# How are fixed and variable overhead different?

If the manufacturer maintains selling prices at the existing level, the cost reduction of 25 cents per unit represents \$2,500 in savings on each production run. If, however, a company must pay overtime or extra hours for workers as production is ramped up, it may be included as a variable cost. The forensic accountant who investigated the fraud identified several suspicious transactions, all of which were charged to the manufacturing overhead account. Note that both approaches—the variable overhead efficiency variance calculation and the alternative calculation—yield the same result.

Variable overhead, however, will increase along with the amount produced, such as raw materials or electricity. For companies to operate continuously, they need to spend money on producing and selling their goods and services. The overall operation costs—managers, sales staff, marketing staff for the production facilities as well as the corporate office—are known as overhead. Variable overhead, as alluded to earlier, fluctuates according to levels of production.

## Costing for the Fashion Industry

For example, DEF Toy is a toy manufacturer and has total variable overhead costs of \$15,000 when the company produces 10,000 units per month. In the following month, the company receives a large order whereby it must produce 20,000 toys. At \$1.50 per unit, the total variable overhead costs increased to \$30,000 for the month.

Variable overhead costs can change over time, while fixed costs typically do not. Recall from Figure 10.1 “Standard Costs at Jerry’s Ice Cream” that the variable overhead standard rate for Jerry’s is \$5 per direct labor hour and the standard direct labor hours is 0.10 per unit. Review this figure carefully before moving on to the next section where these calculations are explained in detail.

The overhead cost is an ongoing expense, which means that it must be paid on a continuous basis whether or not the company is meeting its sales or profit objectives. This variance is unfavorable for Jerry’s Ice Cream because actual costs of \$100,000 are higher than expected costs of \$94,500. The labor involved in production, or direct labor, might not be variable cost unless the number of workers increase or decrease with production volumes. Fixed overhead costs are stable regardless of how much is being produced. For instance, rent and insurance on a factory building will be the same regardless if the factory is churning out a lot or a little in terms of quantity.

• The expenses are then included in the calculations for determining the selling price of the product.
• For instance, rent and insurance on a factory building will be the same regardless if the factory is churning out a lot or a little in terms of quantity.
• Variable overhead costs can include pay for workers added when production is increased.
• Recall from Figure 10.1 “Standard Costs at Jerry’s Ice Cream” that the variable overhead standard rate for Jerry’s is \$5 per direct labor hour and the standard direct labor hours is 0.10 per unit.

## The Normal Capacity Vs. Expected Capacity in Cost Accounting

Harold Averkamp (CPA, MBA) has worked as a university accounting instructor, accountant, and consultant for more than 25 years. Variable overhead is analyzed with two variances, which are noted below. The controller of a small, closely held manufacturing company embezzled close to \$1,000,000 over a 3-year period. With annual revenues of \$30,000,000 and less than 100 employees, the company certainly felt the impact of losing \$1,000,000.

• As with direct materials and direct labor variances, all positive variances are unfavorable, and all negative variances are favorable.
• If so, it refers to those administrative costs that vary with the level of business activity.
• The calculations are applied to determine the minimum price levels for products to ensure profitability.
• Costs of utilities for the equipment—electric power, gas, and water—tend to fluctuate depending on production output, rollout of new products, manufacturing cycles for existing products, and seasonal patterns.

The variable overhead efficiency variance calculation presented previously shows that 18,900 in actual hours worked is lower than the 21,000 budgeted hours. Again, this variance is favorable because working fewer hours than expected should result in lower variable manufacturing overhead costs. As with direct materials and direct labor variances, all positive variances are unfavorable, and all negative variances are favorable. Note that there is no alternative calculation for the variable overhead spending variance because variable overhead costs are not purchased per direct labor hour. Typically, variable overhead costs tend to be small in relation to the amount of fixed overhead costs.

## What Is Variable Overhead? How It Works Vs. Variable, and Example

The expenses are then included in the calculations for determining the selling price of the product. It is important as setting minimum price levels ensures the profitability of the company. Again, this analysis is appropriate assuming direct labor hours truly drives the use of variable overhead activities.