- determining the costs of products, processes, projects, etc. in order to report the correct amounts on the financial statements, and
- assisting management in making decisions and in the planning and control of an organization.
For example, cost accounting is used to compute the unit cost of a manufacturer's products in order to report the cost of inventory on its balance sheet and the cost of goods sold on its income statement. This is achieved with techniques such as the allocation of manufacturing overhead costs and through the use of process costing, operations costing, and job-order costing systems.
Cost accounting assists management by providing analysis of cost behavior, cost-volume-profit relationships, operational and capital budgeting, standard costing, variance analyses for costs and revenues, transfer pricing, activity-based costing, and more.
Cost accounting had its roots in manufacturing businesses, but today it extends to service businesses. For example, a bank will use cost accounting to determine the cost of processing a customer's check and/or a deposit. This in turn may provide management with guidance in the pricing of these services.