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Cost assignment definition

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What is Cost Assignment?

Cost assignment is the allocation of costs to the activities or objects that triggered the incurrence of the costs. The concept is heavily used in activity-based costing, where overhead costs are traced back to the actions causing the overhead to be incurred. The cost assignment is based on one or more cost drivers.

Example of a Cost Assignment

A university operates its own maintenance department; the cost of the department is assigned to the various other departments of the university based on their consumption of the department's maintenance services.

Terms Similar to Cost Assignment

Cost assignment is also known as cost allocation.

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Cost assignment definition

Examples of cost assignment in a sentence.

Cost assignment is the umbrella term designating either tracing or allocating.

Cangialosi, D.; Wu€bbenhorst, M.; Groenewold, J.; Mendes, E.; Schut, H.; van Veen, A.; Picken, S.

This reconciliation will be made in accordance with the following schedule and ACOM Policy 303: Percent over/under assumed percentage:Amount to be recouped/reimbursed:0 – 1%0% of capitation over/underpayment>1%50% of capitation over/underpayment Share of Cost Reconciliation: After the end of the contract year, AHCCCS will compare actual Share of Cost assignment to the Share of Cost assignment assumed in the calculation of the capitation rate.

Cost Assignment ‌ Cost assignment is a process that identifies costs with activities, outputs, or other cost objects.

Allocate Activity Costs to Cost Drivers Transaction VolumeRelative Value Cost assignment is the method of relating accumulated costs to an activity.

Cost assignment approaches link expenses from a financial accounting perspective using the USSGL, as further defined in the Office of the Deputy Chief Financial Officer Standard Financial Information Structure (SFIS) to outputs of an organization (see paragraph 190503).

Cost assignment (e.g., to third party): Rate design: Utility incentives (e.g., ROE, rewards, penalties): Performance targets or metrics: Rate setting (general rates): Included in base rates in a general rate proceeding.

Cost assignment The profiler uses a standard sliding window technique to assign a time cost to each sample based on the elapsed time between the sample, its predecessor and its successor.

Cost assignment is the process that identifies the accumulated costs to cost objects (an activity or item whose cost is measured).

Cost assignment is a general term that encompasses both (1) tracing accumulated costs to a cost object, and (2) allocating accumulated costs to a cost object.

Related to Cost assignment

First Assignment means: the relevant Assignment; or if, prior to the relevant Assignment: the Agency Worker has worked in any assignment in the same role with the relevant Hirer as the role in which the Agency Worker works in the relevant Assignment; and the relevant Qualifying Period commenced in any such assignment, that assignment (an assignment being (for the purpose of this defined term) a period of time during which the Agency Worker is supplied by one or more Temporary Work Agencies to the relevant Hirer to work temporarily for and under the supervision and direction of the relevant Hirer);

Patent Assignment Agreement has the meaning set forth in Section 2.4(b)(iii).

Patent Assignment each patent collateral assignment agreement pursuant to which an Obligor assigns to Agent, for the benefit of Secured Parties, such Obligor’s interests in its patents, as security for the Obligations.

Contract Assignment means, with respect to the Mortgaged Property, the Assignment of Contracts, Licenses, Permits, Agreements, Warranties and Approvals, dated as of the Closing Date and executed by the Borrower.

IP Assignment Agreement means the Intellectual Property Assignment agreement set forth as Exhibit D hereto.

Master Agreement Assignment means the assignment of the Master Agreement executed or to be executed by the Borrower, in such form as the Lender may approve or require;

IP Assignment a collateral assignment or security agreement pursuant to which an Obligor grants a Lien on its Intellectual Property to Agent, as security for its Obligations. IRS: the United States Internal Revenue Service.

Assignment and Conveyance Agreement As defined in Subsection 6.01.

Purchase Agreement Assignment means the Purchase Agreement Assignment (US Airways, Inc. Trust No. N___U_), dated as of the date of the Lease, between Lessee and Lessor, as the same may be amended, supplemented or modified from time to time, with a form of Consent and Agreement to be executed by the Seller attached thereto.

Assignment / job means the work to be performed by the Consultant pursuant to the Contract.

Assignment Agreements The following Assignment, Assumption and Recognition Agreements, each dated as of March 29, 2006, whereby certain Servicing Agreements solely with respect to the related Mortgage Loans were assigned to the Depositor for the benefit of the Certificateholders:

Qualified assignment agreement means an agreement providing for a qualified assignment within the meaning of section 130 of the United States Internal Revenue Code, United States Code Title 26, as amended from time to time;

Long Term Supply Assignment means, in relation to an employee,

Lease Assignment has the meaning set forth in Section 3.6(d).

Collateral Assignment Agreement has the meaning set forth in Section 10.05.

Trademark Assignment Agreement has the meaning set forth in Section 2.5(b).

Direct Assignment Facilities means facilities or portions of facilities that are constructed for the sole use/benefit of a particular Transmission Customer requesting service under the Tariff. Direct Assignment Facilities shall be specified in the Service Agreement that governs service to the Transmission Customer and shall be subject to Commission approval.

Assignment and Acceptance Agreement means an Assignment and Acceptance Agreement among a Lender, an Assignee and the Agent, substantially in the form of Exhibit A.

Intellectual Property Assignment Agreement has the meaning set forth in Section 7.2(c)(viii).

Addendum and Assignment Agreement The Addendum and Assignment Agreement, dated as of January 31, 1995, between MLCC and the Master Servicer.

General Assignment means, in respect of each Vessel, the deed of assignment of its earnings, insurances and requisition compensation executed or to be executed by the relevant Owner in favour of the Security Trustee in such form as the Agent and the Majority Lenders may require in their sole discretion and in the plural means both of them;

term assignment means, in relation to an employee, i. a term assignment within the meaning of the local collective agreement, or ii. where no such definition exists, a term assignment will be defined as twelve (12) days of continuous employment in one assignment

Assumption Agreement has the meaning specified in Section 2.18(d)(ii).

Mortgage Assignment means an assignment of the Mortgage in recordable form, sufficient under the laws of the jurisdiction wherein the related Mortgaged Property is located to reflect the sale of the Mortgage.

Assignment and Conveyance An assignment and conveyance of the Mortgage Loans purchased on a Closing Date in the form annexed hereto as Exhibit 4.

prospective assignment means an assignment that is intended to be made in the future, upon the occurrence of a stated event, whether or not the occurrence of the event is certain;

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The procedures by which direct or indirect costs are charged to or made the responsibility of particular cost centres, and ultimately charged to the products manufactured or services provided by the organization. Procedures used to achieve cost attribution include absorption costing, activity-based costing, marginal costing, and process costing. See also cost allocation; cost tracing.

From:   cost assignment   in  A Dictionary of Accounting »

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COST ASSIGNMENT involves assigning costs of an account to the accounts that are responsible or accountable for incurring the cost. For example, the cost of issuing purchase orders is allocated to the various objects procured. The cost assignment is done through assignment paths and cost drivers. The assignment path identifies the source account (the account whose cost is being assigned "Issue Purchase Orders" in the above example) and destination accounts (the accounts to which the costs are being allocated the various cost objects procured by issuing purchase orders in the above example). The cost driver identifies the measure or rationale on the basis of which the assignment needs to be done, that is, whether the costs of issuing purchase orders need to be assigned to various cost objects evenly, based on some defined percentage values, or based on some criterion, like the number of purchase orders of each cost object issued. Defining the cost drivers and assignment paths (i.e., source and destination accounts) enable proper assignment and accounting of the various costs incurred in the organization.

Learn new Accounting Terms

RECEIVERSHIP is equitable remedy whereby a court orders property placed under the control of a RECEIVER so that it may be preserved for the benefit of affected parties. A failing company may be placed in receivership in an action brought by its creditors. The business is often continued but is subject to the receivers control. See also BANKRUPTCY .

FISCAL QUARTER is any of the four financial accounting quarters within a fiscal year. See FISCAL YEAR .

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cost assignment definition

What Is Cost Allocation?

Dachondra Cason

Cost allocation is a process businesses use to identify costs. Here's everything you need to know.

For your business to make money, you must charge prices that not only cover your expenses, but also provide a profit. Cost allocation is the process of identifying and assigning costs to the cost objects in your business, such as products, a project, or even an entire department or individual company branch.

While a detailed cost allocation report may not be vital for extremely small businesses, such as a teen’s lawn service, more complex businesses require the process of cost allocation to ensure profitability and productivity.

In short, if you can assign a cost to any part of your business, it’s considered a cost object.

What is cost allocation?

Cost allocation is the method business owners use to calculate profitability for the purpose of financial reporting . To ensure the business’s finances are on track, costs are separated, or allocated, into different categories based on the area of the business they impact.

For instance, cost allocation for a small clothing boutique would include the costs of materials, shipping and marketing. Calculating these costs consistently would help the store owner ensure that profits from sales are higher than the costs of owning and running the store. If not, the owner could easily pinpoint where to raise prices or cut expenses .

For a larger company, this process would be applied to each department or individual location. Many companies use cost allocation to determine which areas receive bonuses annually.

Regardless of your business size, you’ll want to review and choose the best accounting software to help this process run as smoothly as possible.

Types of costs

In the boutique example above, the process of cost allocation is pretty simple. For larger businesses, however, many more costs are involved. These costs break down into seven categories.

Example of cost allocation

To better explain the process of cost allocation and why it’s necessary for businesses, let’s look at an example.

Dave owns a business that manufactures eyeglasses. In January, Dave’s overhead costs totaled $5,000. In the same month, he produced 3,000 eyeglasses with $2 in direct labor per product. Direct materials for each pair of eyeglasses totaled $5.

Here’s what cost allocation would look like for Dave:

Overhead: $5,000 ÷ $3,000 = $1.66 per pair

Direct costs:

As you can see, without cost allocation, Dave would not have made a profit from his sales. Larger companies would apply this same process to each department and product to ensure sufficient sales goals. [Read related article: How to Set Achievable Business Goals ]

How to allocate costs

Cost objects vary by business type. The cost allocation process, however, consists of the same steps regardless of what your company produces.

1. Identify cost objects.

To begin allocating costs, you’ll need to list the cost objects of your business. Remember that anything within your business that generates an expense is a cost object. Review each product line, project and department to ensure you’ve gathered all cost objects.

2. Create a cost pool.

Next, gather a detailed list of all business costs. It’s a good idea to categorize the costs based on the reason for each amount. Categories should cover utilities, insurance , square footage and any other expenses your business incurs.

3. Allocate costs.

Now that you’ve listed cost objects and created a cost pool, you’re ready to allocate costs. As demonstrated in the example above, add up the costs of each cost object. At a glance, your report should justify all expenses related to your business. If costs don’t add up correctly, use the list to determine where you can make adjustments to get back on track.

What is cost allocation used for?

Cost allocation is used for many reasons, both externally and internally. Reports created by this process are great resources for making business decisions , monitoring productivity and justifying expenses.

External reports are usually calculated based on generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) . Under GAAP, expenses can only be reported in financial statements during the time period the associated revenue is earned. For this reason, overhead costs are divided and allocated to individual inventory items. When the inventory is sold, the overhead is expensed as a portion of the cost of goods sold (COGS) .

Internal financial data, on the other hand, is usually reported using activity-based costing (ABC). This method assigns all products to the overhead expenses they caused. This process may not include all overhead costs related to operations and manufacturing.

Cost allocation reports show which cost objects incur the most expenses for your business and which products or departments are most profitable. These findings can be a great resource to pair with employee monitoring software when evaluating productivity. If you determine that a cost object is not as profitable as it should be, you should do further evaluations on productivity. If another cost object is found to exceed expectations, you can use the report to find staff members who deserve recognition for their contributions to the company.

Recognition is one of the best ways to keep employees motivated .

What is a cost driver?

A cost driver is a variable that can change the costs related to a business activity. The number of invoices issued, the number of employee hours worked, and the total of purchase orders are all examples of cost drivers in cost accounting .

While cost objects are related to the specific process or product incurring the costs, a cost driver sheds light on the reason for the incurred cost amounts. These items can take different forms – including fixed costs, such as the initial fees during the startup phase . Cost drivers give a bird’s-eye view of the entire company and how each department operates.

It’s common for only one cost driver to be used with very small businesses , since they are focused on using minimal reporting to estimate overhead costs.

Benefits of cost allocation

Even if you operate a very small business, it’s a great idea to learn the process of cost allocation, especially if you anticipate expansion in the future. Since the method can be complex, it’s ideal to use accounting software as an aid. Whether you choose to start allocating costs on your own with software or hire a professional accountant , it’s a process no business owner can afford to overlook.

cost assignment definition

Cost Allocation

The process of identifying, accumulating, and assigning costs to costs objects

What is Cost Allocation?

Cost allocation is the process of identifying, accumulating, and assigning costs to costs objects such as departments, products, programs, or a branch of a company. It involves identifying the cost objects in a company, identifying the costs incurred by the cost objects, and then assigning the costs to the cost objects based on specific criteria.

Cost Allocation

When costs are allocated in the right way, the business is able to trace the specific cost objects that are making profits or losses for the company. If costs are allocated to the wrong cost objects, the company may be assigning resources to cost objects that do not yield as much profits as expected.

Types of Costs

There are several types of costs that an organization must define before allocating costs to their specific cost objects. These costs include:

1. Direct costs

Direct costs are costs that can be attributed to a specific product or service, and they do not need to be allocated to the specific cost object. It is because the organization knows what expenses go to the specific departments that generate profits and the costs incurred in producing specific products or services . For example, the salaries paid to factory workers assigned to a specific division is known and does not need to be allocated again to that division.

2. Indirect costs

Indirect costs are costs that are not directly related to a specific cost object like a function, product, or department. They are costs that are needed for the sake of the company’s operations and health. Some common examples of indirect costs include security costs, administration costs, etc. The costs are first identified, pooled, and then allocated to specific cost objects within the organization.

Indirect costs can be divided into fixed and variable costs. Fixed costs are costs that are fixed for a specific product or department. An example of a fixed cost is the remuneration of a project supervisor assigned to a specific division. The other category of indirect cost is variable costs, which vary with the level of output. Indirect costs increase or decrease with changes in the level of output.

3. Overhead costs

Overhead costs are indirect costs that are not part of manufacturing costs. They are not related to the labor or material costs that are incurred in the production of goods or services. They support the production or selling processes of the goods or services. Overhead costs are charged to the expense account, and they must be continually paid regardless of whether the company is selling goods or not.

Some common examples of overhead costs are rental expenses, utilities, insurance, postage and printing, administrative and legal expenses , and research and development costs.

Cost Allocation Mechanism

The following are the main steps involved when allocating costs to cost objects:

1. Identify cost objects

The first step when allocating costs is to identify the cost objects for which the organization needs to separately estimate the associated cost. Identifying specific cost objects is important because they are the drivers of the business, and decisions are made with them in mind.

The cost object can be a brand , project, product line, division/department, or a branch of the company. The company should also determine the cost allocation base, which is the basis that it uses to allocate the costs to cost objects.

2. Accumulate costs into a cost pool

After identifying the cost objects, the next step is to accumulate the costs into a cost pool, pending allocation to the cost objects. When accumulating costs, you can create several categories where the costs will be pooled based on the cost allocation base used. Some examples of cost pools include electricity usage, water usage, square footage, insurance, rent expenses , fuel consumption, and motor vehicle maintenance.

What is a Cost Driver?

A cost driver causes a change in the cost associated with an activity. Some examples of cost drivers include the number of machine-hours, the number of direct labor hours worked, the number of payments processed, the number of purchase orders, and the number of invoices sent to customers.

Benefits of Cost Allocation

The following are some of the reasons why cost allocation is important to an organization:

1. Assists in the decision-making process

Cost allocation provides the management with important data about cost utilization that they can use in making decisions. It shows the cost objects that take up most of the costs and helps determine if the departments or products are profitable enough to justify the costs allocated. For unprofitable cost objects, the company’s management can cut the costs allocated and divert the money to other more profitable cost objects.

2. Helps evaluate and motivate staff

Cost allocation helps determine if specific departments are profitable or not. If the cost object is not profitable, the company can evaluate the performance of the staff members to determine if a decline in productivity is the cause of the non-profitability of the cost objects.

On the other hand, if the company recognizes and rewards a specific department for achieving the highest profitability in the company, the employees assigned to that department will be motivated to work hard and continue with their good performance.

Additional Resources

Thank you for reading CFI’s guide to Cost Allocation. In order to help you become a world-class financial analyst and advance your career to your fullest potential, these additional resources will be very helpful:

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Cost Allocation – Meaning, Importance, Process and More

Cost Allocation or cost assignment is the process of identifying and assigning costs to the various cost objects. These cost objects could be those for which the company needs to find out the cost separately. A few examples of cost objects can be a product, customer, project, department, and so on.

The need for cost allocation arises because some costs are not directly attributable to the particular cost object. In other words, these costs are incurred for various objects, and then the sum is split and allocated to multiple cost objects. These costs are generally indirect. Since these costs are not directly traceable, an accountant uses their due diligence to allocate these costs in the best possible way. It results in an allocation that could be partially arbitrary, and thus, many refer cost allocation exercise as the spreading  of a cost.

Examples of Cost Allocation

Cost Allocation Method

Define costs, identify cost objects, basis of allocation, accumulate costs into cost pool.

For example, a company’s CEO uses his car for personal and official purposes. So, if the CEO decides to allocate costs, then they will divide the cost (fuel, maintenance, etc.) for business and personal use based on usage.

The following examples will help us understand the cost allocation concept better:

Cost Allocation – Importance

The following points reflect the importance of allocating costs:

Cost Allocation

As such, there is no specific method to allocate costs. So, an accountant needs to use his or her due diligence to assign a cost to the cost object. Of course, they are considering the practice adopted in a similar industry. For instance, the accountant may decide to allocate expenses based on headcount, area, weightage, and so on.

Also Read: Cost Object – Meaning, Advantages, Types and More

Irrespective of the method an accountant uses, their objective should be to allocate the cost as fairly as possible. Or to allocate cost in a way that is in line with the nature of the cost object. Or to lower the arbitrariness in awarding costs.

Several efforts are underway to better cost allocation techniques. For instance, the overhead allocation for manufacturers, which was on plant-wide rates, is now based on departmental standards. Also, accountants use machine hours instead of direct labor hours for allocation.

Moreover, some accountants are also implementing activity-based costing to better the allocation. So, there can be several ways to allocate costs. But, whatever form the company selects, it is essential to document the reasons backing that method, and that need to be followed consistently for several periods.

A company can ensure documentation by developing allocation formulas or tables. Moreover, if a company wants, it can also pass supporting journal entries to transfer costs to the cost objects or do it via the chargeback module in the ERP system.

Also Read: Cost Hierarchy – Meaning, Levels and Example

Nowadays, cost allocation systems are available to assist in cost allocation. Such systems track the entity that produces the goods or services and the body that consumes those goods or services. The system also identifies the basis to distribute the cost.

The process to Allocate cost

As said above, there are no specific methods for allocating costs. Similarly, there is no particular process for it, as well. However, the process we are detailing is one of the most popular, and many companies use it for allocating costs. Following is the process:

Before allocating the cost, a company must define the various types of costs. Generally, there are three types of costs – direct, indirect, and overhead. Direct costs are those that one can easily attribute to a product or service, such as wages to factory workers or raw material for the specific product.

Indirect costs are ones that a company needs to incur for its operations, such as administration costs. Primarily, these are the costs that a company needs to allocate as it is difficult to attribute them directly to a product or service or any other cost object.

Another type of cost is an overhead cost , which is also an indirect cost. These costs are incurred for the production and selling of goods or services. Such costs do not vary based on production or sales. A company needs to pay them even if it is not producing or selling anything. Research and development costs, rent, etc., are good examples of such a cost.

The company or the accountant must know the cost objects for which they need to allocate the cost. It is crucial as we can’t assign costs to something on which we have no information. A cost object could be the product, customer, region, department, etc.

Along with the cost object , the company must also determine the basis on which it would allocate the cost. This basis could be the number of hours, area, headcount, and more. For example, if headcount is the basis of allocation for insurance costs and a company has 500 employees, then the department with 100 employees will account for 20% of the insurance cost. Experts recommend choosing a cost allocation base that is a crucial cost driver as well.

A cost driver is a variable whose increase or decrease leads to an increase or decrease in the cost as well. For instance, the number of purchase orders could be a cost driver for the cost of the purchasing department.

An accountant may create many categories to pool costs, which are to be allocated subsequently. It is the account head where the costs should be accumulated before assigning them to the cost objects. Cost pools can be insurance, fuel consumption, electricity, rent, depreciation, etc. The selection of the cost pool primarily depends on the use of the cost allocation base.

Continue reading – Costing Terms .


Sanjay Borad

Sanjay Bulaki Borad

Sanjay Borad is the founder & CEO of eFinanceManagement. He is passionate about keeping and making things simple and easy. Running this blog since 2009 and trying to explain "Financial Management Concepts in Layman's Terms".

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  1. Cost assignment definition

    Cost assignment is the allocation of costs to the activities or objects that triggered the incurrence of the costs. The concept is heavily

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    Cost assignment means a cost that is specifically identified with a particular activity or jurisdiction and charged directly to that activity or

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    The procedures by which direct or indirect costs are charged to or made the responsibility of particular cost centres, and ultimately charged to the


    COST ASSIGNMENT involves assigning costs of an account to the accounts that are responsible or accountable for incurring the cost. For example, the cost of

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