Direct Cost and Indirect Cost , Cost Classification

Direct and Indirect Costs

Direct cost and indirect cost ,Cost Classification infographic
Direct cost and indirect cost ,Cost Classification infographic

Direct Cost and Indirect Cost , Cost Classification

Cost clasification is an important concept in budgeting, accounting and project management. While creating a project budget, categorizing expenses provides understanding of components that form the budget. Direct cost and indirect cost are two different concepts used for budget planning and accounting operations. There are some differences between them. It is not easy to make a certain distinction between direct cost and indirect cost all the time. Because direct and indirect cost are based on the nature of product and business.

Simply put, direct costs are attributable to a product or a goods or service itself. Direct costs are directly related with the product.  On the other hand indirect costs are those required to produce the product however, they are not directly related with the product. This article discusses direct costs and indirect costs and cost classification from budgeting perspective.

Direct Cost and Indirect Cost

It is important to understand classification while purchasing a material or creating a project budget. Assume that you are a project manager of a house building project and the client makes a change request related with changing the perimeter walls from reinforced concrete to masonary. First thing you should do is to make unit price analysis and classify the costs according to their type. Material, labor and machinery costs are direct costs and increases as the amount of work increase. On the other hand project management and operational costs are the indirect costs that they don’t directly related with the amount of work but they increase as the duration of the project increase.

For better understanding, let’s analyze each concept.

Direct Cost

A direct cost is a price that can be utterly attributed to the production of products or services. Some costs, such as direct materials, direct labor, equipments are common direct costs.
In some cases, it is possible to classify an indirect cost to a direct cost. For instance, the salary of the manager who controls multiple concrete batch plants would be considered an indirect cost for any one of those concrete batch plants. However, that manager’s salary would be a direct cost for the department comprising all of those concrete batch plants.
Direct costs are often variable costs. If the manufactured units increase, direct costs increase. Because more units need more materials and resources.

For example you will produce 1000 m3 concrete in the batch plant. You need 300 tons of cement to produce 1000 m3 concrete and 1 ton cement costs 100 $. So you need 30,000 $ to purchase cement. This is your direct cost. As the quantity increases direct cost increase.

Indirect Cost

Indirect costs are those which effect the whole company such as depreciation, accounting services, general supplies, board salaries. They are not just for only one product. Overhead costs, ongoing costs, project management costs, operational costs are indirect costs.
Indirect costs are often fixed costs. But also they can be variable.

For instance rental cost of your head office ise a fixed cost. Quantity of manufactured units don’t effect your rental price. An example of a variable cost is your heating and cooling costs which can change monthly.

For cost controlling purposes, many companies try to limit their indirect costs as a proportion of direct costs.

Let’s analyze the same batch plant example. Assume that this month you will produce 1000 m3 concrete. If you increase the production and produce 1500 m3 concrete this does not change your head office costs or marketing costs.

Examples for Direct Cost and Indirect Cost

Below are some examples for direct cost and indirect cost.

Direct Costs Examples

The following are a few examples for direct costs

  • Laborer’s wages
  • Wood, Glass, Cement, Concrete, Rebar etc.
  • Handles, locks, hinges
  • Direct materials
  • Consumable supplies
  • Freight in and out
  • Sales commissions
  • Royalty Payment
  • Patent Holder
  • Consultants
  • Tools

Indirect Costs Examples

The following are a few examples for indirect costs.

  • Advertisement costs
  • Project management costs
  • Operational Costs
  • Insurance
  • Depreciation
  • Manager’ s salary
  • Indirect costs related to transport
  • Administration cost
  • Indirect employee’s salaries
  • Security cost
  • Office cost
  • Selling & distribution cost

Difference Between Direct Cost and Indirect Cost

Below are some differences between direct costs and indirect costs.

  • It is easy to determine direct costs considering the product or service. On the other hand it is not easy to identify the indirect costs. Detailed analysis is required to identify indirect costs.
  • Direct costs are attributable to a specific product, department, goods or a service. On the other hand, indirect costs are attributable to multiple products or services.
  • Direct costs are variable costs that change based on the quantity of a product or service. However indirect costs are fixed costs.


Cost classification process is very important in project cost management. It enables to develop an effective cost control and profit planning system. If you don’t know which cost is direct which expense is indirect, you can not perform cost control effectively. Also it is helpful for decision making.

It is significant to have a clear understanding of cost classification. During the procurement of a goods or a service, you can compare their direct and indirect costs to your project seperately. One option my involve more indirect cost than the other. So you can select the alternative with low indirect cost.

Classification of expenses have an important impact on federal tax payments. It also effects a company’s cash flow and financial health.

Note that this cost classification is very important for claiming tax deductions.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.