Cost Object: Definition, Examples, Types

Cost allocation requires companies to identify, accumulate and allocate costs to various cost objects. This process is crucial to assigning costs to departments, projects, segments, and other units within a company. Usually, the first step in this process is identifying cost objects to which companies can allocate costs. Therefore, it is crucial to understand what these are.

What is a Cost Object?

A cost object is a unit to gauge a product, department, project, segment, etc. Companies use it as a base to measure the costs associated with a specific area. Mostly, companies decide how to create or determine cost objects. It is crucial to establish these separately for better analysis. However, cost objects must be straightforward to identify.

Cost objects are crucial in the cost allocation process. These establish the units back to which companies can trace costs. In the absence of identifiable cost objects, companies cannot use cost allocation. However, there are no specific rules to establishing them. Instead, companies can create cost objects for any area within the business as long as they are distinguishable.

How do Cost Objects work?

Companies have various areas where costs arise. Sometimes, these costs are directly traceable to their specific areas. In some cases, they may also occur in those areas simultaneously. In managerial accounting, identifying and allocating these costs is crucial to making strategic and operational decisions. However, companies must establish a unit where they can assign these costs.

Cost objects help companies establish a unit to divide and allocate costs. It is a crucial part of companies that manufacture goods. Usually, cost objects are a part of an analysis process that helps companies make decisions associated with costs. Companies can establish these objects within any area. As stated above, cost objects must be distinguishable to be effective.

What are the types of Cost Objects?

Companies can identify measurable units where they can allocate costs. Based on those, the types of cost objects may differ. Usually, they fall into the following three categories.


Companies often create cost objects based on their outputs. These may include goods and products that companies manufacture. Usually, outputs are the most common classification for cost objects. Most costing methods require these objects to help with profitability analysis. Output cost objects are crucial to allocating costs to specific products.


Companies may also allocate costs to specific areas within the business. Usually, these include processes, departments, segments, etc. Companies can create operational cost object classifications for any function as long as they are separately measurable. This category for cost objects covers a broader area within the company compared to outputs.

Business Relationship

Companies also create cost objects based on external relationships. Usually, these include customers and suppliers with which companies can associate their costs. In most cases, companies use business relationship cost objects to establish the costs of maintaining their links to a specific entity. Companies may also group several entities to associate them with a particular product or area.


Cost objects are units to which companies can link costs. They must be separately identifiable to allow for accurate analysis. Usually, companies use output cost objects to allocate costs to products or services. However, they may also establish operational and business relationship cost objects. Cost objects are crucial in decision-making and planning.

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