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Net Income

Guide to Understanding Net Income ("Bottom Line")

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Net Income

Net Income Definition in Accounting

The net income metric, i.e. the “bottom line” on the income statement, represents a company’s residual earnings, inclusive of all operating and non-operating expenses incurred in a given period.

In accounting, the net profit metric is the amount of revenue left over once all expenses have been accounted for, such as the following costs and expenses:

  • Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) → The direct costs related to the company’s core operations generating revenue.
  • Operating Expenses (OpEx) → The indirect costs related to company operations (e.g. selling, general and administrative)
  • Non-Operating Costs, net → The expenses unrelated to the company’s core operations – net of any non-operating income (e.g. marketable securities, short-term investments).
  • Taxes → The local, state, and federal taxes owed and paid to the government.

Since each line item above net profit such as revenue and expenses is recorded under accrual accounting standards, net income is also considered a measure of the “accounting profits” of a company.

The formal definition of “Net Income” per the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is shown below.

Net Income Definition

Net Profit Definition (Source: SEC)

How to Calculate Net Income (Step-by-Step)

The step-by-step process of calculating net income, written out by formula, is as follows:

Starting from revenue, i.e. the “top line” of the income statement, we first deduct COGS to calculate the gross profit metric.

From the gross profit line item, we subtract operating expenses (OpEx), resulting in the company’s operating income, or earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT).

EBIT represents the point on the income statement where all operating costs (i.e. COGS and OpEx) have been deducted, so all the costs onward are non-operating.

The most common examples of non-operating costs are interest expense, net and any one-time expenses such as restructuring charges and write-offs (or write-downs).

After those non-operating costs have been subtracted from EBIT, we’re left with the company’s pre-tax income, or earnings before taxes (EBT), i.e. the taxable income of the company.

The taxes owed to the government are based on the corporate tax rate and jurisdiction of the company among various other factors (e.g. net operating losses, or NOLs).

Once the company’s pre-tax income has been reduced by its tax expense, we’ve arrived at the company’s net income.

Net Income Formula

The calculation of a company’s net profit is equal to its pre-tax income, or earnings before taxes (EBT), minus its tax expenses.

Net Income = Pre-Tax Income Taxes

For forecasting purposes when building a financial model, the net profit line item should NOT be explicitly projected, but rather, the line item is a function of the operating assumptions, most notably:

How to Interpret Net Income (“After Tax Earnings”)

By itself, net income as a standalone metric is not too meaningful. In order for a company’s after-tax earnings to become more practical and facilitate comparisons over different historical periods, as well as to its industry peers, the profit metric must be standardized.

A company’s net profits in a given period can be divided by the amount of revenue generated to calculate the net profit margin, a frequently used profitability metric among equity shareholders.

Net Profit Margin (%) = Net Income ÷ Revenue

Learn More → Net Margin by Sector (Source: Damodaran)

How to Find Net Income on the Income Statement

As we can see from the screenshot of Apple’s 2021 income statement, the beginning line item is revenue, and after deducting all operating and non-operating expenses, the ending line item is net income.

Right below the net profit line item, we can also see a separate section where the earnings per share (EPS) are calculated on a basic and diluted basis.

Net Income Apple

Apple Income Statement (Source: Apple 2021 10-K)

Net Income vs. Cash Flow: What is the Difference?

As a measure of profitability, the net profit metric can misleadingly portray a company’s financial well-being from a liquidity and solvency standpoint.

For instance, a company could consistently produce positive net earnings yet struggle to collect cash payments for sales made on credit – i.e. accounts receivable (A/R).

Despite not actually having retrieved the payment from customers, the sale is recognized as revenue under accrual accounting.

Another issue is that discretionary corporate decisions can greatly affect a company’s net profits. Some of the more impactful discretionary management decisions are as follows:

Net Income vs. EBIT vs. EBITDA

The fact that debt is factored into the net income line item through interest expense causes the metric to be less practical for peer comparisons.

Compared to other non-levered metrics like operating income (EBIT) and EBITDA, net profit is used far less often in relative valuation.

Most of the metric’s limitations stem from the imperfections of accrual accounting that make net income prone to the risk of earnings management (i.e. manipulation of numbers) and a potentially misleading depiction of a company’s operations.

For that specific reason, the cash flow statement reconciles a company’s net earnings, i.e. the starting line item, adjusting for the actual cash inflows/(outflows) to assess the true cash impact from operations, investing, and financing activities.

Net Income on Balance Sheet: Linkage to Retained Earnings

The linkage between net income on the income statement and the balance sheet is via retained earnings.

The “Retained Earnings” line item appears in the shareholders’ equity section of the balance sheet and represents the accumulated earnings kept by a company to date, net of any common and preferred dividends issued to shareholders.

The formula used to calculate retained earnings is as follows.

Retained Earnings = Prior Retained Earnings Balance + Net Income Dividends

Net Income Calculator – Excel Model Template

We’ll now move on to a modeling exercise, which you can access by filling out the form below.

Submitting ...

Step 1. Input Income Statement Historical Data (AAPL)

Suppose we’re tasked with calculating the net income of Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) for the fiscal year ending 2021.

Using the figures from our earlier section, we’ll list the inputs below with the proper formatting, where the hard-coded numbers are entered in blue font and calculations are left in black font.

Apple (AAPL) Income Statement 2021A
($ in millions)
Net Sales $365,817
Less: COGS (212,981)
Gross Profit $152,836
Less: R&D (21,914)
Less: SG&A (21,973)
EBIT $108,949
Plus: Other Income / (Expense) 258
EBT $109,207
Less: Taxes (14,527)
Net Income $94,680

Note: Apple’s financials are expressed in millions ($mms).

In Excel, we’ll compute each profit metric using the historical data points of Apple in fiscal year 2021.

As a general financial modeling “best practice”, we recommend confirming each calculation is correct by cross-checking between 1) the bolded figures in the table (i.e. the black font in the financial model) and 2) the actual income statement filed by Apple.

Step 2. Net Income Calculation and Net Profit Margin Analysis

The net income reported on Apple’s income statement was $94,680 million, confirming the figure we arrived at was calculated correctly.

  • Net Earnings = $94,680 million

Since the net income value by itself does not offer much insight about Apple’s profitability, we’ll calculate the net profit margin by dividing net income by revenue.

  • Net Profit Margin = $94,680 million ÷ $365,817 million = 0.259, or 25.9%

Once standardized into percentage form, Apple’s net profit margin can now be compared to its historical periods and to its comparable peers to better understand its profitability in 2021.

Net Income Calculator

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