An indirect cost refers to a cost that is not easily or directly traceable to a specific product, service, or cost object. Unlike direct costs, indirect costs cannot be conveniently and accurately assigned to a particular item or activity. Instead, they are incurred for the benefit of multiple products, services, or the organization as a whole.
Indirect costs are sometimes referred to as overhead costs or indirect expenses. They represent the expenses that support the overall operations of a business but cannot be directly linked to specific units of production or services. Examples of indirect costs include rent, utilities, depreciation of equipment, salaries of support staff, maintenance and repairs, administrative expenses, and insurance.
Indirect costs are usually allocated to different cost objects, such as products, services, or departments, using allocation methods or cost drivers. This allocation is necessary to determine the total cost of a particular product or service, including both direct and indirect costs. Common methods for allocating indirect costs include using a predetermined overhead rate based on factors like machine hours, labor hours, or square footage.
Understanding and properly allocating indirect costs is crucial for managerial accounting and decision-making. By allocating indirect costs to products or services, managers can calculate the total cost, evaluate profitability, make pricing decisions, and assess the efficiency of different departments or cost centers. Additionally, indirect costs play a role in budgeting, cost control, and performance evaluation.