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Gross vs. Net Income: How To Calculate and Why It Matters for Your Bottom Line

  • Finance
  • Article
  • 6 min. Read
  • Last Updated: 04/23/2024

A small business owner calculates gross and net income to help with financial analysis

Table of Contents

To navigate the financial landscape of a business, you must clearly understand two critical terms: gross income and net income. These terms are the cornerstones of financial analysis and decision-making for small- to medium-sized businesses. In this article, we're breaking down the key differences between gross vs. net income and how each reflects the company's operational success and financial stability.

What Is Gross Income?

The gross income definition is the total amount a business earns minus the cost of goods sold (COGS). It's the broadest measure of a company's income-generating ability before subtracting expenses like operating costs, taxes, and other overhead fees.

How To Calculate Business Gross Income

Calculating gross income for a business is straightforward. It's your business's total revenue minus the cost of goods sold (COGS). One key factor is that gross income is before taxes and other expenses — COGS doesn't include sales and marketing costs, administrative fees, or taxes.

The gross income formula is Gross Income = (Total Revenue) - (Cost of Goods Sold).

As you can see, knowing how to calculate gross income requires you to follow a 2-step process:

  • Add together every dollar your business brings in from all revenue sources. This includes cash, check, and credit card sales, as well as dividends, rental income, and canceled debt. Including every income stream is crucial to capture the total revenue accurately.
  • Subtract all direct costs associated with producing the items. These are known as the cost of goods sold (COGS) and typically include raw materials, manufacturing and labor costs, and other expenses directly related to production.

Understanding what goes into the calculation can help you make pivotal business decisions, from setting prices to strategizing for growth.

What Is an Example of Gross Income?

For a more precise understanding, let's consider a gross income example. Suppose a business manufactures and sells furniture. In a given year, the company generates $500,000 in sales from furniture. Additional income includes $20,000 from business investments. This makes the business's total revenue $520,000.

If the cost of producing the furniture, including materials and direct labor, adds up to $300,000, then the gross income would be:

Gross Income = $520,000 (Total Revenue) - $300,000 (Cost of Goods Sold) = $220,000

This calculation of how to find gross income shows how gross income represents the earnings from primary business activities and other sources before subtracting taxes and other expenses.

Gross Pay, Gross Profit, and Gross Income: What Are the Differences?

When it comes to financial terminology in business, it's crucial to understand the distinctions between gross income, gross profit, and gross pay. The terms may be used interchangeably but can have different meanings depending on the industry. It helps to ask detailed questions to determine the proper context.

For instance, in a business outside the manufacturing industry that does not generally report the cost of goods sold, gross income may also be referred to as gross profit. Gross profit can also describe total revenues. It appears on your company's profit-and-loss statement and is a primary method to measure your progress against your competitors within the same industry.

On the other hand, gross pay is a term relating to one aspect of an individual's income. It measures the total salary or hourly wage an employee earns before taxes and benefits are factored in. Gross pay is the number seen on paychecks, an employee's reward for hard work, and can also be calculated annually.

What Is Net Income?

Net income is often called the bottom-line profit. It's what remains after business expenses are pulled away from gross income. Expenses you'll subtract include the cost of goods sold, as well as advertising, rent, utilities, wages, taxes, and other fees.

A “business expense” is a cost that's commonly accepted as necessary for conducting business in your unique field. A typical example can range from auto expenses to entertaining clients and from participating in trade shows to paying local business taxes and fees.

Comparing net vs. gross income reveals how well a business manages expenses. Government tax programs play a pivotal role in expense management strategies and can often increase net income. For example, consider the location of your business. Local and state tax levels vary, meaning your choice of business location can potentially lower local and state tax liabilities.

Another expense management strategy comes in the form of IRS tax credits. For example, qualifying small businesses can receive credits for renewable energy production or providing child-care facilities and services, which can further enhance a company's net income.

What Is Annual Net Income?

The annual net income definition is your company's profitability over a year. Also called net earnings, it captures yearly revenue and expenses. The figure is a crucial indicator for investors and stakeholders to assess financial performance and guide long-term strategic planning.

The calculation can include a typical calendar year of January through December or a fiscal year. A fiscal year is a 12-month period that ends on a date other than December 31. Businesses have the option to use a fiscal year for financial and tax reporting purposes.

How To Calculate Business Net Income

Knowing how to calculate net income is vital for making informed decisions and strategizing for future growth. It requires subtracting all business expenses from gross income. The net income formula is: (Net Income) = (Gross Income) − (Total Business Expenses).

Total business expenses include all costs associated with running the business, such as COGS, advertising, rent, utilities, wages, and any other operational expenses. When you understand how to determine net income, you'll have a clear picture of profitability after accounting for all costs involved in generating revenue.

What Is an Example of Net Income?

To bring this concept to life, let's consider an example of how to find net income. Imagine a small consulting firm that reports an annual gross income of $400,000 but spends $150,000 on operational expenses. After subtracting expenses, you're left with a net income of $175,000.

Net Income = $400,000 (Gross Income) − $225,000 (Total Business Expenses) = $175,000

In this net income example, the $175,000 is the actual profit the consulting firm earned after subtracting employee salaries, office rent, utilities, marketing, taxes, and other business expenses.

Is Net Income Before or After Taxes?

When asking, "Is net income before or after taxes?" it's important to know that it is calculated after taxes have been accounted for. Understanding net income as an after-tax figure is critical to getting an accurate picture of how much profit a business retains after fulfilling all its financial commitments, including tax obligations.

Factoring in taxes when calculating net income ensures businesses are prepared for tax liabilities and compliant with financial regulations, maintaining transparency and trust in business operations.

Net Pay and Net Income: Are They the Same?

While they may sound similar, net income and net pay are distinct concepts in the financial world. The difference lies in the context: is it a matter of business finance or personal earnings?

In business terms, net income is the final figure after all expenses are accounted for. It's a crucial indicator of a company's financial health, reflecting the actual earnings after deducting costs like materials, wages, and operational expenses. This figure tells a story about the company's ability to generate profit beyond just making sales.

However, for an individual's salary, net income can mean the same as net pay. This is the amount an employee actually receives in their paycheck after deductions such as taxes, health insurance, and retirement contributions. It's the actual amount that individuals can use for their daily expenses and savings — the money they must live on.

Differences Between Gross vs. Net Income

Gross Income Net Income
Definition All revenues or sales received by the business, less the cost of making and distributing the products (COGS). Income remaining after all operating expenses, taxes, and other deductions are subtracted from revenues.
Significance Shows a company’s income-generating ability, taking into account operational expenses like material and labor costs. Shows the overall profitability of a business, reflecting its financial health after accounting for all expenses.
Does It Include Expenses? Does not include expenses like marketing, rent, administrative overhead, and taxes. Accounts for all business expenses, including marketing, rent, administrative overhead, and taxes.
Financial Statement Typically appears as a line item on the income statement before deductions for operating expenses and taxes. Reported as the bottom-line number on the profit-and-loss statement, indicating the final profit or loss for the period.
Practical Use Used to assess the profitability of core business activities and set pricing strategies. Critical for evaluating overall business performance, making strategic decisions, and assessing fiscal stability.

The Link Between Income and Cash Flow

Understanding income also involves an evaluation of cash flow. Cash flow is about the actual movement of money in and out of a business, and it's crucial for day-to-day operations. A profitable company on paper might still face challenges if its cash isn't managed well, especially if there are delays in receiving payments from customers.

A cash flow statement tracks the comings and goings of cash. Proper cash flow management is particularly important for businesses that experience cyclical or seasonal sales patterns. For instance, a company selling holiday-themed merchandise may find that most of its revenues are earned in one quarter of the year. However, the business still must maintain enough cash on hand to fund year-round operations.

Or, a company might report $1,000 in sales on the income statement, though customers only pay half that amount upfront. Until the balance due is collected, the addition to cash flow will be less than the income reported on the income statement. Using just the income statement for analysis paints an inaccurate picture of the company's overall finances.

Why Do Differences Between Gross and Net Income Matter to Your Business?

Comparing gross income vs. net income is helpful for business decisions. Gross income numbers indicate the health of revenue streams. Analyzing gross income broken down by different products or services can determine its success.

Net income shows the amount of profit generated after taking all expenses into account. It's a key indicator of your business's financial efficiency. If your gross income is steady but your net income begins to dip, it's a signal to examine and potentially reduce certain expenses. On the other hand, if your expenses outpace your income, your company might face a net loss.

You may also want to use the individual components of gross and net income calculations to determine the level of production that will allow you to break even and how much business you'll need to generate each month or year to earn a profit.

Net income is also important because it's the number the IRS uses to determine the amount of business taxes owed. Depending on a business structure, net income may be taxed differently. Sole proprietorships and limited liability companies (LLCs) report their net income on the business owner's personal tax returns, while S corporations pass through their income to shareholders. C corporations calculate their tax liability as a separate entity, apart from shareholders. A tax or legal advisor can help determine the best business structure for tax reporting purposes.

Income vs. Cash Flow as a Strategic Opportunity

Looking at net income vs. gross income isn't just a routine part of financial management. It's an opportunity to review both revenue and costs line-by-line and answer strategic questions like: Are there areas and opportunities to grow? What are the most significant costs?

With a strong understanding of the difference between gross and net income, a business owner can begin to test general assumptions and make decisions based on unique data. It could result in the choice to raise prices, for example, or cut expenses. It varies depending on business and industry, but in general, strategy decisions should be made after a careful analysis of the income statement.

When considering gross and net income, cash flow management will inevitably come into play. A firm understanding of industry-specific profitability metrics, such as profit margins, Return on Assets (ROA), or Return on Investment (ROI), is essential. These metrics offer deeper insights into how effectively your business generates and spends money.

The information provided should not be considered legal or accounting advice, and it should not substitute for legal, accounting, and other professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. It is provided for informational purposes only.


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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

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