Administrative overhead

Administrative overhead

Sep 10, 2020 Bookkeeping 101 by ann


Indirect costs do not vary substantially within certain production volumes or other indicators of activity, and so they may sometimes be considered to be fixed costs. These can include rent or mortgage payments, depreciation of assets, salaries and payroll, membership and subscription dues, legal fees and accounting costs. Fixed expense amounts stay the same regardless if a business earns more — or loses more — in revenue that month. Associated payroll costs, including outsourcing payroll services, are included in the fixed expense category.

What Is the Prime Cost Formula?

The complexity of production processes and products tended to be higher for those using ABC, and ABC companies operated at capacity more frequently. The ABC column represents overhead costs allocated using the activity-based costing shown back in Figure 3.5 “Allocation of Overhead Costs to Products at SailRite Company”. You can allocate overhead costs by any reasonable measure, as long as it is consistently applied across reporting periods. Common bases of allocation are direct labor hours charged against a product, or the amount of machine hours used during the production of a product. The amount of allocation charged per unit is known as the overhead rate.

Make a comprehensive list of indirect business expenses including items like rent, taxes, utilities, office equipment, factory maintenance etc. Direct expenses related to the production of goods and services, such as labor and raw materials, are not included in overhead costs.

To calculate the overhead costs of a business, add all the ongoing business expenses that keep your business running but do not contribute to the revenue generation process. These are indirect costs such as administrative expenses, selling and marketing costs and production expenses. Indirect costs are, but not necessarily, not directly attributable to a cost object. Indirect costs are typically allocated to a cost object on some basis.

This is the same cost figure used for the plantwide and department allocation methods we discussed earlier. Activity-based costing simply provides a more refined way to allocate the same overhead costs to products.

Overheads are the expenditure which cannot be conveniently traced to or identified with any particular cost unit, unlike operating expenses such as raw material and labor. Therefore, overheads cannot be immediately associated with the products or services being offered, thus do not directly generate profits.


Recall that fixed costs are costs that do not change in total with changes in activity. Assigning costs to activities takes time, as does identifying and tracking cost drivers. And assigning costs to products requires a significant amount of time in the accounting department. Imagine having 15 cost pools (activities), each with a predetermined overhead rate used to assign overhead costs to the company’s 80 products—not an unrealistic example for a large company. The accounting costs incurred to maintain such a system can be prohibitively high.

A survey of 130 U.S. manufacturing companies yielded some interesting results. The companies that used activity-based costing (ABC) had higher overhead costs as a percent of total product costs than companies that used traditional costing.

Overhead vs. Operating Expenses: What’s the Difference?

If SailRite produces 2,000 units of the Deluxe boat, will the unit cost remain at $5,030? A significant portion of overhead costs are fixed and will be spread out over more units, thereby reducing the cost per unit. The point here is that managers must beware of using per unit cost information blindly for decision making, particularly if a significant change in the level of production is anticipated. In business, overhead or overhead expense refers to an ongoing expense of operating a business.

Their precise benefits to a specific project are often difficult or impossible to trace. For example, it may be difficult to determine precisely how the activities of the director of an organization benefit a specific project.

  • If SailRite produces 2,000 units of the Deluxe boat, will the unit cost remain at $5,030?
  • Activity-based costing simply provides a more refined way to allocate the same overhead costs to products.
  • This is the same cost figure used for the plantwide and department allocation methods we discussed earlier.

Manufacturing overheads

In construction, all costs which are required for completion of the installation, but are not directly attributable to the cost object are indirect, such as overhead. In manufacturing, costs not directly assignable to the end product or process are indirect. These may be costs for management, insurance, taxes, or maintenance, for example. Indirect costs are those for activities or services that benefit more than one project.

The calculations can then be applied to determine the minimum price levels for products to ensure profitability. Variable overhead is a term used to describe the fluctuating manufacturing costs associated with operating businesses. As production output increases or decreases, variable overhead expenses move in kind. Variable overhead differs from the general overhead expenditures associated with administrative tasks and other functions that have fixed budgetary requirements. Administrative expenses are the expenses an organization incurs not directly tied to a specific function such as manufacturing, production, or sales.

Overheads are also very important cost element along with direct materials and direct labor. The management of Parker Company would like to use activity-based costing to allocate overhead rather than use one plantwide rate based on direct labor hours. The following estimates are for the activities and related cost drivers identified as having the greatest impact on overhead costs.

Labor costs, such as employee time, that are not chargeable to a direct manufacturing or production activity also fall under fixed expenses. A business’s overhead refers to all non-labor related expenses, which excludes costs associated with manufacture or delivery. Payroll costs — including salary, liability and employee insurance — fall into this category. Overhead expenses are categorized into fixed and variable, according to Entrepreneur.

What is overhead cost?

Overhead refers to the ongoing business expenses not directly attributed to creating a product or service. It is important for budgeting purposes but also for determining how much a company must charge for its products or services to make a profit.

These expenses are related to the organization as a whole as opposed to an individual department or business unit. Salaries of senior executives and costs associated with general services such as accounting and information technology (IT) are examples of administrative expenses. Product costing involves allocating costs from activity centers to products and calculating a product cost per unit.

This is done by dividing the estimated overhead costs (from step 2) by the estimated level of cost driver activity (from step 3). Figure 3.4 “Predetermined Overhead Rates for SailRite Company” provides the overhead rate calculations for SailRite Company based on the information shown in the previous three steps.

The overhead is attributed to a product or service on the basis of direct labor hours, machine hours, direct labor cost etc. The overhead absorption rate is calculated to include the overhead in the cost of production of goods and services. It’s used to define the amount to be debited for indirect labor, material and other indirect expenses for production to the work in progress.

It is important for a small business owner to know how to calculate and separate his overhead costs — especially if he’s looking for financing or creating a bid for partnership. Examples of direct costs are direct labor, direct materials, commissions, piece rate wages, and manufacturing supplies. Examples of indirect costs are production supervision salaries, quality control costs, insurance, and depreciation. Manufacturers must include variable overhead expenses to calculate the total cost of production at current levels, as well as the total overhead required to increase manufacturing output in the future.

How Do Operating Expenses Affect Profit?

However, overheads are still vital to business operations as they provide critical support for the business to carry out profit making activities. For example, overhead costs such as the rent for a factory allows workers to manufacture products which can then be sold for a profit.

This would also include truck, tool, and equipment expenses not billable to a job. Activity-based costing focuses on identifying the activities required to make products, on forming cost pools for each activity, and on allocating overhead costs to the products based on their use of each activity. ABC systems and traditional systems often result in vastly different product costs. We have discussed three different methods of allocating overhead to products—plantwide allocation, department allocation, and activity-based costing. Remember, total overhead costs will not change in the short run, but the way total overhead costs are allocated to products will change depending on the method used.