Direct and Indirect Costs

In manufacturing, “direct costs” refer to costs that are readily traceable to products—for example, direct material and direct labor. The term is also used to identify costs that are traced as incurred to specific functions, to distinguish them from allocated or transferred costs. In distribution the classification of costs as direct or indirect depends on the segment. The more general the segment (sales division in sales territory), the greater the portion of costs directly traceable to it, the more specific the segment (products, customers), the greater the proportion of indirect costs. Direct costs are those costs that can be traced to a business segment. If that segment were eliminated, the costs no longer would be incurred.

Indirect costs, costs such as general administrative expenses, are often allocated  to segments, but this process is arbitrary at best and should be avoided.

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