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Overhead Rate

Step-by-Step Guide to Understanding Overhead Rate

Last Updated August 30, 2023

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Overhead Rate

How to Calculate Overhead Rate?

Overhead costs represent the indirect expenses incurred by a company amidst its day-to-day operations.

Overhead costs are recurring cash outflows required for a company to remain open and “keep the lights on.” However, overhead costs are not directly tied to revenue generation, i.e. indirect costs.

In spite of not being attributable to a specific revenue-generating component of a company’s business model, overhead costs are still necessary to support core operations.

Companies with fewer overhead costs are more likely to be more profitable – all else being equal.

Calculating the overhead rate begins with determining which expenses of the company can be classified as overhead costs. Once the specific costs have been identified, the sum of all the costs is divided by revenue in the corresponding period.

What are Examples of Overhead Costs?

The list below includes common examples of overhead costs:

  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Repair / Maintenance
  • Insurance
  • Property Taxes
  • General and Administrative Costs (G&A)
  • Office Supplies
  • Marketing
  • Advertising
  • Telephone Bills and Travel
  • 3rd Party Fees (e.g. Accounting, Legal)

Overhead Rate Formula

The formula for calculating the overhead rate is as follows.

Overhead Rate (%) = Overhead Costs ÷ Revenue

The first input, overhead costs, can be determined using the following formula.

Overhead Costs = Indirect Materials + Indirect Labor + Indirect Expenses
  • Indirect Materials → The material costs that cannot be categorized as direct material costs, e.g. cleaning supplies, glue, shipping tape.
  • Indirect Labor → The cost of labor for employees not directly involved with core production of revenue, e.g. janitor, security guards.
  • Indirect Expenses → Any operating expense that does not qualify as a direct cost, e.g. utilities, rent, transportation.

Effectively, the metric allocates a company’s overhead costs across its revenue to arrive at a per-unit percentage.

However, please note that the overhead rate we’ve explained thus far uses revenue as the allocation measure, but there are other variations that compare overhead costs to metrics such as:

  • Direct Costs
  • Machine Hours
  • Labor Hours

Overhead Rate Calculator

We’ll now move to a modeling exercise, which you can access by filling out the form below.

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Overhead Rate Calculation Example

Suppose a manufacturing company is trying to determine its overhead rate for the past month.

In our hypothetical scenario, we’ll assume the manufacturer brought in $200k in total monthly sales (Month 1).

  • Monthly Sales = $200,000

The company has also determined the month’s overhead costs as the following:

  • Rental Cost = $10,000
  • Indirect Employee Salaries = $16,000
  • Marketing and Advertising = $8,000
  • Insurance and Property Taxes = $2,000
  • Repair and Maintenance = $2,000
  • Office Supplies and Utilities = $2,000

If we add all of our company’s overhead costs from above, we arrive at a total of $40k in overhead costs.

  • Overhead Costs = $40,000

We must now take the $40k in overhead costs and divide it by the $200k in monthly revenue assumption.

The resulting figure, 20%, represents our company’s overhead rate, i.e. twenty cents is allocated to overhead costs per each dollar of revenue generated by our manufacturing company.

  • Overhead Rate = $40k ÷ $200k = 0.20, or 20%

Overhead Rate Calculator

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