Obsolete inventory can be costly for your business

Walk through most commercial warehouses and you’ll find products that have been collecting dust for months, even years. Tires that no one wants to buy, raw materials that are no longer used, tubes of caulking that are good for nothing but the dumpster – all may be considered obsolete inventory.

What makes inventory obsolete?

For one thing, alternative products may arrive in the marketplace at lower costs to the consumer. You might sell refrigerators that, several years ago, were a great value because they offered a “frost-free” feature. Now, however, similar models with digital enhancements are available – at the same or lower prices. This change in product features will often adversely affect the value of your existing inventory.

Many firms have learned that technological advances are a double-edged sword. (Ask any computer retailer.) Perhaps your company makes custom-designed widgets. If demand for such products dries up, you may need to retool and modify your existing product line. Your need for certain expensive raw materials – stuff that’s sitting on your warehouse shelves – may dwindle.

Carrying obsolete products in your warehouse or retail store tends to increase operating costs without generating profit. Besides the cost of storing and insuring such items, you may be forced to incur labor expense to move the products to new locations and account for them. In addition, your financial reports may overstate business assets, especially if inventory is a major item on your balance sheet. Even your tax bill may be affected. Failing to recognize the expense of obsolete inventory may overstate net income.

How can you reduce the cost of excess inventory?

Define “obsolescence” for your major product lines; then be proactive. For example, if an item hasn’t sold in a certain number of months or is being phased out by suppliers, start moving that item by offering sales discounts.

Be willing to write off products or raw materials that are unlikely to generate profit. Don’t wait until escalating storage costs or an auditor’s findings shine a spotlight on obsolete inventory.

Establish a regular schedule for reviewing inventory. Many firms count their goods at the end of the year. That’s great. But knowing where you stand with inventory should be a year-round process.

For help with this or other business problems, give us a call.

About Brenda J. McGivern, CPA

Brenda McGivern started her own certified public accounting and management consulting firm in October 2001. The full service CPA firm provides tax and accounting solutions to meet the needs of today's small business and individual. Brenda McGivern has become a trusted advisor and valuable resource her clients rely on for timely, accurate assistance when they need it. Before starting the firm, she worked as an accountant for three years at a local firm and prior to that five years at a large international CPA firm in Boston. She has performed the following tax services: federal, state and local tax planning, international tax planning, estate and succession planning, mergers and acquisitions, capital retention and IRS representation. She has also coordinated assurance engagements, such as financial statement audits, reviews and compilations from the planning phase through the reporting phase. She has prepared and reviewed regulatory filings for numerous regulatory agencies including the Security and Exchange Commission. Prior to these positions she was selected from over 2,000 candidates into an eight-person intensive financial management program at an international technology company. The program consisted of graduate level classroom study and two six-month rotational assignments in financial operations. She graduated cum laude from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and holds a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in accounting. McGivern also holds a license in Massachusetts as a Certified Public Accountant and is a member of the American Society of Certified Public Accountants and the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants. She resides in Stoughton, Massachusetts with her husband Brian, and their sons Sean, Ryan and Conor and their dog, Davis.
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