March 20, 2023

What Are Direct Costs? Definition, Examples, and Types


As the owner of a startup or small business, you should understand the distinction between direct and indirect costs when pricing your products or services. When you know the true costs involved with producing and providing your goods or services to customers, you can price both competitively and accurately. 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.

For purposes of either manually creating an income statement or assessing it, the concept of direct/indirect costs must be understood to allocate operating costs correctly. You had $4,000 in indirect costs and $16,000 in sales during the period. This means that you spend 25 cents on indirect costs for every dollar you earn. If your direct costs are also high, you won’t be turning much of a profit.

Top 20 Examples: What Are Examples of Direct and Indirect Costs?

Many indirect costs such as utilities do actually fluctuate somewhat relative to your sales volume. You’ll use more electricity or water if you manufacture more stock. However, the correlation between the wattage you use and the products you make is virtually impossible to untangle, unlike the correlation between material produced and shirts sewn. The rent you pay on your facility is an indirect cost because it does not fluctuate to your sales volume. Payroll for office staff that keeps track of payroll is an indirect cost, as well, because it goes into general operations, rather than specific items that you sell to generate revenue. Investing in safety programs will positively impact direct and indirect expenses and reduce workers’ compensation claims.


Understanding the distinction between direct costs and indirect costs is necessary to properly keep track of a company’s expenses, as well as for pricing products appropriately. The direct expenses required to manufacture a product or offer a service can be categorized as direct costs. The overhead expenses that aren’t directly related to the product being manufactured but remain necessary to keep the business running are categorized as indirect costs.

Direct Costs vs. Indirect Costs: What’s the Difference?

The materials and supplies needed for a company’s day-to-day operations – such as computers, electricity and rent – are examples of indirect costs. They record indirect costs in the operating expenses segment in an income statement. Direct costs are a cost that can be easily traced to a specific product or service while indirect costs cannot be easily traced. In cases of government grants or other forms of external funding, identifying direct and indirect costs becomes doubly important.

Direct costs are items that will appear on your University bills, such as tuition, fees, and room and board . Compensate a spouse and/or dependents of an employee who died directly from a work-related injury. Refer to any eligible medical expense required for treatment of an employee’s work-related injury. Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work.

Key Differences Between Direct Cost and Indirect Cost

These overhead costs are the ones left over after direct costs have been computed. If fuel is directly involved in the production, it is a direct cost. In contrast, you can place administrative costs in the direct costs category due to their contribution to the production process. An income statement record indicates the direct costs in the cost of goods sold section.

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For example, if electricity is The Difference Between Direct Costs And Indirect Costs to run the boiler which in turn generates steam, then electricity needs to be allocated directly. The same cost can be labeled as indirect in one industry and direct in another. For example, fuel cost in a telecom is usually allocated as an indirect cost, while for an airliner it is a direct cost. While all of the above costs are necessary for business operations, none of them can be directly tied to one specific product.

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