variance

Performance evaluation requires managers to have a benchmark to use as a guide for future periods. This benchmark is communicated to managers via a budget for their responsibility center. At the end of the year, managers are evaluated based on the actual figures generated by the responsibility center. Remember that responsibility managers are only responsible for certain numbers and therefore only those numbers should appear on the performance evaluation report. Let’s look at some sample performance evaluation reports for the three types of centers that use them.


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Cost Center Performance Evaluation Reports

A cost center performance evaluation report only contains expenses for the segment of the company that the manager is responsible for. Here is an example of a performance evaluation report for the human resources department of a large company.

cost performance report

This performance report contains the expenses for the human resources department of a company. The expenses are listed with both the budget and actual figures. The variance column is the absolute value (no negative numbers) of the difference between the budget figure and the actual figure. Because the absolute values are used, there must be a way to determine if the variance is good or bad. Next to each variance, you need to indicate if the difference is a favorable or unfavorable. For expenses, a favorable variance is one where actual cost is less than budgeted. The department saved money, which is a good thing. Unfavorable variances occur when the company spent more than planned.

When determining if a variance is favorable or unfavorable, look to see if the actual amount is larger or smaller than the budget amount. For salaries, actual is less than budget. Because this is an expense, actual less than budget is favorable.

The percent variance is calculated by dividing the variance by the budgeted amount.

% Variance = Variance / Budget

The percent variance gives the reader perspective. Salaries have a $500 variance but it is only 0.14% of the budget and therefore a very small percentage of the total budget. Office supplies on the other hand are off by $250, but that is a 25% variance. Use percentages to determine which line items are important to investigate further. Typically, a variance of more than 5% should be investigated.

 Revenue Center Performance Reports

A revenue center performance report looks very similar to a cost center performance report.

Revenue Center

Notice that the only difference is the name at the top of the report and that the word “expense” has been replaced with “product”. Make sure to look at each report carefully to determine if you are looking at a cost center report or a revenue center report.

The only difference with a revenue center performance report is the determination of favorable or unfavorable variances. Use the same methodology used in the cost center report. Look to see if the actual amount is greater or less than the budgeted amount. For the Standard Model, actual is more than budget. Here we are discussing revenue. Is higher revenue good or bad? Higher revenue is good, so the $90,000 variance is favorable. The Deluxe Model has sales $20,000 lower than budgeted, which is bad and therefore unfavorable.

A company should not just investigate unfavorable variances. The Executive Model’s sales were 10% higher than budgeted. The national sales director might want to know how the Midwest Region was able to increase sales in order to help boost sales in other regions of the country. Favorable variances are just as important as unfavorable variances.

Profit Center Performance Reports

Because a profit center is evaluated based on revenue and expenses, the performance report will be based on a segment income statement.

Profit center

 This report looks very similar to the cost center and revenue center performance reports. The only difference is the inclusion of revenue and expenses on the report. Pay careful attention to the accounts when determining if the variance is favorable or unfavorable. Remember the rules for revenue and expenses. Ask yourself if the variance is a good thing or a bad thing. For contribution margin and profit (segment margin), when actual is higher than budget that is a positive. The higher your contribution margin and profit, the better. That would be a favorable variance. When contribution margin and profit are less than budgeted, it is unfavorable.

Final Thoughts

The hardest part of the performance evaluation reports is determining if a variance is favorable or unfavorable. Ask yourself one question: Is this change a good thing or a bad thing? That will make the process so much easier.

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When overhead is overapplied or underapplied, there are two different ways to allocated the variance. In the previous post, we allocated all of the variance to cost of goods sold. However, that is not a very accurate way to allocate the variance.

Think back to the calculation of cost of goods sold in our discussion of inventory. There are three different inventory accounts: Raw materials, work-in-progress, and finished goods. If you think back to the calculations for these accounts, overhead was added during the calculation of work-in-progress.

That means that overhead is applied to work-in-progress, finished goods, and cost of goods sold. When the variance is calculated, that variance exists in each of these accounts, not just cost of goods sold. Therefore, in order to make sure that each of these accounts is accurate, the variance should be allocated to each of these accounts.

In order to do this, we need to look at what percentage of the applied overhead is in each of the accounts and allocate the variance based on those percentages.

Let’s look at an example.

Example #1

K’s Kustom Furniture has applied overhead of $1,300,000. The $1,300,000 is allocated to the following accounts:

Work-in-progress $200,000
Finished goods $150,000
Cost of goods sold $950,000

The balances in the accounts are as follows:

Work-in-progress $675,000
Finished goods $525,000
Cost of goods sold $3,500,000

Actual overhead is $1,450,000

Calculate the amount of the overhead variance and allocate the variance to work-in-progress, finished goods, and cost of goods sold.

We have $1,300,000 in applied overhead currently sitting in the three accounts. We need to determine what percentage of the applied overhead is in each of the accounts. Divide the applied overhead balance in each account by the total amount of applied overhead.

Work-in-progress $200,000 / $1,300,000 = 15.38%
Finished goods $150,000 / $1,300,000 = 11.54%
Cost of goods sold $950,000 / $1,300,000 = 73.08%

Now calculate the variance. We know that overhead is underapplied because the applied overhead is lower than the actual overhead. Not enough overhead has been applied to the accounts. The variance is:

$1,300,000 – $1,450,000 = $150,000 underapplied.

Multiply the $150,000 by each of the percentages.

Work-in-progress $200,000 / $1,300,000 = 15.38% X $150,000 = $23,070 underapplied in work-in-progress
Finished goods $150,000 / $1,300,000 = 11.54% X $150,000 = $17,310 underapplied in finished goods
Cost of goods sold $950,000 / $1,300,000 = 73.08% X $150,000 = $109,620 underapplied in cost of goods sold

We know how much overhead has been underapplied in each account, so we now must adjust each of the account. When overhead is underapplied, there is not enough overhead in each of the accounts. We must add the variance to each of the account balances. Add the variance to the total amount in each account.

Work-in-progress $675,000 + $23,070 variance = $698,070 adjusted Work-in-progress
Finished goods $525,000 + $17,310 variance = $542,310 adjusted Finished goods
Cost of goods sold $3,500,000 + $109,620 = $3,609,620 adjusted Cost of goods sold

Final Thoughts

When allocating the overhead variance among multiple accounts, look at the amount of applied overhead in each of the accounts: work-in-progress, finished goods, and cost of goods sold. Calculate the percentage of total applied overhead in each of the accounts. Then use that percentage to calculate the amount of the variance that should be allocated to each account. If the overhead is underapplied, add the amount of variance to each of the accounts. If the overhead is overapplied, add the amount of variance to each of the accounts.

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