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May 14, 2024

The Hidden Impact of FOB: How This Shipping Term Affects Your Accounting

Shebi Sharma



In the context of Indian domestic trade, buyers and sellers must communicate clearly. Free On Board is one important phrase that can have a big impact on your company (FOB). FOB makes it clear when ownership of the goods passes from the seller to the buyer during the shipping process.

This seemingly straightforward idea has a significant effect on who bears the financial and risky consequences of delivering those goods within India.

In domestic Indian trade, FOB terms fall into two main categories:

FOB Origin (FOB Shipping Point): When goods are shipped from the seller's location, ownership of the goods passes to the buyer (FOB Origin or FOB Shipping Point). The buyer assumes responsibility for any loss or damage that may arise during transportation once the seller loads the goods onto the buyer's preferred carrier.

FOB Destination: In this scenario, the goods are still owned by the seller up until they reach the buyer's location. This means that in addition to arranging for transportation within India and paying any associated costs, the seller is also in charge of loading the goods and delivering them to the buyer. Additionally, the risk of loss or damage during transit belongs to the seller.

Knowing the appropriate FOB term for your transaction is crucial for precise accounting procedures in India. Let's examine FOB's effects on the cost of goods sold, inventory valuation, and financial statements for buyers and sellers in more detail.

The Impact of FOB on Accounting

FOB terms play a significant role in shaping how Indian companies record their financial transactions. Let's explore the key areas impacted by FOB:


FOB has a direct impact on the timing of sale recording and inventory valuation. As soon as the goods leave the seller's location, FOB Origin records the sale and reduces their inventory. On the other hand, when a sale is made at FOB Destination, the seller's inventory is reduced only after the item is delivered to the buyer's location.

Depending on the timing of sales and the inventory valuation techniques (LIFO, Last-In, First-Out, etc.) employed, this may affect a company's financial performance. The cost of those goods might not be reflected in COGS (Cost of Goods Sold) until the following quarter, which could affect profitability ratios, for example, if a company uses FIFO and sells a large quantity of goods near the end of a quarter under FOB Destination.

Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)

For both buyers and sellers, FOB has an impact on COGS. All expenses up to the shipping point, including internal transportation within India to deliver the goods to the carrier, are included in the seller's COGS in FOB Origin.

On the other hand, when the goods are delivered to FOB Destination, the seller's COGS only includes the cost of production. Under FOB Origin, the buyer's COGS comprises the purchase price as well as any associated costs for insurance and transportation. The purchase price is all that the buyer's COGS include under FOB Destination.

Transportation and Insurance Costs

The responsibility for transportation and insurance costs hinges on the chosen FOB term. With FOB Origin, the buyer shoulders these costs, while under FOB Destination, the seller is responsible for arranging and paying for transportation and insurance within India. Understanding this helps businesses accurately budget for these expenses.

Tax Implications

While FOB terms themselves might not directly impact taxes under the Indian tax system, the timing of sale recognition due to FOB can influence tax calculations (consult a tax professional for specific details). For instance, a delayed sale due to FOB Destination might affect a company's tax liability depending on their tax filing period.

Financial Statements

Since FOB impacts inventory valuation, COGS, and potential tax implications, it can significantly influence the accuracy of financial statements for both buyers and sellers. Accurate financial statements are required for various stakeholders, including investors, lenders, and creditors. Understanding FOB ensures a clear picture of a company's financial health.

Also Read: Bills of Lading(BoL): The Unsung Hero of Global Commerce

Choosing the Right FOB Term for Domestic Trade

Selecting the most suitable FOB term for your domestic trade transaction in India requires careful consideration of several factors:

Negotiation Power

This is an essential factor. You may be able to insist on FOB Destination, which would put the onus and expense of transportation on you, the seller, if you are in a strong negotiating position. On the other hand, a buyer with more negotiating power could agree to FOB Origin terms, which would transfer those expenses and risks to you.

Risk Tolerance

This is yet another important consideration. FOB Origin gives the buyer a faster transfer of ownership and risk. FOB Origin might work if you have dependable transportation options and are okay with the buyer taking on those risks. Conversely, FOB Destination might be preferred if you would rather keep control and limit risk until delivery.

Transportation Infrastructure

Different levels of transportation infrastructure are present in India due to the country's large and diverse terrain. FOB Origin could be a good choice for areas with dependable and effective transit systems. Nonetheless, FOB Destination might be a more sensible choice to guarantee the goods arrive safely if there are few or unstable transportation options at the destination.

Cost Considerations

Examine each FOB term's potential costs in detail. At first, FOB Origin may seem appealing to the seller, but keep in mind the possible expenses of domestic shipping within India. Budget for additional expenses such as transportation and insurance for the buyer under FOB Origin. Determine which of the two scenarios provides the best value for your company's budget.

Type of Goods

Your choice regarding FOB may also be influenced by the kind of goods being transported. FOB Destination may be preferred for fragile or perishable goods to guarantee seller control and reduce the possibility of damage during transportation. If you have dependable transportation arrangements, FOB Origin may be more appropriate for larger or less delicate items.

You can select the FOB term in the Indian domestic trade market that best suits your business needs, risk tolerance, and negotiating power by carefully weighing these factors. Recall that a well-defined FOB term in your sales agreement and clear communication will help prevent misunderstandings about risk, cost sharing, and ownership transfer during domestic transportation within India.

Also Read: Why NACH is the Key to Efficient Electronic Payments in India

Understanding FOB for Accurate Accounting

Effective communication is essential in the quick-paced world of domestic trade in India. Terms for Free On Board (FOB) are important because they affect how you record financial information. Comprehending FOB guarantees precise accounting for cost of goods sold (COGS), inventory valuation, and possibly even taxes.

Various factors such as negotiation power, risk tolerance, and transportation infrastructure play a role in selecting the appropriate FOB term (Origin or Destination). You can guarantee a clear picture of your financial situation and prevent confusion during domestic transactions within India by being aware of FOB.

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