Gross vs Net Income: Ultimate Guide

You might have heard the terms “gross income” and “net income” thrown around, but what do they actually mean? Understanding these concepts can help you manage your finances better.

Whether you’re an individual or a business owner, knowing the difference between gross and net income is key. It affects everything from budgeting to tax planning. Let’s break down what gross income is and look at some examples to make it clearer.

What is Gross Income?

Gross income is the total amount of money an individual or business earns before any deductions or taxes are taken out.

Examples of Gross Income

  • Salary, wages, tips, and commissions: This includes all the money you earn from your job before taxes and other deductions.
  • Interest and dividends: Any earnings from investments like stocks or savings accounts fall under this category.
  • Rental income: Money earned from renting out property is also considered gross income.
  • Alimony received: If you receive alimony payments, this counts as part of your gross income.

What is Net Income?

Managing your finances can be daunting, especially when you’re trying to figure out how much money you actually have after all the deductions.

Net income is the amount of money an individual or business earns after deductions and taxes have been subtracted from gross income. This figure represents what you actually take home or the profit your business retains after covering all expenses.

Examples of Deductions

  • Income taxes: These are the federal, state, and local taxes that are deducted from your earnings. For individuals, this includes taxes withheld from your paycheck. For businesses, this includes corporate income taxes.
  • Social Security and Medicare taxes: Also known as FICA taxes, these are mandatory payroll taxes that fund Social Security and Medicare programs. They are deducted from your paycheck if you are an employee.
  • Health insurance premiums: If you pay for health insurance through your employer, these premiums are deducted from your gross income. For businesses, this includes the cost of providing health insurance to employees.
  • Retirement account contributions: Contributions to retirement accounts such as 401(k) or IRA plans are deducted from your gross income. These contributions can reduce your taxable income, providing a tax benefit while saving for the future.

TIP: Simplify your finances with these stress-free finance tips for small businesses.

Key Differences Between Gross and Net Income

Understanding the difference between gross and net income can alleviate a lot of stress when it comes to financial planning.

Gross income and net income are two distinct financial metrics that help you understand your earnings and financial health. Knowing the differences between them is important for both personal and business finances.

Gross income is the total earnings before any deductions. This includes all sources of income such as salary, wages, tips, commissions, interest, dividends, rental income, and alimony. It represents the full amount of money earned, providing a broad view of your financial inflow.

Net income, on the other hand, is the amount left after all deductions and taxes are subtracted from gross income. For individuals, this includes deductions like income taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes, health insurance premiums, and retirement account contributions. For businesses, it involves subtracting business expenses, taxes, and depreciation from total revenue. Net income reflects the actual take-home pay or profit, giving a clearer picture of what you have available to spend or reinvest.

TIP: For a deeper understanding, check out our guide on adjusted gross income (AGI).

How to Calculate Gross and Net Income

Calculating these figures can seem overwhelming, but breaking it down step-by-step can make it manageable.

Calculating Gross Income

To calculate gross income, you need to add up all sources of income before any deductions. This includes wages, salaries, tips, commissions, interest, dividends, rental income, and alimony. For example, if you earn a salary of $50,000, receive $5,000 in rental income, and $2,000 in dividends, your gross income would be $57,000. This figure represents your total earnings without any subtractions.

TIP: Learn more about gross pay and gross wage to enhance your budgeting skills.

Calculating Net Income for Individuals

Net income for individuals is the amount left after subtracting various deductions from gross income. To find your net income, start with your gross income and subtract income taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes, health insurance premiums, and retirement account contributions.

For instance, if your gross income is $57,000 and you have the following deductions:

  • Income taxes: $8,000
  • Social Security and Medicare taxes: $4,000
  • Health insurance premiums: $3,000
  • Retirement contributions: $2,000

Your net income calculation would be: $57,000 (gross income) – $8,000 (income taxes) – $4,000 (Social Security and Medicare taxes) – $3,000 (health insurance premiums) – $2,000 (retirement contributions) = $40,000

This $40,000 represents your take-home pay after all deductions.

TIP: For more insights, explore our beginner finance tips for small businesses.

Calculating Net Income for Businesses

For businesses, net income is the profit remaining after all expenses, taxes, and depreciation are subtracted from total revenue. Begin with the total revenue, which includes all sales and any other income sources. Then, subtract business expenses such as rent, utilities, salaries, supplies, and any other operational costs. Also, subtract taxes and depreciation.

For example, if a business has a total revenue of $200,000 and the following expenses:

  • Business expenses: $120,000
  • Taxes: $20,000
  • Depreciation: $10,000

The net income calculation would be: $200,000 (total revenue) – $120,000 (business expenses) – $20,000 (taxes) – $10,000 (depreciation) = $50,000

This $50,000 is the business’s net income, representing the profit after covering all costs and obligations. This figure is crucial for understanding the business’s profitability and financial health.

TIP: Enhance your business’s financial management with our cash flow tips for new business owners.

Why Understanding Gross vs Net Income Matters

Understanding the difference between gross and net income helps you make informed financial decisions in various areas of your life and business. Let’s explore how this knowledge impacts budgeting, tax planning, loan qualification, and business profitability analysis.

Budgeting and Financial Planning

Knowing your gross and net income allows you to create accurate budgets. Gross income shows your total earnings, while net income reveals what you actually have available to spend. This distinction helps you allocate funds for necessities, savings, and discretionary spending. Accurate budgeting ensures you live within your means and avoid financial pitfalls.

TIP: Simplify your budgeting with our money management guide for small businesses.

Tax Planning

Tax planning becomes more straightforward when you understand gross and net income. Gross income provides the starting point for calculating taxable income. Net income, after deductions, shows your actual tax liability. This knowledge helps you plan for tax payments and identify potential deductions to reduce your taxable income.

TIP: Stay ahead with these small business tax tips to maximize your deductions and save money.

Qualifying for Loans or Financial Assistance

Lenders and financial institutions use gross income to assess your ability to repay loans. They look at your total earnings to determine loan eligibility and the amount you can borrow. However, they also consider net income to evaluate your actual financial health and repayment capacity. Understanding both figures ensures you present an accurate financial picture when applying for loans or assistance.

TIP: Learn how to pay yourself as a business owner to better manage your finances and loan applications.

Business Profitability Analysis

For businesses, gross and net income are key indicators of financial health. Gross income shows total revenue, while net income reveals the profit after all expenses. Regularly monitoring these figures helps you assess business performance, identify cost-saving opportunities, and make strategic decisions. Understanding the difference between gross and net income ensures you have a clear view of your business’s profitability and sustainability.

TIP: For a comprehensive view, learn how to create an effective balance sheet to monitor your business’s financial health.

Is Net Income Before or After Taxes?

Net income is calculated after subtracting taxes from gross income. This means that net income reflects the actual amount of money left after all tax obligations have been met.

For individuals, net income represents take-home pay after income taxes and other payroll deductions. When you receive your paycheck, the amount you see is your net income. This figure accounts for federal and state income taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes, and any other deductions such as health insurance premiums and retirement contributions. Essentially, net income is what you have available to spend or save after all mandatory deductions.

For businesses, net income is the profit remaining after all expenses and taxes have been paid. Businesses start with their gross income, which includes total revenue from sales and other income sources. From this, they subtract operating expenses such as rent, utilities, salaries, and supplies. They also deduct taxes and any other financial obligations. The resulting figure is the net income, which indicates the business’s profitability. This net income can be reinvested into the business, distributed to shareholders, or saved for future use.

TIP: For more on managing taxes, read our guide on reporting and withholding tax on tips.

What is Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)?

Navigating taxes can be a maze, but understanding your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) can make things a bit clearer.

Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is your gross income minus specific adjustments. These adjustments can include alimony paid, contributions to certain retirement accounts, and other eligible deductions. AGI serves as a modified version of your gross income, reflecting a more accurate picture of your taxable income.

AGI plays a significant role in determining your eligibility for various tax deductions and credits. For example, contributions to a traditional IRA or student loan interest payments can reduce your AGI. Lowering your AGI can make you eligible for additional tax benefits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit or deductions for medical expenses.

It’s important to note that AGI is not the same as net income. While AGI is calculated by subtracting specific adjustments from your gross income, net income is determined after subtracting taxes from AGI. This distinction is crucial for understanding your overall tax liability and financial health.

For instance, if your gross income is $80,000 and you have $5,000 in eligible adjustments, your AGI would be $75,000. This AGI figure is then used to calculate your taxable income, which will be further reduced by standard or itemized deductions before arriving at your net income.

TIP: For more detailed information, check out our ultimate guide on MAGI for small businesses.

Gross vs Net Income for Small Business Owners

Running a small business means keeping a close eye on your finances to ensure sustainability and growth.

Small business owners must understand the difference between gross and net income to accurately assess their business’s financial health. Gross income for a small business is total revenue before any expenses are deducted. This figure includes all sales and any other income sources. It provides a clear picture of the business’s earning potential without factoring in the costs of running the business.

Net income for a small business is profit after all expenses and taxes have been subtracted from revenue. This figure shows the actual profit the business retains after covering operational costs, taxes, and any other financial obligations. Net income reflects the business’s efficiency in managing its expenses and generating profit.

Regularly monitoring gross and net income helps small business owners make informed financial decisions. By keeping track of these figures, you can identify trends, manage expenses better, and plan for future growth. Understanding both gross and net income allows you to see where your money is coming from and where it is going, helping you make strategic decisions to improve profitability.

Monitoring these metrics also helps in setting realistic financial goals and measuring progress. When you know your gross income, you can set sales targets and identify opportunities to increase revenue. Knowing your net income helps you understand your bottom line and make necessary adjustments to reduce costs or increase efficiency.

In summary, understanding the difference between gross and net income and regularly monitoring these figures is vital for small business owners to maintain financial health and make informed decisions.


  • What: Gross income vs. net income explained.
  • So What: Essential for budgeting, taxes, loans, and business profits.
  • Pros & Cons: Gross = total earnings; Net = earnings after deductions.
  • Bottom Line: Key for solid financial planning.

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