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Overhead Ratio


The overhead ratio is a financial metric that helps assess the overall operational efficiency of a company. It is calculated by dividing a company’s operating expenses (excluding cost of goods sold) by its net sales. The ratio provides insight into how much a company spends on fixed costs (like rent, utilities, and salaries) relative to every dollar generated through sales.


The phonetics of the keyword “Overhead Ratio” is: /ˈoʊvərˌhed ‘reɪʃiˌoʊ/.

Key Takeaways

Here are three main takeaways about Overhead Ratio:

  1. Overhead Ratio, often referred to as the Overhead Rate, is a financial metric which evaluates the efficiency of a business. It examines the proportion of revenue used to cover the overhead or indirect costs of a business, including rent, utilities and salaries of non-production staff.

  2. A lower Overhead Ratio is typically seen as beneficial, signifying that a higher percentage of revenues can be directed towards profit-generating activities. However, some level of overhead is necessary for businesses to function, and too low of a ratio might indicate underinvestment in necessary functions like staff or equipment.

  3. The Overhead Ratio can vary significantly by industry and business model. Businesses that require extensive physical infrastructure, such as manufacturing or retail companies, often have higher overhead ratios than service-based businesses or digital companies.


The Overhead Ratio is a significant financial metric for businesses as it provides an understanding of how efficiently a business is operating. It calculates the proportion of a company’s revenue used to cover its operating expenses, excluding direct production costs. High overhead ratios indicate that a large portion of the revenue is being consumed by non-production costs, which might suggest inefficiency. On the other hand, a low ratio can exhibit greater operational efficiency as it suggests the company is spending less to maintain its operations relative to its income. Understanding the overhead ratio helps businesses identify and control excessive spending, improving profitability and competitiveness in the marketplace.


The Overhead Ratio is an important analytical tool used fundamentally in the business and finance sector to assess and track the operational efficiency of an organization. This financial metric provides an insight into how much a company incurs in overhead costs relative to its income generation. More specifically, it measures the proportion of a firm’s revenue that’s dedicated to covering the overhead expenses – including indirect costs such as administrative expenses, office rent, utilities, legal fees, etc.Understanding the overhead ratio is crucial, as it gives the management, investors, and stakeholders valuable insight into how efficiently the business is run since a high ratio could signify inefficiency in managing resources. It allows for the comparison of costs across similar businesses in the same industry and aids in identifying areas of excessive spending. Additionally, it helps in benchmarking and understanding the trends, enabling firms to plan their future operations better to maximize profitability. Therefore, the overhead ratio plays a pivotal role in fostering informed decision-making to sustain the financial health of a business.


1. Small Retail Store: Suppose a small retail store has total expenses of $200,000 a year, out of which $50,000 goes to overhead costs such as rent, utilities, and office supplies. This gives an overhead ratio of 50,000/200,000 or 25%. This means that for every dollar that the store earns, 25 cents goes to covering overhead costs. 2. Restaurant: Let’s use the case of a restaurant that has total expenses of $500,000 a year. Out of the total costs, $300,000 are considered overheads which is a grouping of costs like its lease payments, depreciation on kitchen equipment, permit fees, utilities, and salaries of non-cooking staff. Divide the overhead costs ($300,000) by the total expenses ($500,000) and you get an overhead ratio of 60%. Thus, the business spends 60 cents to cover overhead expenses for every dollar it spends.3. IT Services Company: An IT services company incurs total expenses of $2 million annually. Out of this, $800,000 constitute overheads such as office rent, utilities, salaries of non-technical staff (HR, finance, administration), office supplies, and business insurance. Therefore, its overhead ratio is calculated as $800,000 divided by $2 million, which gives a ratio of 40%. This means the company spends 40% of every dollar it makes to cover overhead costs.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Overhead Ratio?

Overhead Ratio refers to a financial metric that is used to measure the operational efficiency of a company. It compares operating expenses (overhead) to operating income or revenues.

How is Overhead Ratio calculated?

The Overhead Ratio is calculated by dividing the operating expenses of a company by its operating income. The resulting figure is then multiplied by 100 to get a percentage.

What does a high Overhead Ratio indicate?

A high Overhead Ratio typically implies that the company has high operating expenses relative to its income, suggesting inefficiencies in operations.

What does a low Overhead Ratio mean?

A low Overhead Ratio suggests that the company is operationally efficient, as it is generating higher income relative to its operating expenses.

How should companies interpret and use the Overhead Ratio?

Companies can use the Overhead Ratio as a tool for understanding their operational efficiency. If the ratio is high, it might indicate that the company should work on reducing operating expenses. Conversely, a low ratio suggests strong efficiency, but companies should also ensure that they aren’t underinvesting in necessary areas.

Can Overhead Ratio be compared among businesses?

While Overhead Ratio can be a useful tool to compare similar businesses in the same industry, it may not provide an accurate picture across different industries, as operating expenses and income structures can greatly differ.

How often should the Overhead Ratio be computed?

It’s generally advisable for businesses to compute their Overhead Ratio on a regular basis, such as quarterly or annually, to track operational efficiencies and identify potential issues early.

What are some potential ways to lower a high Overhead Ratio?

Companies can aim to lower their Overhead Ratio by reducing operating expenses, improving operational efficiency, or increasing income.

Does a lower Overhead Ratio always indicate better financial performance?

Not necessarily. While a low Overhead Ratio implies efficient operations, it does not take into account other factors such as overall profitability, debt, or investment in growth.

: Is the Overhead Ratio the only metric to measure a company’s operational efficiency?

: No, the Overhead Ratio is just one of many financial metrics that provide insights into a company’s operational efficiency. Other key indicators include Gross Profit Margin, Net Profit Margin, Return on Equity, and Operating Margin.

Related Finance Terms

  • Fixed Costs
  • Variable Costs
  • Operating Expenses
  • Operating Profit Margin
  • Cost Management

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