Reading Financial Reports For Dummies
Book image
Explore Book Buy On Amazon

A company doesn't actually make different kinds of profits, but it has different ways to track a profit on financial reports and compare its results with similar companies. The three key profit types are gross profit, operating profit, and net profit.

Gross profit

The gross profit reflects the revenue earned minus any direct costs of generating that revenue, such as costs related to the purchase or production of goods before any expenses, including operating, taxes, interest, depreciation, and amortization. The gross profit isn't actually part of the Chart of Accounts. You calculate the number for the income statement to show the profit a company makes before expenses.

Operating profit

The operating profit is the next profit figure you see on the income statement. This number measures a company's earning power from its ongoing operations. The operating profit is calculated by subtracting operating expenses from gross profit. Some companies include depreciation and amortization expenses in this calculation, calling this line item EBIT, or earnings before interest and taxes.

Others add an additional line called EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. Accountants started using EBITDA in the 1980s because it gave analysts a number they could use to compare profitability among companies and eliminated the effects of financing and accounting.

Interest is a financial decision. A company has the choice to finance new product development or other major projects by selling bonds, taking loans, or issuing stock. If the company chooses to raise money using bonds or loans, it has to pay interest. Money raised by issuing stock doesn't have interest costs.

Believe it or not, taxes are also an accounting game. Most corporations report different tax numbers on their financial statements than they pay to the government because of various tax write-offs they're able to use to reduce their tax bill.

Companies don't actually pay out cash for depreciation and amortization expenses. Instead, depreciation and amortization are an accounting requirement that comes into play when determining the value of assets.

Net profit

Net profit is the bottom line after all costs, expenses, interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization have been deducted. Net profit reflects how much money a company makes. If the company isn't incorporated, it can pay out the profit to shareholders or company owners, or it can reinvest the money in growing itself. Firms add reinvested money to the retained earnings account on the balance sheet.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Lita Epstein, who earned her MBA from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, enjoys helping people develop good financial, investing and tax-planning skills.
While getting her MBA, Lita worked as a teaching assistant for the financial accounting department and ran the accounting lab. After completing her MBA, she managed finances for a small nonprofit organization and for the facilities management section of a large medical clinic.
She designs and teaches online courses on topics such as investing for retirement, getting ready for tax time and finance and investing for women. She’s written over 20 books including Reading Financial Reports For Dummies and Trading For Dummies.
Lita was the content director for a financial services Web site,, and managed the Web site, Investing for Women. As a Congressional press secretary, Lita gained firsthand knowledge about how to work within and around the Federal bureaucracy, which gives her great insight into how government programs work. In the past, Lita has been a daily newspaper reporter, magazine editor, and fundraiser for the international activities of former President Jimmy Carter through The Carter Center.

This article can be found in the category: