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Difference Between Revenue and Income: A Simple Explanation

Explore the differences between revenue and income in finance, and how both are useful in determining the financial strength of a company

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Team CrossVal

Published on 11 Oct 2023

difference between revenue and income

So you started a business, landed your first few clients, and money is now flowing in – congratulations! As an entrepreneur, it’s important to understand the difference between the revenue you’re generating and the income you’re actually earning.

While the terms are often used interchangeably in everyday conversation, there’s an important distinction for your business finances. Revenue refers to the total amount of money your business receives from the sale of products and services before expenses. Income is what’s left over after you deduct all your business expenses.

Knowing the difference between these two concepts is key to understanding your company’s financial performance and making sound business decisions.

Read more: Revenue vs Net Income Explained

What Is Revenue?

Image Source: What is Total Revenue and How to Calculate Total Revenue

What Is Income?

Image Source: Freepik.com

So, what exactly is income? Income refers to the money you receive over a given period of time, whether through a job, business, investments, or other sources. In short, it’s the cash flow coming into your pockets.

Earned vs. Unearned Income

There are two main types of income: earned and unearned.

Earned income comes from employment or self-employment. This includes:

  • Salaries
  • Wages
  • Commissions
  • Tips

Unearned income is money you receive from other sources like:

  • Interest from savings accounts or bonds
  • Dividends from stock investments
  • Rental income from investment properties
  • Royalties from intellectual property like books, music, or inventions

The difference between earned and unearned income is that you actively work or provide a service to generate earned income. Unearned income is more passive – you earn money from investments or assets you already own.

Read more: How to Calculate Operating Income: A Comprehensive Guide

Difference Between Revenue And Income

Revenue refers to the total amount of money a business generates by selling goods and services. Income, on the other hand, refers to the profit or earnings after deducting expenses. Revenue is the top line, income is the bottom line.

For example, if a company generates $10 million in revenue selling products and services but has $6 million in expenses, their net income would be $4 million. Income is the money the business actually gets to keep.

The key differences between revenue and income come down to timing and recognition.


Revenue is generated at the point of sale, when goods or services are actually sold, whereas income is generated over time. For example, if you sell an annual software subscription, you would recognize the full amount of the sale as revenue upfront. However, the income would be recognized over the 12 months of the subscription period. This is known as the matching principle – matching revenues to expenses in the same period.


Revenue is recognized when a sale is made, but income is only recognized when the cash is actually received. For example, if you sell a product on credit, the sale would be recognized as revenue immediately. However, the income would only be recognized when the customer pays their bill. Some companies may never receive the cash for certain sales, so the income is never actually recognized even though the revenue was.

Other key differences to keep in mind:

  • Revenue is a gross measure while income is a net measure. Income accounts for the costs of goods sold and operating expenses.
  • Revenue increases assets (specifically cash and accounts receivable) while income increases equity (specifically retained earnings).
  • Revenue is an operating measure while income is a performance measure. Income determines the actual profitability and success of a company.
  • There are specific accounting rules for recognizing revenue (GAAP), but income recognition depends on the cash basis or accrual basis of accounting used.

In summary, while the two terms are often used interchangeably in everyday language, there are some significant differences in their technical meanings and applications. Knowing the distinction can help in analyzing financial statements and making sound business decisions.

Read more: How to Calculate Average Revenue?

Examples to Illustrate the Differences

Let’s look at a few examples to clearly illustrate the differences.

Sales Revenue

As a clothing company, your revenue comes from selling shirts, pants, dresses and accessories to customers. If you sell $200,000 worth of clothing in a month, that $200,000 is your revenue for the month.

Interest Income

As a bank, you generate revenue by charging interest on loans and mortgages. The interest payments you receive from borrowers is your revenue. If you receive $50,000 in interest payments from borrowers in a month, that $50,000 is your revenue for the month.

Rental Income

As a property owner, your revenue comes from rent payments. If you charge tenants $1,500 per month in rent for your 10 units, your monthly revenue is $15,000 (10 units x $1,500 rent).

Revenue Minus Expenses Equals Income

Revenue is the total amount of money your business generates by providing goods or services to customers. But not all of that revenue translates into income for the company. You have to subtract expenses like the cost of goods sold, operating costs, taxes, depreciation, and interest to calculate your net income.

For example, if your clothing company has $200,000 in revenue for the month but $150,000 in expenses, your net income is $50,000 (revenue of $200,000 minus expenses of $150,000). Your income is what’s left over after you pay all your bills and costs of doing business.

In summary, revenue refers to the total amount of money generated from sales or services, before subtracting any costs or expenses. Income refers to the profit or earnings after all costs, expenses, depreciation and taxes have been deducted from revenues.

Read more: Revenue vs Gross Profit Explained

Frequently Asked Questions

As you learn more about the differences, a few common questions often come up. Let’s address some of the most frequently asked ones:

What’s the difference between revenue and income for a business?

For a business, revenue refers to the total amount of money generated from sales and services before expenses are deducted. Income is the revenue that remains after deducting expenses. So revenue is the top line, and income is the bottom line.

Can a business have revenue but no income?

Absolutely. If a company’s expenses equal or exceed its revenue, it will have revenue but no income or profit. Many startups experience periods where they have substantial revenue but operate at a loss as they work to scale the business. As long as revenue growth is strong, investors will often provide funding during these early stages.

Do revenue and income affect a company’s valuation?

Yes, a company’s revenue, income, and growth rates are all factors that determine its valuation. Fast-growing companies with strong growth will typically have higher valuations. Companies with revenue but little or no income may still attract investors and have relatively high valuations if revenue is growing quickly. However, profitability is ultimately required for long term success.

How do revenue and income differ for individuals?

For individuals, income refers to the total amount of money received from all sources such as salaries, wages, bonuses, and investments. Revenue is money generated from business activities or the sale of goods and services. Most individuals do not have revenue streams unless they operate a small business. Income is the more commonly used term for individuals and families.


So in summary, while revenue and income are connected, they are distinct concepts. Revenue refers to the money that flows into a business or individual, while income refers to the money that remains after expenses are deducted. For a business, revenue comes in through sales or services, but income is calculated after costs. Keep growing your revenue streams, but also keep an eye on your income – your bottom line.

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