A method of accounting for an investment, whereby the investment is recognised at cost. The investor recognises revenue from the investment only to the extent that the investor is entitled to receive distributions from accumulated surpluses of the investee arising after the date of acquisition. Entitlements due or received in excess of such surpluses are regarded as a recovery of investment, and are recognised as a reduction of the cost of the investment.
The cost method is used when making a passive, long-term investment that doesn’t result in influence over the company. The cost method should be used when the investment results in an ownership stake of less than 20%, but this isn’t a set-in-stone rule, as the influence is the more important factor.
Under the cost method, the stock purchased is recorded on a balance sheet as a non-current asset at the historical purchase price, and is not modified unless shares are sold, or additional shares are purchased. Any dividends received are recorded as income, and can be taxed as such (depending on local tax laws).
For example, if a company buys a 5% stake in another company for $1 million, that is how the shares are valued on the balance sheet of the buying company — regardless of the current price. If the investment pays $10,000 in quarterly dividends, that amount is added to the buying company’s income.