What is the difference between Cost and Expense?

What is the difference between Cost and Expense?

The expense can be defined as an amount paid or spent regularly towards ongoing business operations to ensure revenue generation. It is spent annually and is reflected in the profit and loss statement and as such impacts the profitability. Assume that a company purchases 2,000 units of a supply item each of which has a cost of $5. If none of the units have been used, the current asset supplies will be reported at the cost of $10,000 (2,000 units at $5 each).

However, the corporate context offers a slight semantic distinction between costs and expenses. Costs typically consist of money a company doles out to produce items or acquire merchandise for resale. Expenses represent the hodgepodge of charges a business incurs to operate and generate revenue. Finance people often lump these costs in the “selling, general and administrative expenses” category.

The Income Statement is one of a company’s core financial statements that shows their profit and loss over a period of time. On the other hand, in the business sense, an expense is an item of business outlay chargeable against revenue for the specific period. They are subtracted from revenue/Guide to gross income in the calculation of profit/losses. Expenses are used to produce revenue and they are tax deductible items means reduce the company’s income tax bill. Cost doesn’t directly affect taxes, but the cost of an asset is used to determine the depreciation expenses for each year, which is a deductible business expense.

Examples include loan origination fees and interest on money borrowed. In summary, product costs (direct materials, direct labor and overhead) are not expensed until the item is sold when the product costs are recorded as cost of goods sold. Period costs are selling and administrative expenses, not related to creating a product, that are shown in the income statement along with cost of goods sold. Cost is reported through the financial position statement or balance sheet as it adds value or creates future economic benefit. On the other hand, expenses are shown in the income statement as under matching principle, expenses are to be matched with revenue earned.

From the above discussion we can understand how important it is to make cost versus expense comparison as costs are reported in SoFP as the value of assets whereas expenses are reported in the Income Statement. And we understood that these terms do have their accounting implications and differences in accounting treatments. Operating costs and expenses are integral to a statement of profit and loss, the report financial managers often alternately refer to as a statement of income, P&L, or income report. Manufacturing costs and merchandise expense are top-line items that accountants subtract from total sales revenue to calculate gross profit.

Operating expenses (OPEX) and cost of goods sold (COGS) are separate sets of expenditures incurred by businesses in running their daily operations. Consequently, their values are recorded as different line items on a company’s income statement. But both of these expenses are subtracted from the company’s total sales or revenue figures.

Although necessary, expenses are the “cost” of owning your own business. The depreciation cost allocation method the business uses is a matter of choice, as long as the method is appropriate for the asset. For financial accounting, the method meets the standard of appropriateness if the company uses the method that most closely matches revenue to expense or the method that’s common in that industry. When the company buys the machines, the price Penway pays or promises to pay is a cost. Then as Penway uses the machines, it reclassifies the cost of buying the fabrication machines as an expense of doing business.

In any event, all your intermediate accounting assignments and test questions provide a useful life. In double-entry bookkeeping, expenses are recorded as a debit to an expense account (an income statement account) and a credit to either an asset account or a liability account, which are balance sheet accounts. Typical business expenses include salaries, utilities, depreciation of capital assets, and interest expense for loans. The purchase of a capital asset such as a building or equipment is not an expense.

At the time of the next balance sheet, only 500 of the units are on hand and 1,500 units have been used in the business. As a result, the balance sheet will report the supplies on hand at their cost of $2,500 (500 units at $5) and the income statement will report supplies expense of $7,500 (1,500 units at $5). These are costs incurred from borrowing or earning income from financial investments.

  • They are subtracted from revenue/Guide to gross income in the calculation of profit/losses.
  • The Income Statement is one of a company’s core financial statements that shows their profit and loss over a period of time.

The balance sheet cost is accounted as an expense in the income statement guided by the matching principle i.e. expense should be recognized proportionately during the same period when it is utilized for generating revenue. For example, the $20,000 car you purchased will eventually be charged to expense through depreciation over a period of several years. So here the initial amount of the amount you spent to purchase the car is a cost and depreciation which is going to occur for the next several years is expenses for handling that car. Another example of cost is insurance prepayment of $1200 for the next 12 months which will be accounted for in the balance sheet as a prepaid expense (current asset). Now, the prepaid insurance payment is to be equally divided across 12 months at $100 monthly as insurance expense and this is another example of expense.

Cost vs. Expenses and Taxes

The cost of assets shows up on the business accounting on the balance sheet.The original cost will always be shown, then accumulated depreciation will be subtracted, with the result as book valueof that asset. All the business assets are combined for the purpose of the balance sheet.


Companies use various ways to decide which method to use to allocate balance sheet costs to income statement expenses. If it’s a piece of factory machinery, the units-of-production method may be more appropriate.

The term expenses can further confuse those trying to understand expenditures and costs. A common term used in accounting and businesses along with expenditure and cost, an expense is also money spent. An expense is a cost of money, but one in which you know will further decrease your revenue and income. For example, if you own your business you will have to pay your employees. The money paid to your employees is an expense because you will be using business revenue to pay them accordingly.

SG&A expenses lie right underneath gross profit, and subtracting them from gross profit yields pre-tax income — which becomes net income after the reporting business settles fiscal debts. Instead of net income, the result is net loss if total expenses exceed total revenues. In a financial glossary, terms such as “cost,” “expense,” “outlay” and “charge” often mean the same thing.

Costs in Accounting

SG&A charges include salaries, litigation, office supplies, cash paid to cope with regulatory scolding, insurance, and transportation. An expense in accounting is the money spent, or costs incurred, by a business in their effort to generate revenues. Essentially, accounts expenses represent the cost of doing business; they are the sum of all the activities that result in (hopefully) a profit.

difference between cost and expense

So the resources Penway uses to purchase the machines move from the balance sheet (cost) to the income statement (expense). The cost of an asset isn’t considered an expense because it’s a one-time charge and it goes on the business balance sheet, not on the profit and loss statement.