to forecast a company's financial performance. Overview of what is financial modeling, how & why to build a model.

to optimize the generation of cash flowCash FlowCash Flow (CF) is the increase or decrease in the amount of money a business, institution, or individual has. In finance, the term is used to describe the amount of cash (currency) that is generated or consumed in a given time period. There are many types of CF.

Below we break down the various components of the marginal cost formula.

Image: CFI’s Budgeting & Forecasting Course.

1. What is “Change in Costs”?

At each level of production and during each time period, costs of production may increase or decrease, especially when the need arises to produce more or less volume of output.

If manufacturing additional units requires hiring one or two additional workers and increases the purchase cost of raw materials, then a change in the overall production costEconomics of ProductionProduction refers to the number of units a firm outputs over a given period of time. From a microeconomics standpoint, a firm that operates efficiently will result.

To determine the change in costs, simply deduct the production costs incurred during the first output run from the production costs in the next batch when output has increased.

2. What is “Change in Quantity”?

It’s inevitable that the volume of output will increase or decrease with varying levels of production. The quantities involved are usually significant enough to evaluate changes in cost.

An increase or decrease in the volume of goods produced translates to costs of goods manufactured (COGM)Cost of Goods Manufactured (COGM)Cost of Goods Manufactured, also known to as COGM, is a term used in managerial accounting that refers to a schedule or statement that shows the total production costs for a company during a specific period of time..

To determine the changes in quantity, the number of goods made in the first production run is deducted from the volume of output made in the following production run.

Download the Marginal Cost Calculator

How do you calculate the marginal costMarginal CostThe Marginal Cost of production is the cost to provide one additional unit of a product or service.

It is a fundamental principle that is used to derive economically optimal decisions and an important aspect of managerial accounting and financial analysis.

It can be calculated as? Download CFI’s free Marginal Cost CalculatorMarginal Cost CalculatorThis marginal cost calculator allows you to calculate the additional cost of producing more units using the formula: Marginal Cost = Change in Costs / Change in Quantity Marginal cost represents the incremental costs incurred when producing additional units of a good or service. It is calculated by taking the total cha. If you want to calculate the additional cost of producing more units, simply enter your numbers into our Excel-based calculator and you’ll immediately have the answer.

Begin by entering the starting number of units produced and the total cost, then enter the future number of units produced and their total cost.  The output of that equation is the marginal cost. Below is a screenshot of the calculator.

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An Example of the Marginal Cost Formula

Johnson Tires, a public company, consistently manufactures 10,000 units of truck tires each year, incurring production costs of $5 million.

However, one year finds the market demand for tires significantly higher, requiring the additional production of units, which prompts management to purchase more raw materials and spare parts, as well as to hire more manpower. This demand results in overall production costs of $7.

5 million to produce 15,000 units in that year.  As a financial analystFinancial Analyst Role, you determine that the marginal cost for each additional unit produced is $500 ($2,500,000 / 5,000).

How Important is Marginal Cost in Business Operations?

When performing financial analysisTypes of Financial AnalysisFinancial analysis involves using financial data to assess a company’s performance and make recommendations about how it can improve going forward.

Financial Analysts primarily carry out their work in Excel, using a spreadsheet to analyze historical data and make projections Types of Financial Analysis, it is important for management to evaluate the price of each good or service being offered to consumers, and marginal cost analysis is one factor to consider.

If the selling price for a product is greater than the marginal cost, then earnings will still be greater than the added cost – a valid reason to continue production.

 If, however, the price tag is less than the marginal cost, losses will be incurred and therefore additional production should not be pursued – or perhaps prices should be increased.

This is an important piece of analysis to consider for business operations.

Learn more in CFI’s Financial Analysis Courses.

What Jobs Use the Marginal Cost Formula?

Professionals working in a wide range of corporate financeCorporate Finance OverviewCorporate finance deals with the capital structure of a corporation, including its funding and the actions that management takes to increase the value of roles calculate the incremental cost of production as part of routine financial analysis.

 Accountants working in the valuations groupValuations Analyst Career ProfileA valuations analyst provides valuation services for public and private companies. They typically focus on the identification and valuation of intangible assets and, more specifically, with goodwill impairment and purchase price allocation (PPA).

A career as an analyst on the valuation team can require significant financial modeling and analysis. may perform this exercise calculation for a client, while analysts in investment bankingInvestment Banking Career PathInvestment banking career guide — plan your IB career path.

Learn about investment banking salaries, how to get hired, and what to do after a career in IB. The investment banking division (IBD) helps governments, corporations, and institutions raise capital and complete mergers and acquisitions (M&A).

may include it as part of the output in their financial modelTypes of Financial ModelsThe most common types of financial models include: 3 statement model, DCF model, M&A model, LBO model, budget model. Discover the top 10 types.

Explore CFI’s Career Map to learn more!

Video Explanation of Marginal Cost

Below is a short video tutorial that explains what marginal cost is, the formula to calculate it, and why it’s important in financial analysis.

Video: CFI’s Financial Analysis Courses.

Economies of Scale (or Not)

Businesses may experience lower costs of producing more goods if they have what are known as economies of scaleEconomies of ScaleEconomies of Scale refer to the cost advantage experienced by a firm when it increases its level of output.The advantage arises due to the inverse relationship between per-unit fixed cost and the quantity produced.

The greater the quantity of output produced, the lower the per-unit fixed cost. Types, examples, guide.  For a business with economies of scale, producing each additional unit becomes cheaper and the company is incentivized to reach the point where marginal revenueMarginal RevenueMarginal Revenue is the revenue that is gained from the sale of an additional unit.

It is the revenue that a company can generate for each additional unit sold; there is a marginal cost attached to it, which has to be accounted for. equals marginal costMarginal CostThe Marginal Cost of production is the cost to provide one additional unit of a product or service.

It is a fundamental principle that is used to derive economically optimal decisions and an important aspect of managerial accounting and financial analysis.

It can be calculated as. An example would be a production factory that has a lot of space capacity and becomes more efficient as more volume is produced. In addition, the business is able to negotiate lower material costs with suppliers at higher volumes, which makes variable costs lower over time.

For some businesses, per unit costs actually rise as more goods or services are produced. These companies are said to have diseconomies of scaleDiseconomies of ScaleDiseconomies of scale are when production output increases with rising marginal costs, which results in reduced profitability.

Instead of production costs declining as more units are produced (which is the case with normal economies of scale), the opposite happens, and costs become higher.  Imagine a company that has reached its maximum limit of production volume.

If it wants to produce more units, the marginal cost would be very high as major investments would be required to expand the factory’s capacity or lease space from another factory at a high cost.

Where to Learn More about Marginal Cost?

We hope this has been a helpful guide to the marginal cost formula and how to calculate the incremental cost of producing more goods.  For more learning, CFI offers a wide range of courses on financial analysis, as well as accounting, and financial modeling, which includes examples of the marginal cost equation in action.

More learning: Browse many of our FREE Finance courses.

Additional Resources:

  • Operating marginOperating MarginOperating margin is equal to operating income divided by revenue.  It is a profitability ratio measuring revenue after covering operating and non-operating expenses of a business.  Also referred to as return on sales
  • EBITDA marginEBITDA MarginEBITDA margin = EBITDA / Revenue. It is a profitability ratio that measures earnings a company is generating before taxes, interest, depreciation, and amortization. This guide has examples and a downloadable template
  • Profit marginNet Profit MarginNet Profit Margin (also known as «Profit Margin» or «Net Profit Margin Ratio») is a financial ratio used to calculate the percentage of profit a company produces from its total revenue. It measures the amount of net profit a company obtains per dollar of revenue gained.
  • Contribution marginContribution Margin RatioThe Contribution Margin Ratio is a company's revenue, minus variable costs, divided by its revenue. The ratio can be used for breakeven analysis and it+It represents the marginal benefit of producing one more unit.


Difference between Absorption Costing and Marginal Costing

marginal costing

Marginal costing and absorption costing are two different approaches dealing with fixed production overheads. In other words, this involves determining whether or not to include fixed overheads in decision making such as inventory valuation, pricing, etc.

 Absorption costing is a method of costing a product in which all fixed and variable production costs are apportioned to products. This method ensures that costs incurred are recovered from the selling price of a product.

Marginal costing is an accounting system in which variable costs are charged to products and fixed costs are considered as periodic costs. The main difference between absorption costing and marginal costing lies in how the two techniques treat fixed production overheads.

Undermarginal costing, fixed manufacturing overhead costs are not allocated to products. This is contrasted with absorption costing, wherefixed manufacturing overheads are absorbed by products.

Absorption costing is a procedure of tracing both variable costs and fixed costs of production to the product whereas marginal costing traces only variable costs of production to the product while fixed costs of production are considered periodic expenses.

What is Absorption Costing

Absorption costing is a method of calculating the full cost of a product. As a result, absorption costing is also known as full costing.

Under absorption costing, the entire cost of production is apportioned to products. These costs could be direct costs or indirect costs (variable and fixed overheads).

Fixed overheads are usually applied a predetermined overhead absorption rate. One or more overhead absorption rates could be employed.  

Costs assigned to products under absorption costing are as follows;

  • Direct material: Materials included in a finished product
  • Direct labour: Labour cost required to construct a product
  • Variable manufacturing overheads: Cost of operating a manufacturing facility, which vary with production volume i.e. electricity for production equipment
  • Fixed manufacturing overheads: Cost of operating a manufacturing facility, which do not vary with production volume i.e. rent

Absorption costing ensures that all incurred costs are recovered from selling price of a good or service. Opening and closing inventory are valued at full production cost under absorption costing.

Let’s consider the below example.

A factory produces product ‘A’ which sells at $50,000 each. The direct cost of manufacturing a unit of the product is $10,000 for materials and $20,000 for direct labour. The fixed overhead expense in one year is $10 million. Direct labour hours related to each unit of product are 100 hours.  The capacity of labour in one year is 100,000 hours.

If overheads could be allocated labour hours, an overhead absorption rate for product A could be calculated as follows;

Fixed overhead expense per year                              =             $10,000,000

Total direct labour hours per year                           =             100,000

Fixed overhead per direct labour hour                    =             $100

Direct labour hours per unit                                      =             100

Fixed overhead per unit                                              =             $10,000

Total cost allocated to product A using absorption costing is the addition of direct material, direct labour and fixed overhead cost which is $10,000 + $20,000 + $10,000 = $40,000 per unit of A.

As each product sells at $50,000, absorption costing system calculates a profit of $10,000 on each unit sold of product A.

When an additional unit of a product is manufactured, the extra cost incurred is the variable cost of production. Fixed costs are unaffected and no extra fixed cost is incurred when output is increased.

The marginal cost of a product is its variable cost which is usually direct labour, direct material, direct expenses and variable production overheads. Marginal costing is used to understand the impact of variable cost on volume of production.

As a result, this technique is also known as variable costing or direct costing.

Marginal costing is the accounting system in which variable costs are charged to products and fixed costs are considered as periodic costs and written off in full against contribution.

Under marginal costing, the contribution is the foundation to know the profitability of a product. The contribution is equal to the selling price of a product less marginal cost. Fixed cost is recovered from contribution.

Further, opening and closing inventory are valued at marginal (variable) cost.

Marginal costing is the principal costing technique used in decision making. The main reason for this is, the marginal costing approach allows management to be focused on changes resulting from the decision in concern.

If we consider the same example as above, marginal cost per unit of product A would be the addition of direct material and direct labour which is $10,000 + $20,000 = $30,000 per unit of A.

As each product sells at $50,000, marginal costing system calculates a contribution of $20,000 on each unit sold of product A.

Fixed overhead of $10 million will be treated as a periodic cost, not as a cost related to the product.

Difference Between Absorption Costing and Marginal Costing

As we have now understood the two terms separately, we will compare the two in order to find other differences between Absorption Costing and Marginal Costing.


Absorption costing is a method of costing a product in which all fixed and variable production costs are apportioned to products.

Marginal costing is an accounting system in which variable costs are charged to products and fixed costs are considered as periodic costs.

Inventory Valuation

Absorption Costing values inventory at full production cost. Fixed cost relating to closing stock is carried forward to the next year. Similarly, fixed cost relating to an opening stock is charged to the current year instead of the previous year. Thus, under absorption costing, all fixed cost is not charged against revenue of the year in which they are incurred.

Marginal Costing values inventory at a total variable production cost. Therefore, there is no chance of carrying forward unreasonable fixed overheads from one accounting period to the next. However, under marginal costing, the value of inventory is understated.

Effect on Profit

As inventory values are different under absorption and marginal costing, profits too differ under two techniques.  

1. If inventory levels increase, absorption costing gives the higher profit.

This is because fixed overheads held in closing inventory are carried forward to the next accounting period instead of being written off in the current accounting period.

2. If inventory levels decrease, marginal costing gives the higher profit.

This is because the fixed overhead brought forward in opening inventory is released, thereby increasing the cost of sales and reducing profits.

  • If inventory levels are constant, both methods give the same profit.

Treatment of Fixed Cost – Outcome

Absorption Costing includes fixed production overheads in inventory values. However, fixed overheads cannot be absorbed exactly due to difficulties in forecasting costs and volume of output.

Therefore, there is the possibility that overheads could be over or under absorbed.

Overhead is over-absorbed when the amount allocated to a product is higher than the actual amount and it is under absorbed when the amount allocated to a product is lower than the actual amount.

In Marginal Costing, fixed production overheads are not shared out among units of production. Actual fixed overhead incurred is charged against contribution as a periodic cost.

Usefulness of the Technique

Absorption Costing is more complex to operate and it does not provide any useful information for decision making  marginal costing.

Cost data produced under absorption costing is not very useful for decision making because product cost includes fixed overhead obscuring cost-volume-profit relationship.

However, absorption costing is required for external financial reporting and income tax reporting.

Marginal Costing does not allocate fixed manufacturing overheads to a product.

As a result, marginal costing could be more useful for incremental pricing decisions where a company is more concerned about additional cost required to build the next unit.

Identification of variable costs and contribution enables management to use cost information more easily for decision making.

Presentation in Financial Statements

Absorption Costing is acceptable under IAS 2, Inventories. Thus, absorption costing is required for external financial reporting and income tax reporting.

Marginal Costing is often useful for management’s decision making. Exclusion of fixed cost from inventory affects profit. Therefore, true and fair view of financial statements may not be clearly transparent under marginal costing.

Summary – Absorption Costing vs Marginal Costing

In this article, we have attempted to understand the terms absorption costing and marginal costing followed by a comparison to highlight key differences between them.

The basic difference between Absorption Costing and Marginal Costing lies in how fixed overhead cost is treated in management decisions of valuation of inventory and pricing.

In absorption costing, fixed cost is included in both value of inventory and cost of the product when making the pricing decision whereas marginal costing avoids fixed overheads in both decisions.


ACCAPEDIA – Kaplan.” Kaplan Financial Knowledge Bank. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.

“Criticism of Marginal Costing | Limitations of Absorption …”, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.

“Cost Accounting | Case Study Solution | Case Study Analysis.” Accounting Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.


Marginal Costing: Meaning and Features

marginal costing

In this article we will discuss about:- 1. Meaning of Marginal Costing 2. Contribution of Marginal Costing 3. Features of Marginal Costing 4. Arguments in Favour of Marginal Costing 5. Criticism against Marginal Costing 6. Absorption Costing and Marginal Costing: Impact on Profit.

Meaning of Marginal Costing:

Marginal costing is a principle whereby variable costs are charged to cost units and the fixed costs attributable to the relevant period is written off in full against the contribution for that period.

Marginal costing is the ascertainment of marginal cost and the effect on profit of changes in volume or type of output by differentiating between fixed costs and variable cost. In marginal costing, costs are classified into fixed and variable costs.

The concept of marginal costing is the behaviour of costs that vary with the volume of output. Marginal costing is known as ‘variable costing’, in which only variable costs are accumulated and cost per unit is ascertained only on the basis of variable costs. Sometimes, marginal costing and direct costing are treated as interchangeable terms.

The major difference between these two is that, marginal cost covers only those expenses which are of variable nature whereas direct cost may also include cost which besides being fixed in nature identified with cost objective.

Contribution of Marginal Costing:

In marginal costing, costs are classified into fixed and variable costs. The concept marginal costing is the behaviour of costs with volume of output.

From this approach, it is not possible to identify an amount of net profit per product, but it is possible to identify the amount of contribution per product towards fixed overheads and profits.

The contribution is the difference between sales volume and the marginal cost of sales.

In marginal costing it is not possible to determine the profit per unit of product because fixed overheads are charged in total to the profit and loss account rather than recovered in product costing. Contribution is a pool of amount from which total fixed costs will be deducted to arrive at the profit or loss.

The distinction between contribution and profit is given below:


1. It includes fixed cost and profit.

2. Marginal costing technique uses the concept of contribution.

3. At break-even point, contribution equals to fixed cost.

4. Contribution concept is used in managerial decision making.


1. It does not include fixed cost.

2. Profit is the accounting concept to determine profit or loss of a business concern.

3. Only the sales in excess of break-even point results in profit.

4. Profit is computed to determine the profitability of product and the concern.

Formulas used in Marginal Costing:

Sales — Variable cost + Fixed cost + Profit

Sales – Variable cost = Contribution

Sales – Variable cost = Fixed cost + Profit

Contribution = Fixed cost + Profit

Contribution – Fixed cost = Profit

Features of Marginal Costing:

The main features of marginal costing are as follows:

(a) All costs are categorized into fixed and variable costs. Variable cost per unit is same at any level of activity. Fixed costs remain constant in total regardless of changes in volume.

(b) Fixed costs are considered period costs and are not included in product cost, only variable costs are considered as product costs.

(c) Stock of work-in-progress and finished goods are valued at marginal cost of production.

(d) In marginal process costing, products are transferred from one process to another are valued at marginal costs only.

(e) Prices are determined with reference to marginal cost and contribution margin.

(f) Profitability of departments, products etc. is determined with reference to their contribution margin.

(g) In accounting, marginal cost, the overhead control account in the cost ledger represents only the variable overhead. Fixed costs are taken as expenses in the profit and loss account and thus excluded from costs.

(h) Presentation of data is oriented to highlight the total contribution and contribution from each product.

(i) The difference in the magnitude of opening stock and closing stock does not affect the unit cost of production since all the product costs are variable costs.

Arguments in Favour of Marginal Costing:

The supporters of marginal costing technique put forth the following points in support of their argument:

(a) Fixed costs are period costs in nature and it should be charged to the concerned period irrespective of the quantum or level of production or sale.

(b) Inclusion of fixed costs in the product cost distorts the comparability of products at different volumes and disturbs control actions. It highlights the significance of fixed costs on profits. In a highly competitive situation, it may be wise to take an order which covers marginal costs and makes some contribution towards fixed costs, rather than loose the order.

(c) The difficulty in apportionment and absorption of fixed costs to product cost will not exist in contribution approach and it is much easier for accounting and determination of product costs.

(d) Marginal cost method is simple in application and is easy for exercise of cost control. It is more informative and simple to understand.

(e) It helps the management with more appropriate information in taking vital business decisions make or buy, subcontracting, export order pricing, pricing under recession, continue or discontinue a product/division, selection of suitable product mix etc.

(f) Profit-volume analysis is facilitated by the use of break-even charts and profit-volume graphs, and so on.

(g) The analysis of contribution per key factor or limiting resource is a useful aid in budgeting and production planning.

(h) Pricing decisions can be the contribution levels of individual products.

(i) The profit and loss statement is not distorted by changes in stock levels. Stock valuations are not burdened with a share of fixed overhead, so profits reflect sales volume rather than production volume.

(j) Responsibility accounting is more effective when marginal costing because managers can identify their responsibilities more clearly when fixed overhead is not charged arbitrarily to their departments or divisions.

Criticism against Marginal Costing:

The criticism levelled against marginal costing is summarized below:

(a) Difficulty may be experienced in trying to separate fixed and variable elements of overhead costs. Unless this can be done with reasonable accuracy, marginal costing cannot be very accurate. Application of common sense and judgment will be necessary.

(b) The misuse of marginal costing approach may result in setting selling prices which do not allow for the full recovery of overhead. This may be most ly in times of depression or increasing competitors when prices set to undercut competitors may not allow for a reasonable contribution margin.

(c) The main assumption of marginal costing is that variable cost per unit will be same at any level of activity. This is only partly true within a limited range of activity.

With a major change in activity there may be considerable change in the rates and prices of men, material due to shortage of material, shortage of skilled labour, concessions of bulk purchase, increased transportation costs, changes in productivity of men and materials etc.

(d) The assumption that fixed costs remain constant in total regardless of changes in volume will be correct up to a certain level of output. Some fixed costs are liable to change from one period to another.

For example, salaries bill may go up because of annual increments or due to change in the pay rates and due to pay structure.

If there is a substantial drop in activity, management may take immediate action to cut the fixed costs by retrenchment of staff, renting of office-premises, warehouses taken on lease may be given-up etc.

(e) Increased automation and mechanization has resulted the reduction in labour costs and increased fixed costs installation, maintenance and operation costs, depreciation of machinery.

The use of marginal costing creates a tendency to disregard the need to recover cost through product pricing. For long-run continuity of the business, it is not good.

Assets have to be replaced in the long-run.

(f) Exclusion of fixed overheads from costs may lead to erroneous conclusions. It may create problems in inter-firm comparison, higher demand for salaries and other benefits by employees, higher demand for tax by the Government authorities etc.

(g) The exclusion of fixed overhead from inventory cost does not constitute an accepted accounting procedure and, therefore adherence to marginal costing will involve deviation from accepted accounting practices.

(h) The income-tax authorities do not recognize the marginal cost for inventory valuation.

Absorption Costing and Marginal Costing: Impact on Profit:

In absorption costing, stock is valued at total cost while in marginal costing stock valuation is done at variable cost only.

This means that in absorption costing, stock valuation is higher than in marginal costing. When production exceeds sales, profit under absorption costing is higher than that of marginal costing.

But when sales exceed production, profit under absorption costing is lower than that of marginal costing.

Absorption costing is a principle whereby fixed, as well as, variable costs are allotted to cost units and total overheads are absorbed according to activity level. Absorption costing confirms with the accrual concept by matching costs with revenue for a particular accounting period. Stock valuation complies with the accounting standard and fixed production costs are absorbed into stocks.

Absorption costing method avoids separation of costs into fixed and variable elements, which is not easily and accurately achieved. Cost plus pricing under absorption costing ensures that all costs are covered.

Pricing at the marginal cost may, in the long-run, result in failing to cover the fixed costs. It is important to note that in absorption costing sales must be equal to or exceed the budgeted level of activity otherwise fixed costs will be under absorbed.

The absorption of production overheads under absorption costing has the following impacts:

(i) When production exceeds sales during the period, a higher profit is shown under absorption costing, since the fixed overhead is absorbed over more number of units produced, and carried to next accounting period along with closing inventory.

(ii) When sales are in excess of production, a lower profit is reported under absorption costing. Since, less portion of fixed production overhead is recovered in valuation of closing stock and current period’s cost of production is higher.

The following generalizations to be made on the impact on profit of these two different methods of costing:

(a) Where sales and production levels are constant through time, profit is the same under the two methods.

(b) Where production remains constant but sales fluctuate, profit rises or falls with the level of sales, assuming that costs and prices remain constant, but the fluctuations in net profit figures are greater with marginal costing than with absorption costing.

(c) Where sales are constant but production fluctuates, marginal costing provides for constant profit, whereas under absorption costing, profit fluctuates.

(d) Where production exceeds sales, profit is higher under absorption costing than under marginal costing for the reason that absorption of fixed overheads into closing stock increases their value thereby reducing the cost of goods sold.

(e) Where sales exceeds production, profit is higher under marginal costing. The fixed costs, which previously were part of stock values, are now charged against revenue under absorption costing. Therefore, under absorption costing the value of fixed costs charged against revenue is greater than that incurred for the period.

The choice between using absorption costing and marginal costing will be determined by the following factors:

(a) The system of financial control in use e.g., responsibility accounting is inconsistent with absorption costing.

(b) The production methods in use e.g., marginal costing is favoured in simple processing situations in which all products receive similar attention; but when different products receive widely differing amounts of attention, the absorption costing may be more realistic.

(c) The significance of prevailing level of fixed overhead costs.


Marginal Costing vs Absorption Costing | Top 9 Differences

marginal costing

Both the Marginal costing and absorption costing are the two different approaches used for valuation of inventory where in case of Marginal costing only variable cost incurred by the company is applied to the inventory whereas in case of the absorption costing both variable costs and fixed costs incurred by the company are applied to the inventory.

If you want to understand how the costs of the finished products or inventories are calculated, you would need to give special attention to marginal costing and absorption costing.

  • Marginal costing is a method where the variable costs are considered as the product cost, and the fixed costs are considered as the costs of the period.
  • Absorption costing, on the other hand, is a method that considers both fixed costs and variable costs as product costs. This costing method is essential, particularly for reporting purposes. Reporting purpose includes both financial reporting and tax reporting.

There’s a debate on which costing method is better – marginal costing or absorption costing.

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Key Differences

  • Marginal costing doesn’t take fixed costs into account under product costing or inventory valuation. Absorption costing, on the other hand, takes both fixed costs and variable costs into account.
  • Marginal costing can be classified as fixed costs and variable costs.

    Absorption costing can be classified as production, distribution, and selling & administration.

  • The purpose of marginal costing is to show forth the contribution of the product cost. The purpose of absorption costing is to provide a fair and accurate picture of the profits.

  • Marginal costing can be expressed as a contribution per unit. Absorption costing can be expressed as net profit per unit.
  • Marginal costing is a method of costing, and it isn’t a conventional way of looking at costing methods.

    Absorption costing, on the other hand, is used for financial and tax reporting, and it is the most convenient method of costing.

Comparative Table

Basis for ComparisonMarginal CostingAbsorption Costing
1. MeaningMarginal costing is a technique that assumes only variable costs as product costs.

Absorption costing is a technique that assumes both fixed costs and variables costs as product costs.
2. What it’s all about?Variable cost is considered as product cost, and fixed cost is assumed as a cost for the period.Both fixed cost and variable costs are considered in product cost.
3. Nature of overheadsFixed costs and variable costs;Overheads, in the case of absorption costing, are quite different – production, distribution, and selling & administration.

How is the profit calculated?

By using the profit volume ratio (P/V ratio)Fixed costs are considered in product costs; that’s why profit reduces.
5. DeterminesThe cost of the next unit;The cost of each unit.

Opening & Closing stocks

Since the emphasis is on the next unit, change in opening/closing stocks doesn’t affect the cost per unit.Since the emphasis is on each unit, change in opening/closing stocks affects the cost per unit.

Most important aspect

Contribution per unit.Net profit per unit.
8. PurposeTo show forth the emphasis of contribution to the product cost.To show forth the accuracy and fair treatment of product cost.

How is it presented?

By outlining the total contribution;Most conveniently for financial and tax reporting;


From the discussion above, it is clear that absorption costing is a better method than marginal costing in usefulness. But if a company has just started and the purpose is to see the contribution per unit and the break-even point, marginal costing may be useful.

Otherwise, it is better to use absorption costing. It will help a firm look at its cost comprehensively. It will be able to strategize around its cost-effectively.

This article has been a guide to marginal costing vs. absorption costing. Here we discuss the top differences between marginal and absorption costing along with infographics and comparison table. You may also have a look at the following articles for gaining further knowledge in accounting –


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