A direct cost is a cost that can be easily and conveniently traced to a specified cost object.
An indirect cost is a cost that cannot be easily and conveniently traced to a specified cost object. For example, a Campbell Soup factory may produce dozens of varieties of canned soups.
A common cost is a cost that is incurred to support a number of cost objects but cannot be traced to them individually. A common cost is a type of indirect cost.
A particular cost may be direct or indirect, depending on the cost object.
Direct Labor Direct labor consists of labor costs that can be easily (i.e., physically and conveniently) traced to individual units of product. Direct labor is sometimes called touch labor because direct labor workers typically touch the product while it is being made.
Labor costs that cannot be physically traced to particular products, or that can be traced only at great cost and inconvenience, are termed indirect labor. Just like indirect materials, indirect labor is treated as part of manufacturing overhead. Indirect labor includes the labor costs of janitors, supervisors, materials handlers, and night security guards. Although the efforts of these workers are essential, it would be either impractical or impossible to accurately trace their costs to specific units of product. Hence, such labor costs are treated as indirect labor.
Manufacturing Overhead Manufacturing overhead, the third manufacturing cost category, includes all manufacturing costs except direct materials and direct labor. Manufacturing overhead includes items such as indirect materials; indirect labor; maintenance and repairs on production equipment; and heat and light, property taxes, depreciation, and insurance on manufacturing facilities. A company also incurs costs for heat and light, property taxes, insurance, depreciation, and so forth, associated with its selling and administrative functions, but these costs are not included as part of manufacturing overhead. Only those costs associated with operating the factory are included in manufacturing overhead.
Various names are used for manufacturing overhead, such as indirect manufacturing cost, factory overhead, and factory burden. All of these terms are synonyms for manufacturing overhead.
Nonmanufacturing costs are often divided into two categories: (1) selling costs and (2) administrative costs. Selling costs include all costs that are incurred to secure customer orders and get the finished product to the customer. These costs are sometimes called order-getting and order-filling costs. Examples of selling costs include advertising, shipping, sales travel, sales commissions, sales salaries, and costs of finished goods warehouses. Selling costs can be either direct or indirect costs. For example, the cost of an advertising campaign dedicated to one specific product is a direct cost of that product, whereas the salary of a marketing manager who oversees numerous products is an indirect cost with respect to individual products.
Administrative costs include all costs associated with the general management of an organization rather than with manufacturing or selling. Examples of administrative costs include executive compensation, general accounting, secretarial, public relations, and similar costs involved in the overall, general administration of the organization as a whole. Administrative costs can be either direct or indirect costs. For example, the salary of an accounting manager in charge of accounts receivable collections in the East region is a direct cost of that region, whereas the salary of a chief financial officer who oversees all of a company’s regions is an indirect cost with respect to individual regions.
Nonmanufacturing costs are also often called selling, general, and administrative (SG&A) costs or just selling and administrative costs.
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