LIFO Distortion in the Oil Industry – Revisited

June Li, Megan Y. Sun


LIFO (Last in First out) inventory method has been widely used by US publicly traded companies for its tax advantages in many years. However, LIFO is expected to be repealed with the impending acceptance ofIFRS(the International Financial Reporting Standards) by theSEC. The repeal of LIFO will significantly increase the tax liabilities of those companies previously using LIFO. One hardest hit industry by repeal of LIFO is oil industry. Our study investigates the use of LIFO inventory method in oil industry from 2008 through 2015. The primary focus of this study is the accounting information distortion as a result of using LIFO. We document severe accounting information distortion in the areas of working capital and inventory turnover. Though not as severe, we also observe very significant distortions in the areas of gross profit and current ratio. The accounting information gets increasingly distorted from 2008 to 2011. However the trend reverses from 2012 to 2015. Each of the Obama administration’s budgets proposals proposed the elimination of LIFO for inventories. We believe the findings of our research have significant implications for the policy makers. In addition, a full adoption ofIFRS, which prohibits LIFO, is unlikely in the near future. Non-public companies who are not under the jurisdiction of theSECmay still continue to use LIFO after the adoption of IFRS. 

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