Comprehensive Income: a Definition and Examples

What is comprehensive income? Comprehensive income statements let businesses record the earnings they get from all sources. Examples include money that is earned, as well as unearned income. Unrealized income might come from non-owner sources, including gains due to foreign currency transactions, fluctuating asset values, and hedge financial instruments, among other financial events.

In this blog post, our team at will explore what comprehensive income is, what it includes, and why it's important for businesses to track and report.

What Is Comprehensive Income?

What Is Comprehensive Income?

Comprehensive income provides a more holistic perspective on a company's financial performance than net income alone. It encompasses all changes in a company's net assets during a specific accounting period (e.g., month, quarter, year) that stem from non-owner sources. These changes include:

  • Net Income: The company's profit or loss after deducting expenses, taxes, and the cost of goods sold from revenue.
  • Other Comprehensive Income (OCI): Gains and losses that aren’t yet realized through traditional income-generating activities. Examples include:
    • Unrealized gains or losses on available-for-sale investments.
    • Foreign currency translation adjustments.
    • Changes in pension plan and other post-employment benefit plan values.
    • Unrealized gains or losses from cash flow hedges.

What Does Comprehensive Income Include?

Typical net income fails to include a variety of profits and losses that companies might have. Comprehensive income consists of the following points:

  • Cash Flow Hedges: These values fluctuate based on market conditions.
  • Debt Securities: If transferred all the way to maturity, losses or gains might be unrealized in the company's net.
  • Foreign Currency: Foreign currency transactions might have gains and losses that need to be recorded, even when they're not regularly earned revenues.
  • Post-Retirement Benefits: These benefits have gains and losses that also need recording even though they're not regular earned income.

Why Is Comprehensive Income Important?

Why Is Comprehensive Income Important?

Comprehensive income offers a more complete view of a company's financial health for several reasons:

  • Reveals Hidden Value: Net income can sometimes paint a misleading picture of a company's financial position. Positive OCI elements, like unrealized gains on investments, may offset losses reflected in net income and indicate the company's true underlying value.
  • Informs Investors: Comprehensive income helps investors make more informed decisions by providing a broader picture of a company's earnings potential. It showcases gains or losses that might not be immediately visible in traditional net income reporting.
  • Aids in Financial Analysis: By tracking changes in OCI components over time, companies can gain insights into potential risks and opportunities which results in better strategic decision-making.

Comprehensive Income vs. Net Income

Comprehensive Income vs. Net Income

Net income is what you have left of gross revenue after subtracting expenses and costs of your goods sold, whereas comprehensive income combines net income with various unrealized gains not reported as earned income.

What Is Net Income?

Think of gross revenue as the total amount of money your business brings in from selling its products or services. It's like the top line of your income statement, without considering any of the expenses involved in running your business.

Now, to get to your net income, you need to deduct all of the costs and expenses associated with making those sales. This includes things like the cost of raw materials, employee salaries, rent, marketing, and any other expenses your business incurs.

Net income is what remains after you take your gross revenue and subtract all these expenses. It represents the actual profit your company has earned during a specific period. Net income is a key measure of a company's financial health and shows how effectively it's managing its costs and generating a return on its activities.

Differences Between Comprehensive Income and Net Income

While comprehensive income and net income are both measures of a company's financial performance, there are some key differences between the two:

  • Net income focuses on a company's profitability from its core business operations, while comprehensive income includes both operating and non-operating items.
  • Net income is reported on the income statement, while comprehensive income is typically reported in a separate statement or as part of the statement of changes in equity.
  • Net income is closed out to retained earnings at the end of each accounting period, while comprehensive income is closed out to accumulated other comprehensive income (AOCI), a component of shareholders' equity.

Comprehensive Income vs Other Comprehensive Income

Other comprehensive income (OCI) is an important component of comprehensive income, but they are not interchangeable. OCI, sometimes referred to as comprehensive earnings, represents specific types of unrealized gains and losses that are not included in a company's net income.

Comprehensive Income

This is the bigger picture. It’s an all-encompassing measure of a company's changes in equity during a specific period, resulting from non-owner transactions. It includes both net income and OCI.

Other Comprehensive Income (OCI)

This category captures unrealized gains and losses, meaning they haven't yet been realized through the sale of assets or other standard business activities. Examples include:

  • Changes in the fair value of available-for-sale securities.
  • Foreign currency translation adjustments.
  • Unrealized gains or losses on pension plans.

How to Calculate Comprehensive Income

The formula for calculating comprehensive income is straightforward:

Comprehensive Income = Net Income + Other Comprehensive Income

It's the sum total of OCI plus your net income. By adding other comprehensive with your net from your normal income statement, you will get your company's comprehensive income. Just make sure that both the net and OCI cover the same period of time.

Key Points of Comprehensive Income and OCI

Key Points of Comprehensive Income and OCI
  • Calculation: To arrive at comprehensive income, you add OCI to net income.
  • Separation: OCI is reported separately from the traditional income statement.
  • Reporting: OCI can be reported either before or after taxes. The presentation may vary depending on whether a company uses a single-line or multi-line format for reporting tax expenses.
  • Shareholder Equity: OCI figures are typically recorded within the shareholder equity section of the balance sheet.
  • Realization: If an asset generating OCI is sold, the corresponding gain or loss is reclassified from OCI to net income.

Where Do Companies Record Comprehensive Income?

Companies record their comprehensive income in a few different ways. They include a statement of comprehensive income, an income statement, and tax statements.

  • Statement of Comprehensive Income: A statement like this reports comprehensive income which is reported separately from your company's retained earnings. Rather than being reported in the net of your firm, comprehensive income will be reported as being stakeholder equity. This will include net income and OCI to formulate the full picture of your company's income.
  • Income Statement: Comprehensive income might also be reported on your company's income statement. The statement will define the overall expenses and revenue of the company generating the report. The net income is included to cover incurred losses and profits. Comprehensive income figures factor in the possible gains from company investments while also accounting for expected losses, such as payments involved with employee pension and retirement plans. Pension costs can cause a company a lot of headaches if left unchecked, and it's important to pay attention to financial reports.
  • Tax Statements: Unrealized losses and gains are another way of looking at your company's comprehensive income. These get reported in different ways for government tax purposes based on how gains or losses are realized. OCI might be a realized stock loss and put into the capital loss category if the company closes and liquidates.
  • Statement of Shareholders' Equity: Comprehensive income holds a prominent place within the shareholders' equity section of the balance sheet. This placement underscores the significant impact comprehensive income has on a company's overall financial position and its implications for its owners.

Statement of Comprehensive Income: Benefits and Limitations

Statement of Comprehensive Income: Benefits and Limitations

The net gets moved into a company's statement of comprehensive income where adjustments are made for non-owner activities. This statement has several benefits that stakeholders can take advantage of, but it also has a few limitations that might restrict how truly useful it can be.

Benefits of Statement of Comprehensive Income

A comprehensive income statement has a few advantages to it.

  • Detailed Information Regarding Company Revenue: Stakeholders are better off knowing where and how a business is generating its revenue and the costs associated with the investment. Net income doesn't paint the full picture while this might highlight smaller details that prove important.
  • Investment Analysis Utilization: Investors need every financial report before they make important decisions. Net profit alone can deflate a company's EPS, but comprehensive income can better indicate how much money investors can make.
  • Trends and Insights: Allows for analysis of OCI trends over time to help identify potential risks and opportunities.

Limitations of Statement of Comprehensive Income

Limitations of Statement of Comprehensive Income

A statement of comprehensive income does have several notable limitations.

  • No Liabilities or Assets: The income statement won't show the whole financial health of a business. While it shows losses or gains unrealized as they relate to income, the statement won't list them if they're associated with liabilities or assets.
  • No Future Prediction: A business might look wonderful on an income statement, but investors can't glean future potential from this. Lucrative projects might be on the horizon, but unrealized earnings won't show up yet.
  • Volatility: OCI components can be subject to market fluctuations, potentially leading to variability in reported comprehensive income.
  • Limited Predictive Power: The statement of comprehensive income facilitates the analysis of OCI trends over time. By tracking patterns in unrealized gains and losses, both businesses and investors can gain valuable insights into potential risks and opportunities.

Lewis CPA — Your Action Step to Accounting Standards!

In today's complex business environment, understanding and reporting comprehensive income is essential for companies looking to provide a complete and transparent picture of their financial performance. By including both realized and unrealized gains and losses, comprehensive income offers valuable insights into a company's overall financial health and helps stakeholders make more informed decisions.

As we navigate the challenges and opportunities of 2024, businesses that prioritize comprehensive income reporting will be better positioned to adapt to changing market conditions and maintain the trust of their investors and stakeholders. There’s no better team than ours to help you with this process.

For stress-free accounting and expert guidance on financial reporting, consider partnering with a certified CPA firm. Our team of experienced professionals can help you navigate the complexities of comprehensive income and ensure that your financial statements are accurate, compliant, and decision-useful.

If you’re ready to start, get in touch with us!

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