posted on 06-06-2019
Updated May 26, 2020
Reviewed By Certified financial expert
Mark Herman, CFP

What Is Operating Income?

Operating income is the amount of revenue left after subtracting operating expenses and cost of goods sold (COGS). Operating income is a measure of profitability directly related to a company’s operations. 

Operating income is sometimes referred to as Earnings Before Interest and Taxes (EBIT). They are not synonymous terms because EBIT also includes other income or expenses that are not central to a company's business. For example, income from the firm's financial investments would be added to the operating income to determine EBIT.

How to Use Operating Income

Operating income tells investors and company owners how much revenue will eventually become profit for a company. 

Operating income is important because it is an indirect measure of efficiency. The higher the operating income, the more profitable a company's core business is.

Several things can affect operating income, including:

  • pricing strategy

  • prices for raw materials, or 

  • labor costs

These items directly relate to daily decisions that managers make. This means operating income also measures managerial competency.

The Operating Income Formula

The formula for calculating operating income is:

Operating income formula

How to Calculate Operating Income

You will use the company income statement to calculate operating income. It is important to understand what expenses are included and what items are excluded when calculating operating income. 

To calculate operating income, you must find the total revenue (gross income), COGS, and the operating expenses on the income statement. Operating expenses include:

  • Labor and salaries 

  • Day-to-day expenses like rent and utilities 

Operating income does not account for the following:

  • interest expenses

  • non-recurring items such as accounting adjustments, legal judgments, or one-time transactions, and 

  • other income statement items not directly related to a company's core business operations

Operating Income Examples

Let’s look at two examples of operating income. 

Figure 1: Company X Income Statement

Income statement example

Using the Income Statement for Company X  and the formula found above, we can calculate the operating income: 

Operating income calculation example

Figure 2: Company Z Income Statement

Income statement example 2

Using the Income Statement for Company Z and the formula above, we can calculate Company Z's operating income as:

Operating income calculation example 2

Operating Income vs Net Income

Both operating income and net income can be found on the company income statement. 

Operating income subtracts COGS and operating expenses from total revenue. Net income subtracts COGS, operating expenses, interest, and taxes from total revenue. 

Net income is also referred to as “the bottom line” because it’s the last entry on an income statement. Net income accounts for all expenses while operating income only accounts for expenses related to operations. To see the difference, look again at the income statement for Company X: The net income is $30,000, while the operating income is $50,000.

Operating Income vs EBITDA

EBITDA stands for Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization. Both operating income (which is the same as EBIT for a company without non-operating income or expenses) and EBITDA are measures of profit. Each measure of operating profitability excludes certain financial decisions, tax environments, and accounting decisions. 

EBITDA shows earnings (income) before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.  Operating income shows income after operating expenses have been paid. 

Both operating income, EBIT and EBITDA provide investment analysts with useful information for evaluating a company’s operating performance. These numbers remove variables that may be unique from company to company and enables financial experts to analyze operating profitability as a singular measure of performance.  Such analysis is particularly important when comparing similar companies across a single industry because of varying capital structures or tax environments.

It is also important to note that some industries have higher labor or materials costs than others. For example, a construction company will likely have higher material costs, whereas a law firm will likely have higher labor or salary costs. That’s why comparing operating income and EBITDA is most meaningful for comparison among companies within the same industry.