Net Income vs. Gross Income

Many small business owners might be unfamiliar with distinguishing between gross income and net income. These are two essential indicators for evaluating the performance of a business. Knowing the difference is essential for comprehending the financial well-being of your business.

What is Gross Income?

Gross income is often termed “gross earnings” or “gross profits,”. It is essentially the net amount a business earns from the sale of its products or services within a certain time frame.

This figure is calculated by subtracting the direct expenses involved in production, known as the cost of goods sold (COGS), from the total revenue generated. It is a key metric found under the “gross income” section on a profit and loss statement.

Gross income appears at the beginning of a company’s income statement. It encompasses all revenue streams, including sales, investment interest, and earnings from rentals. It offers a preliminary glimpse into the financial well-being of a business by capturing its revenues before deducting expenses such as operational costs, employee salaries, taxes, and more.

This metric is important for assessing the company’s financial strength, acting as an initial indicator of profit-making efficiency and operational success. Analysts use gross income to understand a company’s ability to generate revenue before the impact of expenses. This helps shed light on potential cost-saving opportunities. Furthermore, it plays an important role in forecasting, enabling predictions about future financial health, and guiding both investment choices and strategic decision-making processes.

How to Compute Gross Income?

Calculating gross income is achieved by employing a simple formula that subtracts the cost of goods sold (COGS) from the total revenues. The equation is given by:

Gross Income = Total Revenues – COGS

1: Find Total Revenues  

Initially, one must determine the total revenues, representing the entirety of earnings before deductions such as expenses and taxes. This encompasses sales revenue, interest income, and other income sources.

2: Identify COGS  

Then, calculate the COGS, which encompasses the direct costs tied to the production of the goods sold by the company. This includes the costs for materials and direct labor.

3: Compute Gross Income  

Subtract the COGS from the total revenues to find the Gross Income.

For example, if a company generates $350,000 from selling a kitchen appliance it produces over three months, and the COGS amounts to $50,000, the business’s gross income for the quarter would be $300,000.

Gross Income= Total Revenues – COGS

Where: $350,000 – $50,000 = $300,000

By following these steps, businesses can effectively calculate their gross income, providing a clear picture of profitability before other expenses are factored in.

What is Net Income?

Net income, often synonymous with “net profit,” “net earnings,” or “profit,” is the profit a company retains after all expenses have been deducted from its gross revenue over a specific period. It is a critical measure of a company’s profitability and management efficacy, serving as a valuable metric for investors assessing the company’s financial health and potential for long-term growth and return on investment

Expenses impacting net income are broadly categorized as:

Direct Expenses

Costs directly tied to the production and delivery of goods and services, such as raw materials, labor, shipping, and the use of production facilities.

Indirect Expenses

Overhead and operational costs are not directly linked to product creation, including fees for professional services (accountants, lawyers), administrative expenses, insurance, and utilities. 

The calculation of net income, which can result in either a positive number (profit) or a negative number (loss), is a straightforward measure of whether a company’s gross revenue surpasses its total expenses during a given period.

How to Compute Net Income?

Net income, in essence, is what remains after subtracting all expenses from the total revenue. It’s defined through the equation:

Net Income = Total Revenue – Total Expenses.

To determine net income, follow these outlined steps:

Identify Gross Income

Begin by calculating your gross income, which is your income before any deductions. This encompasses all sources of revenue as previously detailed.

Deduct Operating Expenses

From your gross profit, deduct all costs directly associated with running your business, such as salaries, utilities, rent, and marketing expenses.

Subtract Taxes and Interest

Remove any interest on debts and tax payments from this figure to account for both federal and state obligations.

Adjust for Non-Operating Activities

Include any non-operational incomes or expenses, like earnings or losses from investments.

This process will culminate in the net income figure, illustrating the actual profit after covering all operating costs and additional expenses.


An office and school supply business’ gross income is $500,000 from 5,000 units of printers sold at $100 each.

The COGS for the 5,000 units of printers is $15 each, totaling $75,000.

Subtract the COGS from Gross Income: $500,000 – $75,000 = $425,000.

Assuming operating expenses are 75% of the gross profit, or $106,250.

$425,000 – $106,250 = $318,750

This amount, now considered EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization), doesn’t yet account for taxes or interest, which we’ll set at 5% or $21,250.

Deducting this from $318,750 leaves the business with a net income of $297,500 or a 59.5% profit margin.

How Businesses Use Gross and Net Income in Decision Making

Both gross income and net income are critical metrics when it comes to guiding business decisions, yet they serve different purposes.

Companies typically leverage gross income to assess cost management and product pricing strategies, ensuring COGS are efficiently managed and pricing structures allow for an adequate transfer of costs to consumers. This metric aids in evaluating a firm’s profitability from a primary operations standpoint. 

Conversely, net income acts as a comprehensive tool for evaluating a company’s financial viability and profitability over time. It’s instrumental in assessing the following:

  • Profit margins
  • Monitoring cash flows
  • Evaluating liabilities,
  • Supporting loan applications,
  • Crafting strategic financial plans
  • Identifying cost reduction opportunities

Business owners often compare their gross profit margin and net profit margin to gauge business sustainability. Fluctuations in these margins can indicate cost management issues or excessive spending. Understanding the nuances between gross and net income is essential for small business owners in evaluating their business’s financial health and long-term viability.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the essentials of gross and net income equips business owners with invaluable tools for financial analysis and decision-making. Gross income paints an initial picture of a company’s revenue-generation capabilities before accounting for the myriad of expenses it faces. On the other hand, net income provides a more comprehensive view, reflecting the company’s ultimate profitability after all financial obligations have been met. This knowledge not only helps in assessing the current financial health but also in strategizing for future sustainability and growth. Recognizing the difference and importance of these two metrics is fundamental for effective business management and planning.

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