Indirect Costs

This section provides details to assist both CoC and ESG programs better understand indirect costs and how they can be calculated and charged under these programs. For more information, please see the HUD Indirect Cost Toolkit for CoC and ESG programs.

What are direct and indirect costs?

All costs can be classified as either ‘direct’ or ‘indirect,’ and the cost type governs how they are allocated. The following are examples of direct and indirect costs:

Looking for definitions of the common CoC and ESG Program terms referenced throughout the Virtual Binders?

Virtual Binders Glossary

Direct costs are those that can be specifically identified with a particular award or activity relatively easily with a high degree of accuracy. Identification with the federal award rather than the nature of the goods and services involved is the determining factor in distinguishing direct from indirect costs of federal awards.

  • Examples of direct costs are:
    • Salary and benefits paid to a case manager
    • Rental assistance checks paid directly to a landlord
    • Mileage reimbursements for staff making home visits

Indirect costs are those that have been incurred for ‘shared’ or ‘joint’ objectives and cannot be readily identified with any particular activity. After direct costs have been determined and assigned directly to federal awards, or other work as appropriate, indirect costs are those that remain to be allocated.

  • Typical examples of indirect costs include:
    • Office rent, utility, insurance, maintenance, and other expenditures related to shared space
    • Administrative and executive team functions that support multiple program areas
    • Purchases, transportation, and staff expenses that benefit multiple program areas

Due to the diverse characteristics and accounting practices of non-profit organizations, it is not possible to specify the types of cost that may be classified as indirect cost in all situations. However, a cost may not be allocated as an indirect cost if any similar costs have been assigned as a direct cost.

State/local governments’ indirect costs are normally charged to federal awards by the use of an approved indirect cost rate. A separate indirect cost rate(s) is usually necessary for each department or agency of the governmental unit claiming indirect costs under federal awards.