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The income statement is a key financial performance indicator

The income statement or profit and loss statement (P&L) is a summary of the annual revenues, costs, and profits/loss, and is one of the three financial indicators in addition to balance sheet and cash flow statement.

As opposed to the cash flow statement, the income statement registers income and expenses at the accrual date. For instance, when a company receives a bill, it shows up in the company's income statement the same day when the bill is incurred. Note that in a cash flow statement, the cost is not accounted as cash outflow until the bill is actually paid.

The following are some common terms found in an income statement

  • Operating revenue relates to all revenue generated as part of the regular business of a firm.
  • Operating costs are subdivided into COGS (costs of goods sold) and SGA (selling, general and administrative costs). COGS are directly caused by producing goods, such as material costs or amount of labor used. SGA refers to costs which cannot be easily attributed to a single product, such as general brand advertisement. This cost differentiation is analogous to fixed and variable costs.
  • Gross profit is operating revenue minus the operating costs, resulting from the core business of a firm.
  • Non-operating revenue and cost are non-business related incomes and expenses, such as revenue from selling real estate or costs of a law suit.
  • Depreciation refers to the loss of value of assets, for example used machines which become outdated over time.
  • Interests are costs of debts. The debts are listed in the balance sheet.
  • Taxes are paid on the EBT.

Operating Revenue

+ $1.500.000

Goods sold




Operating Costs

- $900.000


  • Material


  • Salaries of Production



  • Advertising


  • Salaries of Administration


  • Office rent


Gross Profit (Revenue – Costs)

= $600.000

Non-operating Revenue

+ $50.000

Non-operating Costs

- $100.000

EBITDA (Earnings before Interest, Tax, Depreciation)

= $550.000


- $80.000

EBIT (Earnings before Interest and Tax)

= $470.000


- $70.000

EBT (Earnings before Taxes)

= $400.000


- $150.000

Net Income

= $250.000

Determine specific ratios and track them over time to get insights

The income statement is a great tool to determine profitability of a firm. Looking at financial ratios, the variety of possible profitability measures allow a deeper analysis and comparison of firms (see benchmarking).

The gross profit margin provides the profitability of the pure core business, taking into account only operating revenue, COGS and SGA.

gross profit margin = gross profit / operating revenue

For operating margins, non-operating costs and revenues are taken into account. Also, depreciation can be included as it is closely linked to a firm's business especially in asset-heavy industries.

operating margin = ebitda / operating revenue

operating margin = ebit / operating revenue

The net profit margin considers all costs, also interest and taxes.

net profit margin = net income / operating revenue

If net profit margins are different but operating margins are the same, you can infer that the variance is not directly caused by the core business, but rather due to differences in tax and interest payments. If you compare profit and loss statements from consecutive years, you will identify suspicious trends, which can be useful for solving a case. The cost breakdown of an income statement is MECE and can be used as an issue tree while solving a profitability case.

Key takeaways

  • An income statement provides an overview of the income and expenses at a given time period.
  • Income statements provide an overview of revenues and costs at the accrual date.

Solve Eyes Inc. and experience how an income statement can be used in a case

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