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Overhead refers to the ongoing business expenses that are not directly associated with creating a product or service. It includes costs such as rent, utilities, office supplies, and salaries of employees not involved in manufacturing. These indirect costs are essential for operations but do not contribute directly towards a company’s revenue.


The phonetic spelling of the word “Overhead” is /ˌoʊvərˈhɛd/.

Key Takeaways

Overhead – Main Takeaways

  1. Definition: Overhead refers to the ongoing expenses required to operate a business but aren’t directly associated with creating a product or service. These can include costs like rent, utilities, insurance, and salaries for employees not directly involved in production.
  2. Types of Overhead: There are three main types of overhead costs – Fixed, Variable, and Semi-variable. Fixed Overhead costs remain constant regardless of the level of production. Variable Overhead varies directly with the level of production. Semi-variable costs constitute a mixture of both fixed and variable components.
  3. Importance in Pricing: A clear understanding of overhead costs is essential in determining the pricing of a product or service. Companies aim to not only cover the cost of raw materials and direct labor involved in production but also the overhead costs to achieve a profit.


Overhead is a critical term in business and finance because it refers to the ongoing business expenses that aren’t directly tied to creating a product or service, but are vital for operations. It comprises costs like rent, utilities, insurance, office equipment, and salaries of support staff, among others. These regular, necessary costs are essential to consider when calculating overall business expenses, determining prices, and evaluating efficiency. A business must be able to manage and control overhead expenses effectively to remain profitable. Understanding overhead allows a business to allocate resources appropriately, make informed financial decisions, and maintain competitiveness in the market.


Overhead, a key concept in financial management and accounting, serves a critical role in determining a company’s total operating expenses and profitability. It represents the indirect costs that are necessary to keep a business operational but don’t directly contribute to the creation of products or services. Examples of overhead costs include rent, utilities, insurance, and salaries of employees not involved in manufacturing. Understanding the overhead costs allows businesses to calculate how much it costs to operate beyond direct labor and materials, providing a comprehensive picture of financial health and efficiency.The primary purpose of tracking overhead is to accurately price products or services. Without accounting for overhead, a company might underestimate its expenses and overestimate its profit margins, leading to critical errors in decision-making and pricing. By incorporating overhead costs into pricing models, businesses gain a clearer understanding of their actual profit potential. Furthermore, monitoring overhead can help companies identify areas of inefficiencies and cost savings, thus playing a crucial role in financial management strategies. In summary, overhead plays an indispensable role in the financial analysis and operational efficiency of a business.


1. Rent: Businesses need a physical location to operate. One of the most common examples of overhead is the cost of rent. If a business operates out of a building that it doesn’t own, it must pay rent to the landlord. This is an ongoing cost that doesn’t necessarily correlate to the amount of products or services the business produces.2. Utilities: Things like electricity, water, gas, and internet are crucial for almost every business operation. From keeping the lights on to running necessary equipment to providing services online, these carry recurring charges, representing overhead costs.3. Salaries: Employee salaries often count as overhead costs because employees are needed for the business to run smoothly. Whether it’s the people operating machinery, the administrative staff, or the management team, their remuneration will be considered as part of the business’ overhead.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is overhead in finance and business?

Overhead, in business and finance, refers to the ongoing business expenses that are not directly associated with creating a product or service. This includes costs like rent, utilities, insurance, and salaries of employees not directly involved in the production process.

Why is overhead important in a business?

Overhead costs significantly impact a business’s overall financial health. They are necessary and continuous expenses for running a business and can directly impact profits. Therefore, understanding and effectively managing overhead costs is crucial for the successful operation of a company.

How does overhead affect pricing?

Overhead costs are considered when businesses formulate prices for their goods and services. To stay profitable, a company needs to recover its overhead costs in its pricing model. As a result, lower overhead often leads to more competitive prices.

How is overhead calculated?

Overhead can be calculated by summing up all the indirect costs of running a business during a specific period. This includes rent, utilities, office supplies, salaries for support staff, insurance, depreciation, etc.

What is the difference between direct costs and overhead costs?

Direct costs are costs that can be directly attributed to the production of a specific product or service (e.g., raw materials, direct labor). On the other hand, overhead costs cannot be directly linked to production. Instead, these are the necessary expenses that keep the business going, regardless of the level of production.

Does overhead include salaries?

Overhead costs do include salaries, but not all types of salaries. It includes only those salaries of individuals who are not directly involved in the production of goods or services, such as administrative employees.

What are examples of overhead costs?

Some examples of overhead costs include rent or lease fees, utilities (water, electric, gas, etc.), office supplies and equipment, insurance, salaries of administrative staff, depreciation, and taxes.

Can overhead costs be reduced?

Yes, overhead costs can be reduced through various methods such as streamlining operations, outsourcing non-core tasks, renegotiating contracts, and managing resources more carefully. However, businesses must be careful not to compromise their operations or the quality of their goods and services.

What is the difference between overhead and operating expenses?

While all overhead costs are operating expenses, not all operating expenses are overhead costs. Operating expenses include both direct costs, like raw materials, and indirect costs, or overhead, like administration costs. Overhead only pertains to the indirect costs.

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