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Write Your Business Plan

How to Write an Income Statement for Your Business Plan Your income statement shows investors if you are making money. Here's everything you'll need to create one.

By Eric Butow Edited by Dan Bova

Key Takeaways

  • An income statement is your business's bottom line: your total revenue from sales minus all of your costs.

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This is part 3 / 12 of Write Your Business Plan: Section 5: Organizing Operations and Finances series.

Financial data is always at the back of the business plan, but that doesn't mean it's any less important than up-front material such as the description of the business concept and the management team. Astute investors look carefully at the charts, tables, formulas, and spreadsheets in the financial section because they know that this information is like the pulse, respiration rate, and blood pressure in a human being. It shows the condition of the patient. In fact, you'll find many potential investors taking a quick peek at the numbers before reading the plan.

Related: How to Make Realistic Financial Forecasts

Financial statements come in threes: income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement. Taken together they provide an accurate picture of a company's current value, plus its ability to pay its bills today and earn a profit going forward. This information is very important to business plan readers.

Why You Need an Income Statement

In his article, How to Do a Monthly Income Statement Analysis That Fuels Growth, Noah Parsons writes: "In short, you use your income statement to fuel a greater analysis of the financial standing of your business. It helps you identify any top-level issues or opportunities that you can then dive into with forecast scenarios and by looking at elements of your other financial documentation.

Related: How to Make a Balance Sheet

You want to leverage your income statement to understand if you're performing better, worse or as expected. This is done by comparing it to your sales and expense forecasts through a review process known as plan vs actuals comparison. You then update projections to match actual performance to better showcase how your business will net out moving forward."

What Is In an Income Statement

An income statement shows whether you are making any money. It adds up all your revenue from sales and other sources, subtracts all your costs, and comes up with the net income figure, also known as the bottom line.

Related: How to Make a Cash Flow Statement

Income statements are called various names—profit and loss statement (P&L) and earnings statement are two common alternatives. They can get pretty complicated in their attempt to capture sources of income, such as interest, and expenses, such as depreciation. But the basic idea is pretty simple: If you subtract costs from income, what you have left is profit.

To figure out your income statement, you need to gather a bunch of numbers, most of which are easily obtainable. They include your gross revenue, which is made up of sales and any income from interest or sales of assets; your sales, general, and administrative (SG&A) expenses; what you paid out in interest and dividends, if anything; and your corporate tax rate. If you have those, you're ready to go.

Related: Tips and Strategies for Using the Balance Sheet as Your Franchise Scorecard

Sales and Revenue

Revenue is all the income you receive from selling your products or services as well as from other sources such as interest income and sales of assets.

Gross Sales

Your sales figure is the income you receive from selling your product or service. Gross sales equals total sales minus returns. It doesn't include interest or income from sales of assets.

Interest and Dividends

Most businesses have a little reserve fund they keep in an interest-bearing bank or money market account. Income from this fund, as well as from any other interest-paying or dividend-paying securities they own, shows up on the income statement just below the sales figure.

Related: How to Measure Franchise Success With Your Income Statement

Other Income

If you finally decide that the branch office out on County Line Road isn't ever going to turn a decent profit, and you sell the land, building, and fixtures, the income from that sale will show up on your income statement as "other income." Other income may include sales of unused or obsolete equipment or any income-generating activity that's not part of your main line of business.


Costs come in all varieties—that's no secret. You'll record variable costs, such as the cost of goods sold, as well as fixed costs—rent, insurance, maintenance, and so forth. You'll also record costs that are a little trickier, the prime example being depreciation.

Related: How to Use Financial Ratios to Understand the Health of Your Business

Cost of Goods Sold

Cost of goods sold, or COGS, includes expenses associated directly with generating the product or service you're selling. If you buy smartphone components and assemble them, your COGS will include the price of the chips, screen, and other parts, as well as the wages of those doing the assembly. You'll also include supervisor salaries and utilities for your factory. If you're a solo professional service provider, on the other hand, your COGS may amount to little more than whatever salary you pay yourself and whatever technology you may use for your business.

Related: My Company Hears Hundreds of Pitches Every Year — Here's What Investors Are Actually Looking For.

Sales, General, and Administrative Costs

You have some expenses that aren't closely tied to sales volume, including salaries for office personnel, salespeople compensation, rent, insurance, and the like. These are split out from the sales-sensitive COGS figure and included on a separate line.


Depreciation is one of the most baffling pieces of accounting wizardwork. It's a paper loss, a way of subtracting over time the cost of a piece of equipment or a building that lasts many years even though it may get paid for immediately.

Related: 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Pitching Investors (Infographic)

Depreciation isn't an expense that involves cash coming out of your pocket. Yet it's a real expense in an accounting sense, and most income statements will have an entry for depreciation coming off the top of pretax earnings. It refers to an ongoing decrease in asset value.

If you have capital items that you are depreciating, such as an office in your home or a large piece of machinery, your accountant will be able to set up a schedule for depreciation. Each year, you'll take a portion of the purchase price of that item off your earnings statement. Although it hurts profits, depreciation can reduce future taxes.


Paying the interest on loans is another expense that gets a line all to itself and comes out of earnings just before taxes are subtracted. This line doesn't include payments against the principal. Because these payments result in a reduction of liabilities—which we'll talk about in a few pages in connection with your balance sheet—they're not regarded as expenses on the income statement.

Related: How to Craft a Business Plan That Will Turn Investors' Heads


The best thing about taxes is that they're figured last, on the profits that are left after every other thing has been taken out. Tax rates vary widely according to where your company is located, how and whether state and local taxes are figured, and your special tax situation. Use previous years as a guidepost for future returns. If you are just opening your business, work carefully with your accountant to set up a system whereby you can pay the necessary taxes at regular intervals.

Buzzword: EBIT

EBIT stands for earnings before interest and taxes. It is an indicator of a company's profitability, calculated as revenue minus expenses, excluding tax and interest.

Related: Don't Make This Huge Mistake on Your Financial Model

Important Plan Note

Don't confuse sales with receipts. Your sales figure represents sales booked during the period, not necessarily money received. If your customers buy now and pay later, there may be a significant difference between sales and cash receipts.

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