Direct vs. Indirect Costs Demystified

Direct vs. Indirect Costs Demystified- Complete Controller.

Bookkeeping and accurate financial records are essential to running a business. The financial aspect of the business is vital because it affects payroll, taxes, and the success of the business.

Business owners should be current on business accounting practices per the International Accounting Standards (IAS). Whether you hire an accountant or bookkeeper or use accounting software to handle your business finances, every business owner should understand the books.

When it comes to expenses, there are two types of costs. There are direct costs and indirect costs. Understanding these types of expenses and how they affect your business’s financial records will be crucial to the success of your business. Complete Controller. America’s Bookkeeping Experts

Here are the differences between direct and indirect costs and how it affects your business.

Direct Cost

Direct costs are the expenses related to producing a product or service the business produces or provides. Some examples of direct costs would be labor costs, materials, and equipment related to producing products or providing a service.

For example, if you owned a furniture manufacturing company, the direct costs would be materials, labor, and other production costs. If you owned a carpet cleaning business, the direct costs would be the equipment used to perform the service, labor, and transportation.

There are multiple ways to determine direct costs. However, most businesses use the first-in, first-out (FIFO) method or the last-in, first-out (LIFO) method. The method used will be determined by how you use the direct costs.

Most businesses use the first-in, first-out (FIFO) method of calculating costs because, generally, companies do not hold onto old inventory. In the cases where there is old inventory to consider in the cost evaluation, last-in, first-out (LIFO) may be a better method of figuring costs. Either method will work. However, most find the FIFO method easier to understand.

Indirect Cost

Indirect costs are those that do not directly relate to the provision of a product or service. Examples of indirect costs include electricitybuilding leases and maintenancegas, and the upkeep of company vehicles. Indirect costs are easily recognized because they are every business expense that is not directly related to providing what the business sells.

Why Do You Need to Know the Difference?

Understanding direct and indirect costs can impact your accounting practices when producing financial records, payroll, and tax information. Accurately recording expenses in each category will help understand the business’s financial health. CorpNet. Start A New Business Now

Knowing the business finances will also help with business decisions regarding overhead, staffing, marketing, and pricing of products and services. It can also determine tax deductions, significantly impacting the business’s bottom line and saving it from being audited. Consider a few things when considering direct and indirect costs.

Activity Type

When it comes to expenses related to business activities, direct costs are related to production or providing the service. Indirect costs are related to business administration activities and management. You must be clear on the activity type to correctly categorize your financial statement line items. This categorization will be crucial when calculating taxes, reporting to shareholders, and keeping the business bookkeeping in order.


Direct costs are generally variable because changes in materials or equipment costs and other factors will cause these expenses to vary. Indirect costs are typically invariable, though they can vary with inflation or staff payroll changes. Download A Free Financial Toolkit

Tax Deductions

Direct costs are generally not tax-deductible, though some of the costs involved in the production or provision of a service can be deducted from business taxes. Indirect costs are typically tax-deductible, but this is not a given. 


In conclusion, maintaining accurate bookkeeping and financial records is indispensable for the successful operation of any business, as it profoundly influences payroll, tax obligations, and overall business prosperity. Adhering to International Accounting Standards (IAS) and comprehending business accounting practices is imperative for business owners, whether they employ an accountant, bookkeeper, or leverage accounting software. The distinction between direct and indirect costs plays a pivotal role in understanding and managing a business’s financial health. Direct costs of producing or providing goods and services include labor, materials, and equipment.

Recognizing these differences is crucial for accurate
financial reporting, payroll processing, and tax compliance. This knowledge informs business decisions regarding overhead, staffing, marketing, and pricing and influences tax deductions, potentially safeguarding the business from audits. Categorizing expenses based on activity type and understanding the variability of costs are essential considerations for precise financial statement reporting and tax calculations. In essence, a nuanced comprehension of direct and indirect costs empowers business owners to navigate their financial landscape strategically and ensure the long-term financial stability of their enterprises.

LastPass – Family or Org Password VaultAbout Complete Controller® – America’s Bookkeeping Experts Complete Controller is the Nation’s Leader in virtual bookkeeping, providing service to businesses and households alike. Utilizing Complete Controller’s technology, clients gain access to a cloud platform where their QuickBooks™️ file, critical financial documents, and back-office tools are hosted in an efficient SSO environment. Complete Controller’s team of certified US-based accounting professionals provide bookkeeping, record storage, performance reporting, and controller services including training, cash-flow management, budgeting and forecasting, process and controls advisement, and bill-pay. With flat-rate service plans, Complete Controller is the most cost-effective expert accounting solution for business, family-office, trusts, and households of any size or complexity.Cubicle to Cloud virtual business