Should Terri Go in Bucking Her Boss

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Case 3-33 (45 minutes)
1.Explain how shaving 5% off the estimated direct labor-hours in the base for the predetermined overhead rate usually results in a big boost in net operating income at the end of the fiscal year.

Shaving 5% off the estimated direct labor-hours in the predetermined overhead rate will result in an artificially high overhead rate. The artificially high predetermined overhead rate is likely to result in overapplied overhead for the year. The cumulative effect of overapplying the overhead throughout the year is all recognized in December when the balance in the Manufacturing Overhead account is closed out to Cost of Goods Sold. If the balance were closed out every month or every quarter, this effect would be dissipated over the course of the year.

2.Should Terri Rosin go along with the general manager’s request to reduce the direct labor-hours in the predetermined overhead rate computation to 420,000 direct labor-hours?

This question may generate lively debate. Where should Terri Ronsin’s loyalties lie? Is she working for the general manager of the division or for the corporate controller? Is there anything wrong with the “Christmas bonus”? How far should Terri go in bucking her boss on a new job?

While individuals can certainly disagree about what Terri should do, some of the facts are indisputable. First, understating direct labor-hours artificially inflates the overhead rate. This has the effect of inflating the Cost of Goods Sold in all months prior to December and overstating the costs of inventories. In December, the huge adjustment for overapplied overhead provides a big boost to net operating income. Therefore, the practice results in distortions in the pattern of net operating income over the year. In addition, because all of the adjustment is taken to Cost of Goods Sold, inventories are still overstated at year-end. This means, of course, that the net operating income for the entire year is also...
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