What Is a Cost Center? Explained in 500 Words or Less

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To do this, all you have to do is compare what you’re spending on the loyalty program against the recurring revenue spent by customers that are enrolled in it. That way, you’ll know how much profit your customer loyalty program is indirectly netting for your business. Most cost centers will have a manager in charge of tracking and reporting expenses. If the cost center is just an individual role, the employee may manage the expenses themself or it may be managed by their direct supervisor — depending on the role. In fact, most of the time you only really notice the offensive line when things go wrong and the defense ends up sacking the quarterback or blowing up the play. The same goes for cost centers when customers are upset or unsatisfied with their experience and this ends up negatively affecting marketing and sales.

An example of a cost center is the accounting team within an organization. This center of activity is different from a profit center in which a profit center does generate both revenues and expenses. With greater insights into the financial aspects of different areas of their company, upper management can use cost center data to make better decisions. This includes a better understanding of what costs it may take to scale operations to target revenue levels, how a merger may impact company profits, or what targets are most reasonable for a long-term strategic plan. At the heart of cost centers is the notion of fiscal responsibility, the idea that different groups of individuals should be responsible for the financial outcome of their area. By separating out groups, even groups that do not make money, department leaders are put in charge about managing their team’s finances.

Benefits of Cost Centers

Cost centers need to have clear budgets and their managers need to track that spending. Once you know the value of a cost center, it makes it a lot easier to determine whether your business needs it or not. For instance, if you notice a cost center isn’t providing an adequate return, you can cut that program or team and reallocate those resources to another area of your business. That way, you can make sure all of your expenses are going towards services that your customers actually want, rather than guessing what functions you think they’ll need and spending money blindly. A billing team doesn’t directly generate revenue for your business, but it’s still needed for your company to function properly. Without it, customers wouldn’t know where to submit payments and your business wouldn’t have a formal way of collecting them.

Given the above, a cost center is, therefore, a natural division of an undertaking that helps to measure and understand operational costs and apply costs to products. None of these departments generate profit, but they are crucial to business function and play a role in cash flow and investment decisions. They create the project’s blueprints so the rest of the team can execute the plan. As a project manager, their job is to make sure employees are organized and understand timelines, goals, and challenges included in a specific project or campaign.

  • Profit Centers may be part and parcel of revenue generation, but Cost Centers are just as integral to the smooth running of the company.
  • Cost Centers function best in cooperation with other divisions and departments.
  • An impersonal cost center refers to a cost center that consists of a location, item of equipment, or a group of these (e.g., machines, departments, and vehicles).
  • The number and size of cost centers a company may have will depend on industry and company size.

Finance Strategists is a leading financial education organization that connects people with financial professionals, priding itself on providing accurate and reliable financial information to millions of readers each year. The articles and research support materials available on this site are educational and are not intended to be investment or tax advice. All such information is provided solely for convenience purposes only and all users thereof should be guided accordingly. After costs have been ascertained, accumulated, classified, and recorded, they must be related to a convenient measure of the quantity of the product or service. This measure of the quantity of a product or service is known as the cost unit. According to the Institute of Cost and Management Accountants, the “operation cost center is a center which consists of those machines and/or persons which carry out the same operations.”

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Factories might choose productive normal balance of accounts whereas an administrative wing might choose an unproductive cost center. When employees have tech-related issues, most businesses will have an IT department where they can report equipment or software problems. This is a really important function for businesses because it keeps employees on track and properly equipped to meet their expected workload. This will help you determine whether you’re achieving your goals and if the cost center is indirectly adding value to the customer experience. Running a cost center is a logistical burden that requires a company to perform potentially extra work to track, collect, and analyze information.

While this is an important task that can indirectly increase revenue by keeping patients happy, the patient relations center does not earn a profit. For example, if you have an HR department or even a single HR employee, they would be considered a cost center. Cost centers do not generate revenue but incur expenses, which directly affects both cash flow and your income statement.

Example of Cost Centre

A cost center isn’t always an entire department; it can involve any function or business unit that needs to have its expenses tracked separately. External users of financial statements, including regulators, taxation authorities, investors, and creditors, have little use for cost center data. Therefore, external financial statements are generally prepared with line items displayed as an aggregate of all cost centers.

Cost centers are listed separately to keep their resource usage easier to monitor. Cost center managers are responsible for making sure their cost centers run efficiently and within budget. If you have one, you can track its expenses to see if it’s actually retaining customers.


It defined a cost center a location, person, or item of equipment (or a group of these) for which costs may be ascertained and used for the purposes of cost control. That’s to say, a cost center refers to any place, person, machine, section, part, activity, or function within an organization or undertaking by which costs are collected or accumulated, and to which costs are allocated. The human resources manager needs to be experienced in the department so that they can efficiently guide and help the staff as needed. Ideally, they should be able to balance employee needs also managing costs.

Operational cost centers group people, equipment, and activities that engage in a singular commonly-themed activity. Most often, operational cost centers may be seen as common company departments that group employees based on their function within the company. The important part to note is an operational cost center is a back-office function that, while it may represent an entire department, does not generate revenue. The financial accounting department assigns cost centers based on your business needs and how you spend your money. They often have a broader perspective of budgeting needs than individual cost center managers and therefore help structure resource allocations for improved efficiency over time. To be successful, businesses must track costs and income streams to build an accurate business plan and budget.

How a Cost Center Works

Providing excellent customer service increases company value and house to build a loyal customer base. While your goal should always be to stay within budget, that shouldn’t be the sole purpose of your cost center. After all, you don’t want to just spend money for the sake of spending it. You should want to maximize the value of your cost centers to ensure they’re providing the most return for what you’re spending on them. The purpose of creating a cost center is to understand how much a certain function or team costs to operate and whether that cost is worth the value the service or team provides. Once you know that, you can allot a budget to make sure it doesn’t end up costing your business more than you expected.