OVERHEAD: What Is It, Overhead Cost & How to Calculate It


The term “overhead costs” is commonly used to describe the various forms of hidden costs associated with operating a firm. These continuing costs help your firm run, but they are unrelated to the production of goods or services. Determine how much the company should charge for a service or product to turn a profit by calculating overhead costs. Assessing overhead costs is crucial for budgeting. This article explains overhead cost and examples of how to calculate the overhead cost with its formula.

What Is Overhead Cost?

The term “overhead” describes recurring business costs that aren’t directly connected to providing a good or service. It is crucial for budgeting as well as for figuring out how much a business must charge for its goods or services in order to turn a profit. In a nutshell, overhead is any cost incurred by a firm that isn’t directly tied to a given good or service but is nevertheless necessary to maintain the operation. Regardless of how many or few products it sells, a business must continually pay overhead. For instance, in addition to the direct costs of providing its service (such as personnel and supplies), a service-based business with an office must also pay overhead costs like rent, utilities, and insurance.

Overhead costs are listed on an income statement and have a direct impact on a company’s bottom line. To calculate net income, commonly known as the bottom line for the corporation, overhead costs must be taken into consideration. The company’s net revenue, often known as the top line, is used to compute net income by deducting all production-related and overhead costs.

Types of Overhead

Overhead costs can be constant, meaning they always cost the same amount, or variable, meaning they fluctuate based on the degree of activity in the company. Moreover, overhead costs may be semi-variable, which means that while some are always incurred by the organization, others are dependent on the volume of activity.

#1. Fixed Overhead

The overhead cost that doesn’t fluctuate with changes in business activity over a lengthy period of time is known as fixed overhead. Whether or not a business is expanding, fixed overhead stays the same. Examples include the cost of licenses, rent, depreciation, insurance payments, and salary for office staff.

#2. Variable Overhead

The expenses of variable overhead change in response to the activities of the firm. These are variable overhead expenses. Variable overhead increases along with the business activity. Variable overhead falls as business activity slows. Examples include office supplies, postage, marketing, the expense for attorneys, and maintenance.

#3. Semi-Variable Overhead

Fixed and variable overhead are combined to create semi-variable overhead, where some expenses are incurred regardless of business activity but may potentially rise when activity levels rise. Utility expenses and commissions are two instances of semi-variable overhead. In the case of utilities, a base fee is charged, and any additional fees are determined by usage.

Examples of Overhead Cost

The following are the examples;

#1. Utilities and Rent

One example of overhead is the expenses related to maintaining the factory or office premises that businesses need in order to operate. This covers utilities including water, gas, electricity, internet, and phone service in addition to rent. A company’s overhead must also account for other expenses like a subscription to online conference services like Zoom (ZM).

#2. Expenses of Administration

One of the most expensive elements of an organization’s overhead is frequently its administrative charges. This can involve paying for essential office supplies, the wages of staff members, and outside legal and audit expenses. From purchasing toilet paper for the office bathroom to employing an outside audit company to make sure the business complies with rules particular to its industry, administrative expenditures can be anything.

#3. Insurance

Businesses may need to hold a variety of insurance policies depending on the firm in order to function successfully. These may consist of fundamental property insurance to safeguard the business’s tangible assets from fire, water, and theft as well as professional liability insurance, employee health insurance, and auto insurance for any company-owned vehicles. Although none of these expenses directly contribute to the company’s ability to make money by offering goods or services, most businesses are required by law to obtain these numerous insurance policies in order to function in most countries.

#4. Employee Benefits

Company automobiles, free coffee and snacks, gym membership discounts, company getaways, and other perks are just some of the perks offered by many larger businesses to their employees. As they don’t directly affect the company’s products or services, all of these costs are regarded as overhead.

How to Control Overhead Costs

Since they can eat away at profits, management must constantly keep an eye on overhead expenditures. Overhead costs frequently receive less monitoring, which allows them to continue to exist even after they are no longer required. For instance, a company may have rented too much office space and should sublease it if business activity decreases. Alternatively, a business might purchase a pricey copier machine while having only sporadic photocopying needs. It is advised that overhead costs be reviewed every quarter to make sure they don’t spiral out of control.

Why It’s Important to Understand Your Overhead Costs

Understanding your overhead costs has advantages. Setting prices for goods and services that generate profits can be made easier if you are aware of your overhead expenses. You can predict the total amount of money needed for success by adding overhead costs to the entire cost of running your organization. By taking your gross profit and removing all expenses—including overhead costs—to arrive at your net profit, you may use your overhead costs as a reference. If expenses exceed income, the net profit will show whether or not your company is profitable.

You may lower your overhead expenditures by becoming aware of them. You can look for ways to cut costs by identifying the major expenses that accumulate over time and developing strategies that will lower your overhead costs and boost your net profit.

Overhead Cost Formula

Although there are other approaches to figuring out overhead expenses, the following overhead cost formula is straightforward to use:

Overhead cost = Allocation measure/ Indirect costs

The indirect expenditures known as “overhead expenses” are those that aren’t directly related to producing a good or providing a service.

How to Calculate the Overhead Cost

It will be advantageous to your business and assist you in determining the optimal pricing for your good or service if you maintain an organized and thorough record of your overhead expenses. You can identify areas for cost savings and strategies to streamline your business model by keeping accurate records.

These are six quick steps on how to calculate the overhead cost :

#1. Compile a List of Every Cost

Make an exhaustive inventory of your company’s expenses. Your list should be comprehensive and include items like office space rentals for your company, utilities, taxes, and building maintenance. These are illustrations of overhead expenses. It does not include other costs like inventory, supplies, or labor.

#2. Classify Every Spending

When things are well-organized, it’s much simpler to figure out what you’re spending on overhead. Sort the expenses you incurred for the products or services your company offers into the appropriate categories. Direct costs include things like the labor required to create a house and the materials used to build it. The direct costs are also associated with the time the house is being built.

You must use your judgment because some things can be difficult to categorize into one group or another. For instance, the majority of companies label legal expenses as overhead. The cost of the law firm’s and the lawyer’s services is a direct expense because it is associated with offering legal help, which is the law firm’s service.

Expenses are classified as either direct or overhead according to the standards of the given industry.

#3. Include the Overhead Expenses

For the purpose of calculating the annual total overhead expense, add the monthly overhead costs. The amount is often what you need to operate your firm.

#4. Determine the Overhead Percentage

The amount spent by your company producing a good or offering services to customers is known as the overhead rate or percentage. By dividing the direct costs by the indirect costs and multiplying the result by 100, one may determine the overhead rate.

If the company spends 40% of its income on producing a good or offering a service, then it has a 40% overhead rate. Your business may be more effective and lucrative the lower your overhead rate is.

#5. Examine Sales

Knowing the percentage of money set aside for overheads will also help you determine costs and create budgets. Divide the monthly overhead cost by the monthly sales, then multiply the result by 100 to determine the overhead costs relative to sales.

#6. Examine the Cost of Labor

Calculate the overhead cost as a percentage of labor cost to assess the effectiveness of a company’s resource allocation. A corporation uses its resources more effectively when the percentage is smaller.

Furthermore, to express it as a percentage, divide the monthly overhead costs by the monthly labor costs and multiply the result by 100.

How Important Are Overhead Costs?

In order to keep your firm afloat, you need to account for the overhead expense. It will be easier to guarantee your firm is successful and to achieve the best margins on your sales if you understand and manage your overhead well, especially in relation to your business output.

Do All Businesses Have the Same Overhead?

Every business has a different overhead. If you own a recording studio, for instance, you might classify rent as a direct expenditure because it helps you generate money. Yet, if you own an advertising company, you might classify rent as an overhead expense because the location of your office has no impact on your revenue.

However, speak to a knowledgeable accountant who is experienced in your sector if you’re unsure of how to classify an expense.

What Costs Are Overhead?

Costs associated with running a business that is not directly tied to the production of goods or services but is nevertheless necessary. Rent, utilities, insurance, legal fees, office supplies, advertising, payroll, and accounting fees are a few examples of overhead expenses.

Is Salary an Overhead Cost?

Since these expenses must be covered regardless of the company’s sales and earnings, they are regarded as overheads.

Why Is It Called Overhead?

The total non-labor expenditures incurred by a business, excluding those linked to production and distribution, are referred to as overhead. Payroll expenses lie under this heading and include salaries as well as liability and employee insurance. However, according to Entrepreneur, it can be classified as fixed or variable.

What Are Overhead and Indirect Costs?

The term “indirect costs” refers to charges that are usually referred to as “overhead costs,” such as rent and utility bills, as well as “general and administrative expenses,” which include costs such as officers’ salaries, expenses for the accounting department, and expenses for the personnel department.

What Is the Difference between Overhead and Expenses?

Expenses are important for your firm, however indirect costs are not, and this is the major distinction between them. While indirect costs are not necessary to maintain your business, they can still have an impact on your bottom line. Overhead costs are also necessary to keep your firm operating.

Final Thoughts

The term “overhead” describes a company’s operating expenses that aren’t directly connected to providing a product or service. These expenses might be either fixed, like rent, or variable, like transportation expenditures. Furthermore, they may be semi-variable, like utilities. Maintaining low expenses, setting competitive prices, and maximizing revenues are all possible with effective overhead management. Every estimation that is necessary for producing the good or service is an allocation measure. It could be the quantity of machine or direct labor hours for a given item or time period. The foundation of the overhead cost computation is based on a particular time frame.


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