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What Is An Income Statement? Overview, And How It Works

Knowing how to read and analyze data from an income statement, one of the most essential financial papers that firms produce is a key skill to have as a business owner, entrepreneur, or investor.

Understanding what an income statement is can help you identify future opportunities, decide on business strategy, and develop relevant goals for your team, in addition to determining your company’s current financial health.

It may appear tough to understand the complicated concepts inherent in financial paperwork if you do not have a background in finance or accounting. However, taking the effort to understand financial documents, such as an income statement, can go a long way toward advancing your career.

To assist you in developing this understanding, here’s a rundown of everything you need to know about income statements, including what they are, why they’re important, how they work, and what they’re used for.

What is an income statement?

An income statement is a financial statement that shows the income and expenses of a firm. It also displays if a corporation makes a profit or a loss during a given period (usually one year).

The income statement is sometimes referred to as a profit and loss statement, a statement of operations, a statement of financial result or income, or an earnings statement.

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What‘s the difference between an income statement, a balance sheet, and a cash flow statement?

The income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement are the ‘big three’ financial reports used to summarize the health of your organization.

Income statement – A monthly statement that records revenue and expenses. It details the company’s income and subtracts various costs to indicate gross profit, operational profit, and profit before tax, as the name implies.

While the income statement indicates what transpired during a specific period, the balance sheet is a snapshot of where the business stands at a specific point in time, such as the conclusion of a quarter or year.

It indicates how much the company owes and how much it possesses in terms of assets(for example, property, furniture, equipment, for-sale stock, cash, and money owed to you) and liabilities (e.g. bank overdraft and loans). Learn more about the operation of balance sheets.

The cash flow statement demonstrates where the money in the business comes from and how it is spent. It does not include future income or outgoings, unlike an income statement and a balance sheet. It only considers cash flow for a specified period.

These three documents, when read together, provide insight into your company’s past, present, and future financial status. The trends in these reports are used by financial models to anticipate the company’s future performance.

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Importance of income statement

A profit and loss statement assists business owners in determining if they can produce a profit by growing sales, cutting expenditures, or both.

It also demonstrates the efficiency of the strategies established by the company at the start of a fiscal term. This document can be used by business owners to determine whether or not their tactics were successful.

Based on their analysis, they can devise the best solutions to increase profits.

The following are a few other things that an income statement might tell you.

Frequent reports:

While other financial statements are released on an annual basis, the income statement is produced periodically or monthly.

As a result, business owners and investors can closely monitor the company’s performance and make educated judgments.

This also allows them to identify and resolve minor company issues before they become huge and costly.

Identifying costs:

This statement emphasizes the company’s future expenses or any unexpected expenditures, as well as any areas that are over or under budget.

Building rent, payroll, and other overhead charges are examples of expenses. As a small firm expands, its expenses may skyrocket.

These expenses could include recruiting personnel, purchasing materials, and marketing the business.

Overall company analysis:

This statement provides investors with an overview of the firm in which they intend to invest.

This document can also be used by banks and other financial organizations to determine whether a business is loan-worthy.

Who uses an income statement?

This financial statement is used by two distinct groups of people: internal and external users.

Internal users include firm management and the board of directors, who utilize this data to examine the company’s position and make choices to earn a profit. They can help address any cash flow difficulties.

Investors, creditors, and competitors are examples of external users. Investors assess whether a firm is well-positioned to expand and profit in the future before deciding whether to invest in it. The income statement is used by creditors to determine whether the company has enough cash flow to pay off its debts or take out a new loan.

Competitors use them to learn more about a company’s success conditions and to learn about areas where the company is spending extra money, such as R&D.

What is an income statement used for?

The primary objective of an income statement is to communicate to stakeholders the facts of the company’s profitability and business activities; it also provides detailed insights into the company’s internals for comparison across other enterprises and industries.

The income statement informs the company’s owners and shareholders about how the company performed and whether or not it generated a profit. You can determine whether your profit is sustainable by looking at a net profit (gross profit minus expenses).

Along with your cash flow statement, your income statement can assist banks and other lenders in determining if your business can generate enough profit to remain in operation. It tells the financial story of a company’s activities.

Management can make decisions based on income statements such as expanding into new geographies, raising sales, increasing manufacturing capacity, increasing utilization or outright selling of assets, or closing down a department or product line.

Competitors may also use them to acquire insights on a company’s success factors and priority areas, such as boosting R&D expenditures.

An income statement contains all revenue and spending accounts for a specific period. Income statements are created by accountants utilizing trial balances from any two points in time.

An income statement and other financial documents, such as the cash flow statement, balance sheet, and annual report, can help you determine whether the business is profitable; if it is spending more than it earns; when costs are highest and lowest; how much it pays to produce its product; and whether it has enough cash to reinvest in the business.

Accountants, investors, and business owners study income statements regularly to understand how well a company is performing in comparison to its planned performance, and they utilize that understanding to change their activities.

A business owner whose company misses targets may, for example, change strategy to improve in the next quarter. Similarly, an investor may opt to sell an investment to invest in a firm that is fulfilling or exceeding its targets.

Income statements may be of limited assistance to creditors because they are more concerned with a company’s prospective cash flows rather than its past success.

The income statement is used by research analysts to compare year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter performance.

One can deduce whether a company’s attempts to reduce the cost of sales helped it boost profits over time, or whether management was able to keep operational expenses under control without sacrificing profitability.

Elements of an income statement

The style of an income statement will fluctuate between firms because expenses and income will vary depending on the sort of operations or company has done.

However, there are a few basic line items that can be found on any income statement.

An income statement has the following components:

Sales or revenue:

This is the company’s revenue from sales or services, and it gives you a summary of gross sales earned by the company. It is listed at the very top of the income statement.

Revenue is divided into two categories: operating and non-operating. The money earned by a corporation from primary activities such as creating a product or delivering a service is referred to as operating revenue.

Non-operating revenue is generated by non-core business operations such as system installation, operation, or maintenance. Some businesses have many revenue streams that contribute to a total revenue line.

COGS (cost of goods sold):

This is the total cost of sales or services, also known as the cost of manufacturing goods or services.

Remember that it only includes the cost of the things you sell. COGS does not typically include indirect costs such as overhead. Labor, parts, materials, and an allocation of other expenses such as depreciation are examples of direct costs.

Gross profit:

Gross profit is estimated by deducting the cost of goods sold from the sales revenue.

Net sales are the funds you received for the goods sold, whereas COGS are the funds you spent to generate those goods.


A gain is the result of a positive event that increases an organization’s income.

Gains represent the amount of money earned by the company as a result of various business actions such as the sale of an operational segment.

Similarly, income from one-time non-business activities is recorded as business gains. For instance, a firm selling off obsolete vehicles or underutilized land.

Although the gain is a sort of secondary revenue, the two phrases are not synonymous. Revenue is money collected regularly by a firm, whereas gain might be reported for the sale of fixed assets, which is considered a rare activity for a company.


Expenses are the costs incurred by the company to earn income.

Equipment depreciation, staff compensation, and supplier payments are all examples of regular expenses. There are two types of business expenses: operational expenses and non-operating expenses.

Expenses incurred as a result of a company’s core business activities are known as operating expenses, such as sales commissions, pension contributions, and payroll, whereas those incurred as a result of non-core business activities, such as obsolete inventory charges or lawsuits settlement, are known as non-operating expenses.

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Advertising costs:

These are essentially the marketing charges required to increase the client base.

They include print and web advertisements, as well as radio and video advertisements. Advertising costs are typically included in Sales, General, and Administrative (SG&A) expenses.

Administrative expenses:

This encompasses all additional indirect costs related to running a business, as well as the selling, general and administrative sections. Salaries, rent, office supplies, and travel expenses are examples of administrative expenses.

Administrative expenses are set in nature and tend to persist regardless of revenue volume.


Depreciation is the practice of spreading the expense of a long-term asset over its useful life. It is a management agreement to write off the asset value of a corporation, but it is a non-cash transaction.

It primarily reflects the asset value depleted by the firm over time.

Earnings before taxes (EBT):

This is a metric used to assess a company’s financial performance. EBT is determined by deducting expenses from operating revenue before taxes.

It’s a line item on a multi-step income statement. It is also referred to as pre-tax income.

Net profit:

The amount of money earned after deducting permissible company expenses is referred to as net profit. Total expenses are subtracted from total revenue to arrive at this figure.

While net income represents a company’s earnings, gross profit is the amount of money received after deducting the cost of items sold.

This is the amount that flows into retained earnings on the balance sheet after any dividends are deducted.


EBITDA is an acronym that stands for Earnings before Interest, Tax, Depreciation, and Amortization. It is not shown on all income statements.

It is computed by deducting SG&A expenses from gross profit (excluding amortization and depreciation).

Operating Income (or EBIT):

This is the amount of money gained through normal business activities. In other words, it is profit before non-operating income, non-operating expenses, interest, and taxes are deducted from revenue.

Earnings Before Interest and Taxes (EBIT) is a financial word that stands for Earnings Before Interest and Taxes.

Interest Expense:

Companies frequently divide interest expense and interest income as different line items on their income statements.

This is done to rectify the disparity between EBIT and EBT. The debt schedule determines interest expense.

Additional Expenses:

Other expenses that are specific to a company’s industry are common.

Other expenses may include fulfillment, technology, R&D, stock-based compensation (SBC), impairment charges, gains/losses on investment sales, foreign exchange impacts, and many other industry or company-specific expenses.

Income Taxes:

Income Taxes are the taxes levied on pre-tax income. The overall tax expense can include both current and future taxes.

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What is the purpose of an income statement?

An income statement is a financial statement that shows you the company’s income and expenditures. 

Is an income statement the same as a profit and loss?

A business profit and loss statement show you how much money your business earned and lost within a period. There is no difference between income statements and profit and loss.

What are the six parts of the typical income statement?

Revenue (gross sales-returns=net sales)
Cost of goods sold.
Gross profit.
Operating expenses(fixed commission)
Pre-tax profit.
Net profit.

How does an income statement work?

It details the company’s income and subtracts various costs to show gross profit, operating profit, and profit before tax and records revenue and expenses, usually every month.

What is the cash flow statement?

The cash flow statement makes adjustments to the information recorded on your income statement, so you see your net cash flow(the precise amount of cash you have on hand for that period).


An income statement gives useful insights and information about the primary variables responsible for a firm’s profitability, operations, managerial efficiency, potential leaky areas that may be eroding profits, and if the company is performing in line with industry peers. With it, you can monitor your own business.