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Navigating operating and non-operating expenses in business

Running a business involves paying for multiple things. Some of those costs are for business operations; We call those operating expenses. But other costs aren’t directly related to your main business activities. Those are non-operating expenses. 

Understanding the difference between operating and non-operating expenses is vital for stakeholders and managers. In this article, we will look into the differences between these two expenses. 

What are operating expenses?

“Opex,” short for “operating expenses,” is the amount a business spends on its daily functions. Simply put, operational expenditures are the expenses that are necessary for a business to carry out its everyday tasks, such as marketing and administrative costs, rent, office supplies, and more.

If you want to know how well a business is doing, you need to look at its operating expenditures. Finding the operating expenses, understanding the main cost drivers, and evaluating managerial effectiveness are thus crucial tasks for internal and external analysts.

It is critical to separate a company’s operational activities—those that generate income for the company—from those that do not—before determining operational expenses.

A company’s commercial operations are the main focus of its operational activities. If we take two examples: a manufacturing company’s primary function is to create a product from raw materials, and a trading company’s primary function is to purchase things from suppliers and then sell them to consumers.

These often vary from one sector of the economy to another. In some sectors, what is considered a financial or investment activity could be considered a functional activity in another.

How to calculate operating expenses?

You may calculate operating expenses (OPEX) by identifying ongoing expenditures that do not directly relate to the cost of employees or raw materials. The ongoing expenses of a business in a particular accounting period are determined by adding up the costs such as rent, utilities, administrative costs, and more.

What are non-operating expenses?

The costs a business must bear to pay off certain debts are non-operating expenses. Aside from that, these costs are crucial in determining a company’s net income at a given time.

In a nutshell, “non-operating expenses” in an income statement are any funds that don’t directly go towards running the business. You may find a company’s prospective earnings by deducting these expenditures from its operating profits.

Expenditures that aren’t directly related to running the business sometimes include ones that aren’t particularly prevalent or irregular. Examples of non-operating expenditures are charges for outdated inventory, costs associated with restructuring or reorganisation, and similar situations.

Interest payments, currency exchange fees, and similar recurrent expenditures are incidental costs, which are non-operating expenses.

It is important to remember that separately keeping track of non-operating costs is crucial to stakeholders and future investors. They can better understand the company’s financial obligations and reasonably estimate future profits.

How to calculate non-operating expenses?

Looking at a company’s financial statement is all it takes to identify its non-operating costs. These charges are shown on the business’s income statement and provide a clear picture of the costs associated with non-core operations.

Examples of operating and non-operating expenses

Companies might have a variety of non-operating expenditures, depending on the industry they’re in. Below are some examples of operational expenditures:

  • Management costs
  • Workplace supplies
  • Administrative staff salaries
  • Rent and utility costs.

Some of the typical instances of non-operating expenditures are as follows:

  • Interest costs
  • Expenses related to lawsuit settlement
  • Restructuring expense
  • Inventory expenses that are obsolete

Difference between operating and non-operating expenses

Operational expensesNon-operational expenses
Incurred during the daily course of business operations.Incurred outside the daily course of business operations.
Related to the primary activities that are revenue-generating.Not directly involved in the primary revenue-generating activities.
Include selling, general, and administrative expenses.Include interest payments, losses from lawsuits, or restructuring costs.
Recur regularly as part of the business’s ongoing activities.May occur irregularly and are not tied to the everyday functioning of the business
Examples are rent, utilities, and payroll for non-production staff.Examples are interest expense, loss on the sale of assets, and bad debts.


When you look at a business’s finances, the expenses can seem like a jumbled mess of numbers. 

However, understanding the distinctions between operating and non-operating expenses brings order to the chaos. Tracking these helps business owners and investors see the health of the company. 


Are operating and non-operating expenses indirect expenses? 

Operating expenses are indeed considered indirect expenses as they are not directly tied to the production of goods or services but are necessary for the day-to-day operations of a business. Non-operating expenses, while also indirect, are costs that arise outside the normal course of business activities and can include items such as interest payments or losses from asset sales.

Is COGS CapEx or OPEX? 

Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) is neither Capital Expenditure (CapEx) nor Operating Expense (OPEX). COGS includes direct costs associated with the production of goods or services sold by a company. These costs are directly tied to revenue production and vary with the level of output. CapEx refers to major purchases that a company capitalises on or shows on its balance sheet, while OPEX refers to the expenses a company incurs through its normal business operations.

Is R&D an operating expense? 

Research and Development (R&D) is typically classified as an operating expense. It encompasses the costs associated with the research and development of a company’s goods, services, or any intellectual property generated in the process. R&D expenses are considered part of the day-to-day operational costs and are essential for innovation and maintaining competitiveness in the market.

What are the two main types of operating expenses? 

The two main types of operating expenses are fixed and variable expenses. Fixed operating expenses do not change with the level of output and can include costs like rent, salaries, and insurance. Variable operating expenses fluctuate with production levels, such as utility costs or raw materials used in manufacturing.

What is COGS and SG&A? 

COGS, or Cost of Goods Sold, refers to the direct costs associated with the production of goods or services sold by a company. This includes labour, materials, and overhead costs directly tied to production. SG&A, or Selling, General, and Administrative expenses, are operating costs not directly tied to production. These include expenses like marketing, rent, utilities, and administrative salaries. SG&A expenses are necessary for running the business but are not directly related to the production process.

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