indirect cost meaning

However, it is important to note that what is considered a reasonable indirect cost rate may vary based on the specific circumstances of a project. It is also possible that one type of cost within the same organization may be considered as a direct cost for one product while at the same time may be considered an indirect cost for another department or product. Below is an example of how indirect costs appear on a manufacturing indirect cost meaning company’s income statement. Generally referred to as overhead, indirect costs cannot be traced directly to a cost object. The tire manufacturer can’t trace the electric bill back to a specific cost object or product because the electricity is used to make all the products produced by the manufacturer. Managerial accountants look at cost objects in order to understand the over cost of manufacturing a product.

But, the money you pay towards rent does not go towards producing a specific product. Instead, rent payments make it possible to produce all your products and run your business. Yes, but only if these depreciation expenses are related to assets used by indirect-related personnel (i.e., accounting, human resources, etc.) and are purchased with non-federal dollars. Depreciation related to assets used by direct personnel should be direct-charged. Fixed cost classification is the simplest way to assign a cost object. Finally, we show the entire independent research & development (IR&D) budget to be unallowable.

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Because these activities are easily traced to projects, their costs are usually charged to projects on an item-by-item basis. A Provisional rate is a temporary indirect cost rate that is applied to a limited time period that is used until a «final» rate is established for that same period. Provisional rates can be used for funding, interim reimbursement, and reporting of indirect costs on federal awards. They must be finalized by submitting an “Indirect Cost Rate Proposal for a Final Rate” once the actual costs for the specified time period are known and can be verified through audited financial statements. In theory, costs like heat, light, accounting and personnel might be charged directly if little meters could record minutes in a cross-cutting manner.

For example, if electricity is required to run the boiler which in turn generates steam, then electricity needs to be allocated directly. These expenses are shared across multiple projects or activities and are not directly traceable to a specific cost object or activity. Knowing how to reduce expenses in business is essential if you need to increase your profits.


Indirect costs are fixed expenses a business incurs to keep the company running no matter the activity level. These costs, often known as overhead, include administrative, full-time staffing, property, plant, and equipment (PP&E), and utility-related expenses. Another reason to use the indirect cost rate formula is so you can decide whether your expenses are too much.

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Do the best you can—you can always amend as you learn more about your costs, especially if you are just a startup company now. Please note that we are listing every expense and not yet thinking in terms of direct and indirect costs. As we describe the types of indirect costs above, they are commonly general administrative expenses. Therefore, the double entries of indirect costs or indirect expenses in the income statement are the same as other expenses. It is possible to justify the handling of almost any kind of cost as either direct or indirect.

Costs either charged directly or allocated indirectly

Predetermined rates may be used with cooperative agreements and grants only. They may not be used for federal contracts due to legal constraints. Predetermined indirect cost rates may be negotiated for periods of up to 2 to 4 years. The first thing you need to do is list ALL of your annual company costs. You can start with the profit/loss or income statement in your accounting system, or your annual budget, or just your best guess of the categories in which you might incur costs during the coming year.

indirect cost meaning

If you want to determine the portion of your indirect costs that go towards producing certain items, you must distribute the costs. Often, such as when applying for funding under a grant, indirect costs are specified as a fixed percentage, this percentage having been negotiated in advance. This is the case, for example, in federally-funded research in the United States.

Should fringe benefits be allocated between direct and indirect costs?

Additionally, certain costs are tax-deductible, so properly tracking both direct and indirect costs can help you maximize deductions. Finally, if you ever apply for and receive a grant, there are several rules around the types of indirect costs and the maximum amount you can claim. Indirect costs are usually allocated to cost objects based on a pro rata basis. For instance, factory overhead can be allocated to each product produced by the total number of products or based on the total number of hours it took to manufacture each product.

Indirect costs are costs used by multiple activities, and which cannot therefore be assigned to specific cost objects. Examples of cost objects are products, services, geographical regions, distribution channels, and customers. Instead, indirect costs are needed to operate the business as a whole. It is useful to identify indirect costs, so that they can be excluded from short-term pricing decisions where management wants to set prices just above the variable costs of products. Indirect costs do not vary substantially within certain production volumes or other indicators of activities, and so are considered to be fixed costs.

How indirect costs appear on an income statement

For example, to create a product, an appliance-maker requires steel, electronic components and other raw materials. Two popular ways of tracking these costs, depending on when your company uses materials in production, are first-in, first-out and last-in, first-out, also known as FIFO and LIFO. LIFO can be helpful if the costs of your materials fluctuate in the course of production. There are other categories, that have to be allocated between direct and indirect. Next estimate your upcoming annual costs in each of the categories you listed.

These overhead costs are the ones left over after direct costs have been computed. For example, if an employee is hired to work on a project, either exclusively or for an assigned number of hours, their labor on that project is a direct cost. If your company develops software and needs specific assets, such as purchased frameworks or development applications, those are direct costs. You can reduce other indirect costs, like advertising, by engaging customers through social media or using other inexpensive marketing ideas. You want your offerings to generate enough money to cover your expenses.

The prices your competitors charge must also factor in when you develop your pricing strategy so you aren’t under- or overcharging customers. Hiscock also recommended adding a “buffer” of 10% to 15% in case something goes wrong. “This will ensure you are protecting yourself and making a profit off of every single job that you do,” he told The Balance by email.

indirect cost meaning

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