What Is a Wage Expense

Wage expense is the cost incurred by companies to pay hourly employees. This line item may also include payroll taxes and benefits paid to employees. Wage expense may be recorded as a line item in the expense portion of the income statement.

Understanding Wage Expense

Wage expenses are sometimes reported by department, and they are most likely to be reported separately for the production department. This department is often the one with the most hourly employees. On the other hand, wage expenses for production workers may be incorporated into the cost of goods sold (COGS) item on the income statement. 

Wage expenses vary from one period to the next, depending on the number of business days in the period and the amount of overtime to be paid. Business days vary from month to month and may be affected by the number of holidays during the period.  

Under the accrual method of accounting, wage expenses are recorded based on when the work was performed. In contrast, under the cash method of accounting, wage expenses are recorded at the time the payments are made.