How do you work out gross income, and what does this mean for tax?

1 min readLast updated October 3, 2023by Rachel Carey

Gross income is a very important calculation for your personal finances and any business’s balance sheet. Here’s the Unbiased guide to gross income.

Gross income is a very useful tool used to measure business revenue and determine how much income tax you might need to pay. Although gross income doesn’t tell you exactly how much money you can access each month or year, it’s crucial knowledge for your personal or business finances. Here’s everything you need to know about gross income and how to work out yours. 

What is gross income? 

Gross income is quite a straightforward calculation. It’s the name given to the money you earn before any deductions, such as tax. 

If you think about this in terms of a paycheck, you’ll see the gross amount listed before details of the amount you pay for social security, student loan repayments, and other taxes.  

Usually, your paycheck will have two totals: the gross pay and the ‘take-home’ pay. The take-home pay is how much money you receive after all those deductions. 

While a paycheck might help to understand the concept of gross income, gross income isn’t limited to just your wage from a job; it’s everything you earn.  

Gross income can include pensions, dividends, income from property, bonuses, and investments.  

When it comes to a company’s gross income, it’s a bit different. 

A company’s gross income refers to a business's total revenue minus the cost of goods sold. Calculating net income is when a company works out its profits by deducting any other expenses from its gross income. 

Calculating a company’s gross income can be useful for the business to gauge how they’re doing in relation to the specific goods or services they trade.  

Gross income vs. adjusted gross income  

Another metric you should become familiar with is adjusted gross income (sometimes, this is shortened to AGI).  

The IRS defines adjusted gross income as gross income minus adjustments to income. 

These adjustments can include: 

  • Educator expenses 

  • Certain business expenses 

  • Deductible health savings account (HSA) contributions 

  • Moving expenses for military 

  • Deductible self-employment taxes 

  • Contributions to retirement plans or health insurance for self-employed people 

  • Penalties on early withdrawals of savings 

  • Alimony paid 

  • Deductible IRA contributions 

  • Student loan interest 

  • Deductible tuition and fees 

The IRS uses your adjusted gross income to determine how much income tax you must pay. 

AGI is used to determine your taxable income and whether you might qualify for tax credits. 

Working out your AGI is the first step of filing your tax return, and to calculate your AGI, you’ll need to know your gross income first. 

Using gross income vs. using adjusted gross income 

It’s good to understand your finances – this helps you budget and prepare for bigger financial decisions and commitments. 

However, gross income and adjusted gross income have different practical uses. 

Adjusted gross income is primarily used by you, your accountant, and the IRS to determine how much tax you need to pay – and whether you qualify for any tax credits.  

Gross income is what credit providers may look at to judge your eligibility for a loan.  

How does gross income work? 

In the simplest terms, anyone’s finances boil down to an equation between the amount of money coming in and the amount of money paying out. 

Gross income is the technical term for all the money coming in. 

But it can be calculated differently depending on what you’re using it for. 

If you need to work out your gross income for tax purposes, this will be a thorough calculation of your wage and any other sources of income, including: 

  • Tips 

  • Capital gains 

  • Rental payments 

  • Dividends 

  • Alimony 

  • Pension 

  • Interest 

However, they may want to know your gross wages (before taxes) if you need to supply your gross income for a credit application.  

How do you calculate gross annual income? 

You can work out your annual wage from pay stubs – if you’re paid monthly, multiply the monthly gross pay by 12. 

But, as we know, your annual wage may not constitute your gross annual income alone. 

You’ll also need to look at any other income you had, such as property payments, interest on a savings account, or dividends from investments. 

Gross income vs. net income 

For a company, the difference between gross and net income is important. 

While gross income will give the company its total revenue minus the cost of goods, net income will tell a business how much profit they’re in after paying all their expenses. 

Both of these calculations give business owners crucial information about their business. 

Gross income will indicate how much revenue your company can generate. 

However, net income tells you how profitable your business is.  

On a personal level, net income refers to how much money you take in after all your taxes and other deductions have gone out.  

How can I work out my gross income from my net income? 

If you need to work backward from your net income, a simple equation can tell you your gross income. 

Add your total expenses to your net income to determine your gross income. 

The bottom line 

So, as you can see, there are all sorts of different ways to measure your personal or business income—all of which have different practical applications. 

If you have more questions about working out your gross income or any other questions about personal or business accounting, why not reach out to an Unbiased expert today? Unbiased financial advisors are there to help you with any queries related to your needs, and will offer you advice tailored to your situation. Get in touch here.

Senior Content Writer

Rachel Carey

Rachel is a Senior Content Writer at Unbiased. She has nearly a decade of experience writing and producing content across a range of different sectors.