Fixed Overhead Spending Variance: Definition, Formula, Explanation, And Analysis


Fixed overhead spending variance, also known as fixed overhead expenditure variance, measures the difference between actual fixed costs that were incurred and the budgeted fixed costs.

It is one of the two parts of fixed overhead total variance; the other is fixed overhead volume variance.


Budgeted fixed overheads – Actual fixed overheads = Fixed overhead spending variance


Fixed overhead variances are particularly important when it comes to variance analysis. A variance analysis compares all the budgeted figures with the actual figures and analyzes the reasons behind such differences.

After the reasons have been highlighted the company takes measures to deal with any material variances that have occurred throughout the year in order to minimize costs.

Fixed overheads are a line item in our variance analysis because a fixed overhead is not supposed to vary, as the name suggests. These are production costs that are incurred whether the output is produced or not.

They do not vary as the output varies unless a specific point is crossed and it becomes stepped costs instead of fixed costs.

Hence, any significant increase or decrease in fixed cost is a critical point for an entity and shall be dealt with immediately since an unexpected material expense would have an adverse effect on the financial statements of the company.

A fixed overhead spending variance could arise due to various reasons. Some of them are mentioned below:

  • Any unexpected expansion of business or investment may result in higher actual fixed overheads and lower budgeted overheads. On the contrary, an expected expansion of business not taking place would result in a lower actual fixed overhead and higher budgeted fixed overhead.
  • Planning errors and inefficient overhead management may cause deviation in actual fixed overheads than budgeted.
  • Unexpected over-time of indirect labor may be the reason behind higher actual fixed overheads and lower budgeted fixed overheads of the company.
See also  Direct Material Usage Variance: Definition, Formula, Explanation, Analysis, And Example

For example, the production department of Tahkila Industrials expects that the annual fixed overheads of the company would be $500,000 for the year ended 2019.

However, during the period cost rationalization measures were carried out and fixed overheads were reduced by minimizing inefficiencies resulting in an annual fixed overhead expense of $420,000. Calculate the fixed overhead spending variance.

As per the formula, we must calculate the difference between budgeted and actual fixed overheads.

Fixed overhead spending variance = $500,000 – $420,000 = $80,000

A decrease of $80,000 in fixed overheads was realized by the company resulting in a higher actual profit earned by the Tahkila Industrials than the budgeted profit.


There are two types of variances i.e. favorable and unfavorable/adverse. A favorable variance occurs when the actual costs incurred are lower than the budgeted costs.

Similarly, an adverse or unfavorable variance arises when the actual costs incurred are higher than the budgeted costs.

A favorable fixed overhead spending variance arises when the actual fixed overheads incurred by the company are lower than the budgeted fixed overheads.

As shown in the example above, Tahkila Industrial had a favorable variance for the year ended 2019 since they had to pay $80,000 less than they had expected to.

This means that they must have had an unexpected earning of $80,000 having a positive effect on the financial statements.

An unfavorable or adverse fixed overhead spending variance would arise when the actual fixed overheads are more than the budgeted fixed overheads.

In such a case, the company incurs an entirely new expense that wasn’t anticipated by the production department at all. This results in an adverse effect on the financial statements of a company.

See also  Importance and Limitation of Sales Quantity Variance