Understanding Business Expenses: Examples, Types, Definition


10 min


March 1, 2024

If you are running a small business or you are self-employed as a sole trader, it is vital to stay on top of your business expenses, as these have a direct impact on the amount of tax you pay and the profitability of your enterprise.

However, tracking business expenses can be a difficult and time-consuming process, particularly if you are new to it and don’t yet know the right tools to make it simpler.

We’ve simplified business expense tracking with key terms, steps, and a top-rated expense tracker recommendation. Streamline your financial processes and boost your business success today. Delve into understanding business expenses: Examples, Types, Definition.

What Are Business Expenses?

Business expenses refer to the various costs that businesses incur in their day-to-day operations to keep things running smoothly and generate income. These expenses encompass a wide range of items such as rent or lease payments, utilities, employee salaries, materials, marketing efforts, and other overhead expenses.

Properly managing these costs is essential for the financial well-being of a business. It involves carefully tracking expenses, distinguishing between essential and discretionary spending, and finding ways to optimize resource allocation to maximize profitability.

Effectively managing business expenses requires businesses to develop and adhere to a budget, prioritize spending based on necessity and revenue-generating potential, and seek opportunities to reduce unnecessary costs.

List of business expenses

What Are Examples of Business Expenses?

Business expenses refer to the costs incurred by a company in its operations to generate revenue. Identifying and managing these expenses is crucial for maintaining profitability and sustainability. Here are some common examples of business expenses:

  • Rent: Payment for office space, warehouse, or retail space.
  • Utilities: Costs for electricity, water, gas, and internet services.
  • Employee Salaries and Benefits: Wages, healthcare, retirement contributions, and other employee-related expenses.
  • Supplies: Office supplies, inventory, and materials necessary for production.
  • Advertising and Marketing: Expenses related to promoting products or services.
  • Travel and Transportation: Costs associated with business trips, fuel, vehicle maintenance, and transportation services.
  • Insurance: Premiums for business insurance coverage such as liability, property, and health insurance.
  • Taxes: Various taxes including income tax, sales tax, property tax, and payroll taxes.
  • Depreciation: Allocation of the cost of assets over their useful life.
  • Professional Services: Fees for legal, accounting, consulting, and other professional services.
  • Repairs and Maintenance: Costs to maintain and repair equipment, machinery, and facilities.
  • Interest: Payments on loans, credit lines, or other forms of borrowed capital.
  • Software and Technology: Expenses for software licenses, subscriptions, and IT infrastructure.
  • Capital assets: Large items lasting longer than a year, such as machinery or office furniture.
  • General operations: Necessary expenses in running a business, such as rent, energy and phone bills, and office stationery.

These expenses are essential for running a business and are typically deductible for tax purposes, subject to certain regulations and limitations. Proper management and control of these expenses are vital for the financial health and success of any business.

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What are the Types of Business Expenses?

Understanding the different types of business expenses is crucial for effective financial management. Here are the three major categories:

Fixed Expenses

  • Fixed expenses remain constant over reporting periods, regardless of business activity levels. These are often termed as overhead costs.
  • Examples include rent payments for office space, insurance premiums, and monthly subscription fees.
  • Fixed expenses provide stability to the business budget and are essential for maintaining operations.

Variable Expenses

  • Variable expenses fluctuate in relation to business activity or sales volume. These costs can increase or decrease based on various factors.
  • Examples include shipping and transportation costs, utilities, and raw material expenses.
  • Variable expenses require careful monitoring as they directly impact profitability and can be influenced by changes in market conditions or production levels.

Periodic Expenses

  • Periodic expenses occur sporadically across different reporting periods and may not occur consistently.
  • Examples include unexpected equipment repairs, annual bonuses for employees, and one-time marketing campaigns.
  • While periodic expenses may not occur regularly, they still need to be accounted for in the overall budgeting and financial planning process.

Controllable vs. Uncontrollable Expenses

  • Controllable expenses: Costs that businesses can influence or manage, such as discretionary spending on marketing or employee training.
  • Uncontrollable expenses: Costs beyond immediate control, like changes in rent prices or fluctuations in utility rates.

Capital Expenditures

  • Investments in long-term assets expected to benefit the business over multiple reporting periods.
  • Examples include purchasing equipment, acquiring real estate, or investing in technology infrastructure.
  • Unlike regular operating expenses, capital expenditures are depreciated over time rather than expensed immediately.

Understanding the nuances of these expense types is crucial for budgeting, forecasting, and overall financial decision-making within a business. By effectively managing and controlling expenses across these categories, businesses can optimize their financial performance and drive long-term success.

Types of business expenses

What is the difference between Personal vs. Business Expenses?

Business expenses play a crucial role in reducing your company’s taxable income, unlike personal expenses which cannot be deducted. Understanding the distinction between the two is vital, but sometimes navigating this divide can be complex.

Personal Expenses

It’s imperative to maintain a clear demarcation between personal and business expenditures. For instance, if you visit a hardware store to purchase lumber for a personal project and also buy industrial cleaner for your store, ensure separate transactions. This practice allows for distinct receipts, especially if you utilize a business credit or debit card for professional purchases.

Business Expenses

Purchases aimed at enhancing business revenue or aligning with industry norms typically qualify as business expenses. Document these purchases meticulously, retain receipts, and record their purpose. Deducting these expenses from your income can significantly reduce your tax liability. Notably, substantial investments like equipment procurement or property acquisitions are categorized as capital expenditures and are treated differently.

Key Differences:

Business expenses encompass items integral to regular business operations, whereas personal expenses are unrelated to business activities. However, gray areas exist, such as home offices. If you primarily utilize a home office for business purposes, you may be eligible for deductions, though not for the entire mortgage. Certain aspects like utilities, real estate taxes, or phone expenses might be itemizable under specific circumstances. Thorough record-keeping detailing the rationale behind these expenses is paramount, particularly for audit preparedness.

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10 Top Business Expense Tips for Small Businesses

As a seasoned financial experts, we understand the critical role that managing business expenses plays in maintaining profitability and sustainability. Here are some top tips to help businesses effectively manage their expenses:

  1. Establish a Budget: Begin by creating a comprehensive budget outlining projected revenues and anticipated expenses. Regularly review and adjust the budget as necessary to reflect changes in business operations or market conditions.
  2. Prioritize Expenses: Identify essential expenses crucial for business operations and prioritize them accordingly. Distinguish between necessary expenditures that directly contribute to revenue generation and discretionary spending that can be minimized or deferred if needed.
  3. Negotiate with Suppliers: Negotiating favorable terms with suppliers can lead to cost savings. Explore opportunities to secure discounts for bulk purchases, negotiate payment terms, or seek alternative suppliers offering competitive pricing without compromising quality.
  4. Leverage Technology: Utilize expense management apps or tools to streamline the tracking, reporting, and approval processes for business expenses. Automation can help reduce administrative overhead and ensure accuracy in expense management.
  5. Implement Expense Policies: Establish clear and concise expense policies outlining permissible expenses, spending limits, approval procedures, and reimbursement guidelines. Educate employees on these policies to promote compliance and accountability.
  6. Monitor and Analyze Spending: Regularly monitor and analyze spending patterns to identify potential areas for cost reduction or optimization. Track variances against budgeted amounts and investigate any discrepancies promptly to address underlying issues.
  7. Review Subscriptions and Services: Periodically review subscriptions, memberships, and service contracts to assess their relevance and cost-effectiveness. Cancel or renegotiate agreements for underutilized or redundant services to eliminate unnecessary expenses.
  8. Encourage Cost-Conscious Culture: Foster a culture of cost-consciousness among employees by promoting awareness of the impact of expenses on the company’s financial performance. Encourage employees to contribute ideas for cost-saving initiatives and recognize efforts to minimize expenses.
  9. Monitor Cash Flow: Maintain a close watch on cash flow to ensure sufficient liquidity for meeting financial obligations and capitalizing on opportunities. Manage accounts receivable effectively to minimize late payments and optimize cash inflows.
  10. Seek Professional Advice: Consider consulting with financial advisors or accountants for expert guidance on optimizing business expenses, tax planning strategies, and compliance with regulatory requirements. Their insights and expertise can help businesses make informed financial projections.

By implementing these business expense tips diligently, businesses can enhance financial efficiency, maximize profitability, and achieve long-term success in today’s competitive landscape.

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Why Tracking Business Expenses matters?

Your business expenses are the items you have to spend money on in order to keep your organization running. It is essential to keep track of these expenses, as it shows you how much money you are spending out in relation to the amount of revenue you are bringing in. If you are spending a lot of money on expenses, you will need to generate more profits in order for your business to remain viable.

This is why it is important to track your business expenses or recurring expenses on a regular basis, to check that you are generating enough profit to stay in business and to keep your finances healthy. Tracking business expenses can reveal the areas in which you are spending the most money, enabling you to find ways of making cost savings and increasing your profits.

Some of your business expenses are also likely to be tax deductible. By working out which of your expenses this applies to, you can reduce your running costs by paying the correct amount of tax. This also makes your business more profitable.

How to Track Business Expenses?

Tracking business expenses basically involves keeping a record of everything you spend in relation to your business. This is why you should set up a business bank account, even if you are a sole trader, so your business finances do not get confused with your personal ones.

There are a number of different methods businesses use to track expenses. Some businesses still keep paper records. While this may seem old-fashioned in the digital age, there is some merit to the practice, because it is important to keep copies of all your online receipts as proof of what you have spent.

However, these days most companies use spreadsheets or, ideally, specialist software designed for small businesses to track expenses. This takes up less physical room, and makes it easier to calculate your expenses and organize them into the relevant business expense categories. You do still need copies of your receipts, however, not only for your own records but also because you may have to provide some of them along with your tax return, so it is essential to find a way of storing these securely so they are in order and easily accessible.

Every time you spend any money on anything in relation to your business, this needs to be entered into your spreadsheet or software, or recorded in your paper log, so you can ensure your records stay up to date and correspond with the correct accounting period. This builds an accurate picture of your business expenses, which can then be compared to your profits over the same period (see also our article on profit and loss templates).

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What is Billable Expense Income?

This is one of the terms which frequently comes up in tracking business expenses. Many small business owners do not initially know what is classed as a billable expense and what is not, but deciding this is actually a lot less complicated than it sounds.

A billable expense is an expense that you incur on behalf of a customer when you are doing work for them. They are separate from the costs you incur in manufacturing your product. For example, a billable expense could be your travel costs to and from a meeting with a client, or the administrative charges incurred in securing the necessary permits to provide your service or product.

Billable expenses do not usually amount to large sums of money, but they are classed as reimbursable expenses, which means you can bill the client for them. However, this must be agreed in advance with your client – it is up to them which reimbursable expenses they will allow. All billable expenses they have agreed to should be stated clearly on your contract or purchase order. You will also need to provide copies of receipts along with the bill for your expenses.

Billable expenses are listed as expenses on your books but are listed as income when invoiced.

What is Unapplied Cash Bill Payment Expense?

This is another term which often appears in business expense tracking and often needs some explaining to small business owners. An unapplied cash payment is a payment which has been made but not yet accounted for. Your unapplied cash bill payment expenses are expenses which have gone out but have not yet been applied to a bill. For example, it could be a bill you have paid early before a supplier has actually sent their invoice through, or a credit card payment which has been made before the statement has been sent.

It is essential to keep track of your unapplied cash bill payment expenses, so you can be sure you are only paying out money you actually owe, and also to keep your accounting records accurate.

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Tracking business expenses with Billdu!

Billdu offers a simple, user-friendly expense tracker to make it easier for you to track your business expenses and take control of your finances. This cloud-based application is accessible from a PC, as well as mobile apps for both iOS and Android, making it easy to enter your expenses as soon as they are incurred, wherever you are.

Billdu expense tracker also includes a receipt scanner, so you can instantly keep records of everything you pay for, all in order and accounted for. This makes it much easier for business owners and self-employed traders to track their expenses and complete their tax returns.

Billdu’s business expense tracking tool has been specially designed for small businesses and is far more straightforward and efficient than using a spreadsheet. Your information is securely stored, giving you extra peace of mind. It is also more cost-effective than many of the competing expense trackers available.

Want more help with tracking business expenses?

If you would like to know more about how to track business expenses or want to find out for yourself how much Billdu invoice generator and expense tracker can help with the process, please click below to register for the free trial.

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