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What is Gross Income?

Robinhood LearnJune 17, 2020
Democratize finance for all. Our writers’ work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, the Chicago Tribune, Quartz, the San Francisco Chronicle, and more.
definition

Gross income for companies is the sales revenue of a company minus the total cost of goods sold (COGS). For individuals, it is one’s income before taxes and deductions.

🤔 Understanding gross income

The definition of gross income is actually two definitions. When discussing an individual’s gross income, it is usually called gross pay and is all monies they receive from salary or other sources — before taxes and other deductions. For companies, gross income is one type of profit calculation and is found by subtracting the cost of goods sold (COGS) from the company’s total revenue. The cost of goods sold being all costs that are directly part of producing or acquiring the product that is sold to the company’s customers. Gross income can also be called gross profit or gross margin. For companies, gross income and COGS are found on the income statement.

example

Consider the fictional company John’s Widgets. John’s Widgets has revenue of $1.5M for 2018 from sales. The COGS (cost of goods sold) includes all direct costs required to make the widgets and totals $.5M for 2018. To find the gross income for John’s Widgets, subtract $.5M (COGS) from $1.5M (revenue), for a total of $1M gross income.

Takeaway

Gross income is like your profits from a day selling lemonade at a roadside stand as a kid…

The calculations are simple if you look at the money people paid for lemonade minus what it cost you to buy the ingredients. Things will get more complicated if you start a lemonade company, buy equipment, enter contracts with suppliers, hire employees, and pay taxes.

Tell me more...

What does gross income tell you?
What is the difference between gross income vs. net income vs. total income vs. revenue?
How do you calculate gross income?
Does gross income need to be reported to the government?
What is adjusted gross income?

What does gross income tell you?

Because gross income is revenue minus cost of goods sold, it can help show how efficiently a company creates and sells its products and services. Management of labor costs and other direct costs must be managed well to maintain control of COGS. Gross income is also the formula starting point for gross profit margin (ratio of gross profit to sales), which is another tool for measuring company efficiency.

Gross income ranges will vary widely between industries. This means comparing the gross income of a computer maker to a pencil manufacturer would not make sense. However, it can sometimes be helpful to see if a company making computers has a gross income similar in range to other companies that produce computers -- At least if used in conjunction with other measures.

Finally, comparing gross income with the net profit or net losses can provide helpful information. By looking at these numbers, one can get a feel for how significantly the costs of a company beyond COGS impact the bottom line of the company. For example, when a company has a slim margin (small difference) between revenue and COGS (a low gross income), it can indicate that it might be vulnerable to changes in costs or the marketplace. If labor costs rise or competition reduces prices, the company might not have room to make changes needed to compete while still maintaining a positive gross income.

What is the difference between gross income vs. net income vs. total income vs. revenue?

Gross income, net income, total income, and revenue are related numbers, but they are not the same.

Gross income Gross income is revenue minus the cost of goods sold (COGS), the direct costs of making and selling a product or service. Because companies have more expenses than COGS, this is not a bottom-line profit number. Therefore, a company with a positive gross income could still show a net loss.

Net income Net income is the bottom line of a company. Net income shows whether or not a company made a profit or took a loss for a set timeframe. It is total revenue minus total expenses. Think of it as a refinement on gross income that considers all company costs, not just COGS.

Total income For an individual, total income refers to the amount of money received from wages and any other sources of income over a set time. For a company, total income is not often used — but it can refer to total revenue minus total expenses (basically interchangeable with net income).

Revenue Revenue differs from gross income, net income, and total income because it is not a profit calculation. Revenue represents money taken in by a company from sales of products or services before subtracting costs and other expenses. Revenue is the starting point for calculating most profit figures and is often called the top line because of its location on financial statements. Revenue may also be called gross sales.

How do you calculate gross income?

The formula for gross income is revenue minus cost of goods sold (COGS). Bear in mind that gross income might appear as gross profit or gross margin on an income statement instead of as gross income.

The cost of goods sold (COGS) also appears on the income statement but could have a different label, such as the cost of services, if the company is a service only company. Occasionally, a company may list COGS and the cost of services as separate line items. In this case, both values would need to be subtracted from revenue to get the gross income number.

Does gross income need to be reported to the government?

Gross income is an integral part of a company’s financials as well as an essential part of understanding an individual’s finances. However, whether or not gross income must be reported depends on many factors.

Gross income reporting requirements vary based on if it is the gross income of an individual or the gross income of a company. If working with the gross income of a company, reporting requirements vary by the type of company structure used for filing taxes.

For example, an LLC might be taxed only through the members’ (owners’) income taxes but still must file annual reports with the state where the LLC was registered. Whether gross income is part of the annual reporting requirements to the state depends on the rules for the state in which the LLC registered.

Corporations and other businesses being directly taxed would have to report revenue, some costs, and profits. However, whether or not gross income is required as a separate line item depends on the tax structure and forms filed for each specific business. For most, revenue and costs will be entered separately on tax forms and not as a pre-computed number.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires publicly traded companies (a company with stock traded on a stock market) to make annual and quarterly financial statement reports along with other disclosure reports (called filings). Gross income is one of the line items to be included in the income statement part of the required financial reports.

Private companies do not have to make financial reports such as income statements public.

Individuals are required to file income tax returns with the IRS and, in states with an income tax, their state revenue department. Some cases may require filing taxes where the individual worked as well as, or instead of, their home state. A few exceptions to filing requirements exist but are dependent on any number of factors.

Individuals may use the online Do I Need to File a Tax Return web page from the IRS to determine if they must file a tax return. Alternately they may consult their tax professional, or the IRS helpline, to find out if they must file a return. Gross income must be disclosed on all income tax returns. A limited number of types of income are allowed to be excluded from the gross income calculation for tax purposes, such as Veterans Administration (VA) disability payments.

What is adjusted gross income?

Adjusted gross income (AGI) is part of personal finances, not company finances. AGI is your starting point of taxable income on state and federal income tax forms.

Calculate AGI by subtracting qualified items from your gross income. Some of the qualified items are:

  • contributions to eligible IRAs
  • alimony paid
  • moving expenses (military)
  • half the self-employment tax
  • HSA deductions
  • property sale/exchange losses
  • early withdrawal penalties
  • certain business expenses
  • jury duty pay if it was previously turned over to an employer

Note that the gross income includes items not reported on your taxes, such as Social Security payments and unemployment income. AGI is then the starting point from which deductions are subtracted to calculate your income taxes owed.

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