Taxable Income vs Gross Income: What’s the Difference?

You don’t have to pay taxes on all possible taxable income

Taxable and Gross Income: An Overview

Gross income includes all income received by you that is not expressly exempt from tax under this Agreement Internal Revenue Code (IRC). Taxable income is the portion of your total income that is taxable. The deduction is subtracted from your gross income to arrive at your taxable income.


  • Gross income refers to income from all sources, which is not specifically exempt from tax under the Internal Revenue Code.
  • Taxable income starts from gross income and then subtracts certain allowable deductions to arrive at your actual taxable income.
  • Tax brackets and marginal tax rates are based on taxable income, not gross income.

Taxable income

Taxable income

Taxable income is the layman’s term for Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) minus any itemized deductions you are entitled to claim or your standard deduction. Your AGI is the result of certain “online” adjustments to income, such as contributions to eligible funds IRA student loan interest, and contributions to health savings accounts.

Taxpayers can take standard deductions based on their filing status or itemize deductible expenses they paid during the year. You cannot list the deduction and claim the standard deduction at the same time. The result is your taxable income.

Claiming the standard deduction is often more than an itemized deduction in an individual’s taxable income because the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) deductions effectively doubled prior to 2018.1

For the tax year 2020, these deductions will increase slightly:

  • For single taxpayers and married individuals filing separately, the standard deduction increased to $12,400, an increase of $200 from the previous year.
  • The standard deduction for married filing jointly is $24,800, an increase of $400.
  • For the head of household, the deduction standard is 18,650 yuan, an increase of 300 yuan.2

Corporations; Standard Deductions; In 2021, a married couple filing jointly will be $25,100, an increase of $300; ​​single taxpayer individual filing and married individual filing separately will be $12,550, an increase of $150; head-of-household filing will be $18,800, Add $150.3 

Taxpayers need substantial medical expenses, charitable donations, mortgage interest, and other eligible itemized deductions to exceed these standard deductions.

Total revenue

Gross Income Starting Point The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) uses this to calculate an individual’s tax liability. Here are all your sources of income, before deductions are allowed. This includes both wages, salaries, tips, income from self-employment, as well as unearned income such as dividends and interest from investments, royalties, and gambling income.

Some withdrawals from retirement accounts, such as required minimum distributions (RMDs) and disability insurance income, are included in the calculation of gross income.

Gross operating income is not the same as gross income for self-employed, business owners, and businesses. Rather, it is the total revenue earned from the business minus the allowable business expenses, in other words, gross profit. The business owner’s total revenue is called net operating income.

Some people confuse gross income and salary. Wage income usually accounts for the majority of an individual’s total income, but total income also includes unearned income.

However, gross income can contain more things that are largely not explicitly designated as tax-exempt by the IRS. Tax-exempt income includes child support, most alimony, bodily injury compensation, veterans’ benefits, benefits, workers’ compensation, and Supplemental Security Income. These sources of income are not included in your gross income because they are not taxable.4 

Example of Taxable and Gross Income

Joe Taxpayer earns $50,000 a year from his work, and he also has $10,000 in unearned investment income. His total income is $60,000.

For the 2020 tax year, Joe requested an online adjustment of his income to contribute $3,000 to a qualifying retirement account. He then claimed the $12,400 standard deduction as his filing status. His taxable income is $44,600. Although his gross income is $60,000, he will only pay taxes on the lower amount.

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