Wait… What? There Are Other Methods to Calculate LIFO for Dealers?

Last-In-First-Out (“LIFO”) is something that all auto dealers have talked about at some point over the last 20 months. With new vehicle inventory levels down, the assumption is that some, if not most, of a dealer’s LIFO reserve is going to be recaptured on your 2021 financial statements and tax returns. That means more tax due come April 15. 

The concept of LIFO has been great for the automotive industry. We look at it as an interest-free loan from the government. For example, your truck inventory might be recorded on your books at 1980 prices, which means you have accelerated your expenses. That is a good thing for you since less tax paid to date has helped the cash flow of your business. LIFO ultimately has allowed dealers to expand, stay in business through downturns or meet other financial goals.  But now with the new vehicle inventory level being very low, a LIFO recapture is more likely to happen, and much of that cash tax savings is going to be paid back… OR IS IT?

We have found a lot of success working with our dealership relationships regarding use of the Inventory Price Index Computation (“IPIC”) method of calculating your LIFO reserve instead of the historical industry standard of the Alternative LIFO method we are accustomed to. Here are some things to think about if considering the IPIC LIFO accounting method change:

  • The IPIC method uses the consumer price index (“CPI”) which, as you know, is extremely inflated currently. The December CPI inflationary rates year over year are above 35% for used vehicles, 10% for new vehicles and 10% for parts. 
  • Why did we mention used vehicles and parts, you ask? The IPIC method can bring other inventory items into your LIFO calculation. If you bring more inventory items into your LIFO pool, it should help the LIFO calculation as you build layers over the years. Not to mention that potentially there will be no more used vehicle write-down analysis needed… Yay!!
  • The Alternative LIFO method calculation only compares the same new models year over year and won’t get you inflationary rates as high as the CPI for 2021.
  • Let’s stop and consider the possibility of deflation in the used vehicle market in 2022. What impact might that have on your 2022 calculation? Let’s discuss.
  • Will tax rates go up with the Build Back Better Plan? Good question. After we discuss some 2022 assumptions, let’s see if it still makes sense after we project the 2022 LIFO calculation.


If you have not yet considered using IPIC for 2021, it is not too late! This LIFO accounting method change can be made up to the due date of filing your 2021 tax return, including extension. 

Let’s talk about real results. Due to low year-end new vehicle inventory levels, we saw 75% of a dealer’s LIFO reserve being recaptured in 2021 using the Alternative LIFO method. This same dealership increased its 2021 LIFO reserve by 30% by using the IPIC method. Once again, to think this through, let’s look at the 2022 LIFO calculation too. 

We know many dealers have liquidity right now. So, you might ask: why not just pay the LIFO recapture tax due and get part of the monkey off your back? Our response is why?! Don’t you like interest-free money? With the liquidity that dealers have now, it is a good time to expand and/or diversify portfolios. Liquidity within a dealership is not normal, since it takes much capital to run the business. For the first time as a dealer owner, there is excess cash. Let’s do something other than pay tax (at least for today).

For more information on navigating through the potential switch to the IPIC LIFO method, please reach out to Steve Barber, Brett Cubellis, or any of our Schneider Downs Auto Advisors.

You’ve heard our thoughts… We’d like to hear yours

The Schneider Downs Our Thoughts On blog exists to create a dialogue on issues that are important to organizations and individuals. While we enjoy sharing our ideas and insights, we’re especially interested in what you may have to say. If you have a question or a comment about this article – or any article from the Our Thoughts On blog – we hope you’ll share it with us. After all, a dialogue is an exchange of ideas, and we’d like to hear from you. Email us at [email protected].

Material discussed is meant for informational purposes only, and it is not to be construed as investment, tax, or legal advice. Please note that individual situations can vary. Therefore, this information should be relied upon when coordinated with individual professional advice.

© 2024 Schneider Downs. All rights-reserved. All content on this site is property of Schneider Downs unless otherwise noted and should not be used without written permission.

our thoughts on
PA Tax Credit Aggregation
House of Representatives Approves Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act
IRS Modifies Position on Grantor Trust Tax Reimbursement Clauses
Tax BY Kirk Mitchell
Proposed Bipartisan Tax Plan Released – Overview of the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024
Automobile, Tax BY Steven Barber
Dealers Get an Extension for Time-of-Sale Reports for EVs
Automobile, Tax BY Steven Barber
Shocking! A Dealer Reporting EV Sales to the IRS is Confusing!
Register to receive our weekly newsletter with our most recent columns and insights.
Have a question? Ask us!

We’d love to hear from you. Drop us a note, and we’ll respond to you as quickly as possible.

Ask us
contact us

This site uses cookies to ensure that we give you the best user experience. Cookies assist in navigation, analyzing traffic and in our marketing efforts as described in our Privacy Policy.