Business glossary

What is Revenue?

Please note that this article is intended for educational purposes only and should not be deemed to be or used as legal, employment, or health & safety advice. For guidance or advice specific to your business, consult with a qualified professional.

One of the key aims when you run a business is to make money. Revenue is the total income your company makes from the sale of goods and services. It is also known as gross sales and is often referred to as the top line because it’s the first line on your company’s income statement.

Calculating it is important because it informs your business decisions and allows you to monitor revenue growth. Work it out using the following revenue formula:

Average price of product x Number of sales = Revenue

Reporting revenue

A company wants to maximise its income and minimise expenses, particularly in the beginning when building sales or acquiring customers, and costs are higher. A company records its financial activity, including sales and other income, at the end of a reporting cycle; this might be monthly, quarterly or annually.

Keeping track is essential to monitor revenue growth and ensure pricing is correct, but also to calculate what taxes you need to pay HMRC.

The difference between gross revenue and net revenue

Gross revenue, sometimes referred to as gross income, is the total amount of money your company makes from goods or services it sells, and other sources. Your net revenue is the amount of money your business makes minus its costs e.g. cost of manufacture, rental, raw materials, salaries etc.

Accounting for revenue

When it comes to accounting, accurate financial tracking is vital so you can see what profit you’re making, where savings need to be made, if the pricing is correct, what tax you may be liable for and what your cash flow is like.

There are two sub-divisions in accounting – operating revenue and non-operating revenue.

  • Operating revenue is money you generate from your primary business activities. This can be split into revenue streams, so you know exactly which products or services generate the most cash.

  • Non-operating revenue is cash generated from other sources like share dividends, profits from investments or from the sale of assets.

These can be further split into accrued and deferred revenue which is when a sale occurs at a different time to the transfer of funds. Accrued accounting is used to record income when a customer has bought something but pays later. Deferred revenue is used in the opposite situation where the customer has prepaid for something to be received at a later date.

Any money from sales or other income is recorded at the top of your income statement. To calculate gross profit, sometimes referred to as net revenue, subtract the cost of goods sold.

Frequently asked questions

Are revenue and sales the same?

The terms are used interchangeably but technically they are different. Revenue refers to all income your business receives; sales refers specifically to the sales of goods and services made by your company.

Are revenue and turnover the same?

Again, they’re used interchangeably but mean different things. Turnover can mean income or gross revenue i.e. the total amount of income from sales and other sources a business receives. It also refers to how many times a company makes or burns through assets and affects the efficiency of a company, while revenue affects profitability.

Can revenue be negative?

It can turn negative if product returns and rebates exceed the income from sales and other sources. It can indicate a poor financial position, or it can result from macroeconomic disruption beyond a company’s control.

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