VARIANCE REPORT: Detailed Guide To Variance Reporting

variance report

Monitoring actual results against projected results is an important component of financial planning and analysis (FP&A). Variance reporting is one strategy used by financial analysts to compare actual performance to expectations.
Once a budget is created and approved by management, there must be systems in place to track the organization’s progress in executing the framework.
The variance report is one of the most widely utilized financial and budget instruments in the corporate finance industry. Accountants prepare variance reports on a regular basis as part of management reporting packages that are evaluated on a regular basis. Here will learn how to write and interpret a variance report.

What is a Variance Report?

A variance report is a document that contrasts the planned and actual financial outcomes. In other words, a variance report compares what was expected to happen with what actually occurred. Typically, variance reports are used to examine the gap between budgeted and actual performance. Depending on the financial outcomes being compared, the variance report may alternatively be referred to as “budget variance” or just “variance.” The discrepancy between the budgeted/baseline target and the actual reality is referred to as “variance.” Variance can be expressed as a percentage or as a monetary value.

Types of Variance Report

There are various sorts of variance reports, but they can be divided into two categories: predetermined and ad hoc.

#1. Predetermined Variance Reports

When you have your budget laid out ahead of time, you will have a predetermined variance report. This implies that departures from the original plan will be scrutinized more closely. These reports are typically issued on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis.

Aerospace and defense businesses usually employ predefined variance reports in order to comply with government restrictions.

#2. Ad hoc Variance Reports

When you have unexpected results that need to be looked at immediately, you should create an ad hoc variance report. This report will assist you in determining the best course of action for your company. These reports have the advantage of being able to be run on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

Even though this type of report is normally needed primarily in emergency situations, having one on hand is still beneficial. It could mean the difference between your company’s success and failure.

How to Write a Variance Report

Variance reporting can be accomplished in a variety of methods, but it always begins with a budget and projection.

Without these components, there is nothing to compare the actual outcomes against. Whatever budgeting method is used, all budgets will result in a financial plan. This plan serves as the framework for comparing real results.

Outside of financial variance reports, the most typical types of variance reports include buying price variance, labor rate variance, material yield variance, and volume variance.

The instructions below apply regardless of the type of variance report you want to write.

Step #1: Gather Data

Before you begin, sort your budgeted data into columns that will allow you to simply aggregate the data you want to compare. You can use the pro forma financial statements generated as a result of the budget process to generate financial variance reports.

Step #2: Input the Actual Data

Aggregate the actual data for the period in the columns next to your projected data sets.

This would be the actual balance sheet, income statement, and cash flows for financial variance reports. Make sure both columns are labeled clearly.

Step#3: Contrast Actual with Budgeted

Determine the difference between your budgeted and actual data in the following column. Pay strict attention to the formula’s direction.

For example, if expenses are higher in the anticipated period than in the actual period, this is a positive indicator.

Calculate the percentage difference in the following column. This is accomplished by multiplying (Actual Results / Forecasted Results) by 100.

Step #4: Examine the Results

The most important part of variance reporting is this. Take the effort to comprehend what the variance report is saying.

All deviations should be explored and explained in the final management report. Managers should be able to clearly identify where the problems that caused the variance originated.

Make sure to give equal attention to any good deviations that occur. This allows management to concentrate on efficiency and other enhancements that may be functioning better than intended.

How to Interpret Variance Report Results

The variance report is frequently regarded as the major tool for effectively regulating future expenditures and conditions. They are the ideal illustration of how independent numbers interact with one another in a larger group.

The most significant advantage of this style of report, in statistical terms, is that it provides equal weight to all types of deviations in an analysis. With this type of number reporting, you cannot reach a sum of zero regardless of the direction of their deviation from the mean. As a result, there will never be a circumstance in which there appears to be no deviation or variance.

This simply means that even the tiniest deviation is adequately accounted for in the variance report results.

However, this causes a minor hitch. The interpretation of the variance report is more complicated than you thought. You must have a thorough comprehension of this mathematical process, the dynamics of the industry under consideration, and the precise figure.

Remember that variance gives each of these data points more weight, and squaring them might skew the statistics in a sophisticated and confusing way. Most importantly, it will not fulfill the primary objective for which it is calculated in any meaningful way.

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Perhaps an example will help to make the point more effectively. Assume we are creating the variance report for Company X. The following are the results:

  • Year 1 has a 10% success rate.
  • Year 2 has a 15% success rate.
  • The 3rd year has a 10% chance of success.

The aggregate average over the last three years has been roughly 5%.

Let’s say the difference between the return and the average is about equal to:

  • 5% for the first year
  • 15 % in year two
  • 20% in the third year

When you square this, you obtain a deviation and variance close to 200 percent. Your standard deviation from this is then a little less than 15%.

What are the Characteristics of a Good Variance Report?

There are two signs of a positive budget variance:

  • The revenue is greater than the budgeted amount, or
  • The budget is less than the budgeted amount.

Any variance that puts money back into the business coffers is a win. On the other hand, an adverse budget variance results in a financial loss. Unfavorable budget variance indicates that you employed an insufficient baseline to predict future results.

When Should Variance Reporting Be Used?

Budgetary analysis, sales target analysis, trend reports, and spending analysis all make use of variance reporting.

What Steps Can You Take To Reduce the Budget Variance Report?

Improving budget variance report begins with setting your budget targets. In order to set realistic goals, you must be able to:

  • Get access to previous budgets
  • View current performance statistics, such as expenses/costs, revenue, customer information, market information, and historical trends.
  • Create accurate forecasts and models using real-time and historical data.
  • Experiment with different circumstances.
  • Recognize the impact of finance on operations and vice versa.

Positive vs. Negative Variance

It’s worth noting that the variance is never unidirectional. You might have both negative and positive situations, especially for budget variance report. Essentially, this is determined by both the major calculation metrics and the quality of the analysis. External variables such as seasonal changes, for example, can contribute to it.

Positive Variance

A positive variance often refers to beneficial variations in the report that you have generated.

It suggests that the profits were greater than predicted and were caused by unanticipated reasons. It generates a surplus and gains from a variety of sources. As a result, the corporation must go back to the drawing board and recalculate the available assets.

It may also result in a more refined asset allocation for them. Furthermore, this could be the result of a one-time, unprecedented windfall of some kind. This can cause numbers to be skewed.

Negative Variance

This is the inverse of the positive variance. This is the result of undesirable development.

The losses could have been caused by a computation error or even by an environmental condition. For example, if you work in the cement industry, cyclical elements such as rain and holiday demand for new homes come into play. As a result, demand for cement is expected to increase around that time. But consider how, soon after the subprime crisis, prices entirely bottomed out, and demand for houses fell. It is almost inevitable that cement costs would fall as well. As a result, a negative variance is not uncommon in this situation.

Nonetheless, these figures, particularly the variance, will provide owners with a feel of the market and clues on how to reduce their expectations for the coming quarters.

Variations that are commonly encountered

However, while looking at the variance report, it is clear that there are several fundamental characteristics that shift on a regular basis.

#1. Price variance

The variance in this situation, as the name implies, is in the price of the substance. This variance occurs when the real price of the material differs greatly from the standard price.

This is also due to the disparity between the real production and utilization levels and the standard ones. So, in this scenario, you must consider four factors:

  • Actual application. When purchasing in bulk, you may be able to obtain quantity savings, resulting in the use of additional resources to compensate for the price difference.
  • The actual price may be lower or greater than the market rate.
  • The materials’ quality is also critical. Buying lower grade or higher grade quality in comparison to the usual rate might sometimes be problematic.
  • The unavailability of specific products may also lead to the selection of a different option. It can add a substantial dimension to the entire variance report, both in terms of price and quality, and change the ultimate deductions.

#2. Usage Variance

As the name implies, when consumption levels differ from the usual rate, the following report is generated:

  • It is possible that substituting a different material for the usual one will have an impact on usage. According to the new standards, you may need to raise or decrease the quantity.
  • The material’s relative yield must be consistent with expectations. There is a variance if there is an oddity here.
  • The rate of scrap from the material used might also have a significant impact on the final deductions.

#3. Labor variance

The labor variance refers to the labor cost. In this scenario, the real rate differs greatly from the standard or expected rate. Again, there could be various causes for this affecting the variance report:

  • If the standard pay is much lower or higher than the current one.
  • Actual labor hours versus standard labor hours can also have an impact on quality and efficiency. This can, in turn, has an influence on the prices.
  • Special situations such as strikes, lockouts, and the like have an impact.
  • Overall labor efficiency is also important. If they are exceptionally efficient, 4 laborers in 5 hours can accomplish what 10 may be able to accomplish in 8 hours.

#4. Overhead spending Variance

This refers to the company’s overhead charges. Technically, it can be at any time and in any place. The key is to take into account all of the various variables:

  • Unexpected one-time charges or catastrophes that have an impact on the overall input cost
  • External elements that may have an impact on the end product’s demand.
  • Labor disturbance or special measures made to provide more financial recompense to workers for a given year.
  • Faulty output as a result of any oversight will have to be rejected, and the corporation will have to absorb the cost.


While variance reporting can be a source of frustration for any professional, they are critical in communicating findings to external stakeholders and decision-makers.

You should be ready to tackle your next assignment now that you’ve learned the fundamentals of variance reporting. Do you want to expand your knowledge? Check out our related articles.

Variance Report FAQs

What are the causes of variances?

Variations might occur for internal or external reasons, such as human mistakes, unrealistic expectations, or changing business or economic conditions.

What is income variance?

This is the discrepancy between actual and expected income. The variance is said to be positive if the actual figure is higher than expected. If it is less than the projected figure, you have a negative income variance.

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This is the discrepancy between actual and expected income. The variance is said to be positive if the actual figure is higher than expected. If it is less than the projected figure, you have a negative income variance.

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