What Does Predetermined Overhead Rate Mean?

Are you struggling to understand what a predetermined overhead rate is and how it affects your business? Look no further. In this article, we will unravel the complexities of this accounting concept and explore why it is crucial for managing costs and making informed business decisions.

Understanding the Predetermined Overhead Rate

Understanding the predetermined overhead rate is crucial for businesses to accurately allocate indirect costs to products and services. This essential rate is calculated by dividing the estimated total manufacturing overhead costs by the estimated total amount of allocation base. The predetermined overhead rate plays a significant role in pricing decisions and cost control.

At a manufacturing firm, an inaccurate predetermined overhead rate led to overpricing of products, resulting in reduced sales. However, after recalculating the rate and adjusting pricing, sales improved, and profitability increased.

What Is Overhead?

Overhead refers to the ongoing expenses of operating a business that are not directly linked to creating a product or service. These costs include rent, utilities, administrative salaries, and depreciation. Understanding what is overhead is crucial for businesses to accurately allocate costs and determine product pricing.

A startup realized that their overhead costs were significantly higher than anticipated due to an unexpected increase in utility expenses. This prompted them to reassess their budgeting strategies and renegotiate their utility contracts to mitigate the impact on their bottom line.

Why Is a Predetermined Overhead Rate Important?

The importance of a predetermined overhead rate lies in its ability to accurately determine the total manufacturing cost, assist in making informed pricing decisions and evaluating profits, and aid in budgeting and forecasting for efficient resource allocation. It also provides a standardized method for allocating overhead costs to products, which enhances cost control and maintains financial transparency.

How to Calculate the Predetermined Overhead Rate

The predetermined overhead rate is a crucial factor in calculating the overhead costs of a business. This rate determines the amount of overhead costs allocated to each unit of production. In this section, we will discuss the steps involved in calculating the predetermined overhead rate. By following these steps, businesses can accurately determine their overhead costs and make informed financial decisions. So, let’s dive into the process and learn how to calculate the predetermined overhead rate effectively.

Step 1: Determine the Estimated Overhead Costs

  1. Identify all overhead costs such as rent, utilities, and depreciation.
  2. Collect invoices, payment records, and expense reports to determine the total overhead expenses.
  3. Include indirect labor, supplies, and any other indirect costs related to production.

When estimating overhead costs, make sure to account for all relevant expenses in order to obtain an accurate predetermined overhead rate.

Step 2: Determine the Estimated Activity Level

  1. Identify the type of activity to be measured, such as machine hours or labor hours.
  2. Estimate the level of the identified activity for the upcoming period, using historical data and future plans as a guide.

Step 3: Divide Estimated Overhead Costs by Estimated Activity Level

  • Identify the estimated overhead costs.
  • Determine the estimated activity level.
  • Divide the estimated overhead costs by the estimated activity level to calculate the overhead rate.

Factors That Affect the Predetermined Overhead Rate

The predetermined overhead rate is a crucial aspect of cost accounting that helps businesses allocate overhead costs to products or services. However, this rate is not a fixed number and can vary depending on several factors. In this section, we will discuss the key factors that can influence the predetermined overhead rate, including production volume, types of overhead costs, and production process complexity. By understanding these factors, businesses can accurately determine their predetermined overhead rate and effectively manage their costs.

1. Production Volume

  • Calculate the total units produced during the specified period.
  • Determine the portion of fixed overhead costs attributed to each unit produced.
  • Ascertain the impact on the predetermined overhead rate due to changes in production volume.

Consider evaluating fluctuations in production volume to accurately allocate overhead costs.

2. Types of Overhead Costs

Overhead Cost Type Explanation
Indirect Materials Materials used in the production process but not directly traceable to a specific product, e.g., lubricants, cleaning supplies.
Indirect Labor Labor costs of employees not directly involved in the production process, e.g., maintenance workers, supervisors.
Factory Rent Cost of renting the factory building and facilities where production occurs.
Utilities Costs of electricity, water, and other utilities essential for the production process.

2. Types of Overhead Costs

3. Production Process Complexity

  • Assess the interdependency of production stages.
  • Analyze the intricacy of machinery and technology involved in the Production Process Complexity.
  • Evaluate the level of expertise required for the production process.

Pro-tip: Understanding the complexity of the production process is crucial for strategic resource allocation and process optimization.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a Predetermined Overhead Rate

When it comes to allocating overhead costs in a manufacturing or production process, many companies use a predetermined overhead rate (POHR). This method involves estimating overhead costs for the upcoming period and using that predetermined rate to allocate costs to products. However, like any method, there are pros and cons to using a POHR. In this section, we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using a predetermined overhead rate, including how it simplifies cost allocation and helps with budgeting, but may not always accurately reflect actual overhead costs.


  • Advantages of Cost Allocation Simplification
  • Benefits of Budgeting and Forecasting Assistance

1. Simplifies Cost Allocation

  • Reduces Complexity: By implementing a predetermined overhead rate, companies can simplify the process of allocating indirect costs to specific cost objects.
  • Enhances Accuracy: This method provides a systematic approach to cost allocation, resulting in increased precision.
  • Improves Decision Making: With a more streamlined cost allocation process, management can make informed decisions about product pricing and resource allocation.

2. Helps with Budgeting and Forecasting

Understanding how the predetermined overhead rate aids in budgeting and forecasting is essential for efficient financial planning.

Estimate Overhead Costs: Identify all potential overhead costs, including rent, utilities, and administrative expenses.

Forecast Activity Levels: Analyze historical data and market trends to predict future production or service levels.

Calculate Overhead Rate: Divide the estimated overhead costs by the projected activity level to determine the predetermined overhead rate.

In 1919, General Motors Corporation implemented predetermined overhead rates to streamline their budgeting and forecasting processes, revolutionizing financial management in the automotive industry.


Using a predetermined overhead rate has some disadvantages:

  • May Not Reflect Actual Overhead Costs: Changes in actual overhead costs can make the predetermined rate inaccurate.
  • Can Be Inaccurate for Companies with Fluctuating Overhead Costs: Businesses with varying overhead expenses may find the predetermined rate unsuitable.

1. May Not Reflect Actual Overhead Costs

  • Use of estimates: The predetermined overhead rate is based on estimated overhead costs and activity levels, which may not necessarily reflect the actual overhead costs.
  • Adjustments: It is important to regularly assess and adjust the predetermined overhead rate to ensure it aligns with the actual overhead costs.
  • Monitoring: A strong monitoring system should be implemented to track the actual overhead costs and compare them with the predetermined rate.

2. Can Be Inaccurate for Companies with Fluctuating Overhead Costs

  • Fluctuating Overhead Costs: Companies with variable overhead expenses may face challenges in accurately predicting future costs.
  • Regular Analysis: Conduct frequent assessments to adjust predetermined rates and ensure alignment with actual overhead expenses.
  • Adaptive Systems: Implement flexible cost allocation systems to accommodate fluctuations in overhead expenses.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Does Predetermined Overhead Rate Mean?

The predetermined overhead rate is a calculated rate used in cost accounting to allocate indirect manufacturing costs to products or services. It is determined by dividing estimated overhead costs by an allocation base, typically direct labor hours or machine hours.

How is the Predetermined Overhead Rate Calculated?

The predetermined overhead rate is calculated by dividing the estimated overhead costs by the estimated amount of the allocation base. For example, if estimated overhead costs are $200,000 and the estimated allocation base is 10,000 direct labor hours, the predetermined overhead rate would be $20 per direct labor hour ($200,000/10,000).

Why is the Predetermined Overhead Rate Important?

The predetermined overhead rate is important because it allows a business to accurately allocate indirect costs to each product or service. This helps in determining the total cost of production and can aid in making pricing and budgeting decisions.

What Happens if the Actual Overhead Costs Differ from the Estimated Amount?

If the actual overhead costs differ from the estimated amount, the predetermined overhead rate may need to be adjusted. This is done to ensure that the actual indirect costs are accurately allocated to products or services and to prevent over- or under-allocating costs.

Does the Predetermined Overhead Rate Stay the Same Throughout the Year?

No, the predetermined overhead rate is typically recalculated at the end of each accounting period. This is done using actual overhead costs and the actual amount of the allocation base for that period, which may differ from the estimated amounts used to calculate the original rate.

What are Some Potential Problems with Using a Predetermined Overhead Rate?

Some potential problems with using a predetermined overhead rate include inaccurate estimates of overhead costs and allocation bases, changes in production levels or processes that may affect the allocation base, and unexpected fluctuations in actual overhead costs. These issues may result in an inaccurate allocation of costs and can impact the overall profitability of a business.

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