Economic income

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Economic income
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Economic income – is everything that remains after deducting all alternative costs: explicit and implicit expenses for wage, rent, interest, and normal revenues from the company's total revenues. The economic income may be either positive or negative. Hicks also defines economic income as “the maximum amount which can be spent during a period if there is to be an expectation of maintaining intact the capital value of the prospective receipts (in money terms)”, meaning the costs that can be freely spent without damaging company's or person's stable well-being[1].

Sources of economic income

The source of economic income, different from the managerial, innovation and risk functions of entrepreneurs, is also the presence of a certain degree of economic power and ability to take risks. Since the future is difficult to predict in a dynamic economy, the entrepreneur is compelled to take risks. Hence, profits can be considered partly as a reward for this risk. By linking economic income with uncertainty and risk, it is difficult to distinguish between insured and non-insured risk. Some types of risk - for example, the risk of a fire, flood, theft, an accident with employees - can be calculated by insurance companies that precisely predict the average number of such accidents. Thus, such a risk can be insured. Businesses can avoid accidents or take certain measures to prevent them by spending a fraction of their money on insurance premiums. The uninsured risk, the one linked with decisions of an entrepreneur, is a potential source of economic profit. In addition, the source of economic profit is the existence of a monopoly. Due to the ability to restrict production and restrain competitors, the monopolist can permanently withdraw economic profits, provided that demand is closely linked to costs. Such profits are due to the ability of the monopolist to restrict production and influence the price of the product in their favour. The main functions of economic income are[2][3].:

  • an incentive to increase national production. Expectation of income motivates firms to introduce innovations that increase investment costs, that in turn increase the volume of multiplicative production;
  • an incentive for an efficient allocation of resources among alternative types of production. Entrepreneurs are trying to make a profit and avoid losses. The emergence of economic income in any industry encourages entrepreneurs to make more product in this industry and increase the expenses of resources on this product.

Accounting Income vs Economic Income

While economic income or loss includes realized and unrealized gains or losses, accounting income or loss includes only realized gains or losses. In more detail the differences are as follows[4]:

Notion Accounting income Economic income
Fundamental measurements Transactions Future expected net cash flow (NCF)
Cash flows Actual, past Future expected
Interest Actual Selected discount rate
Separate concepts of capital and profit Both present Neither present
Concept of capital Concept of capital “Capitalised” present value
Concept of profit Periodic monetary gain P(t) = R(t) - E(t) Periodic monetary gain P(t) = R(t) - E(t)
Concept of revenue Executed contract of sale Not distinguished
Depreciated expense Allocation of net cost “Change in present value”

Economists made attempts to reconcile accounting income and economic one: Accounting income + Unrealized changes in the value of tangible assets during the period - Amounts realized during this period in value changes of tangible assets which took place in previous periods + Changes in the value of intangible assets during the period = Economic income.

Gross income vs economic income

Gross income is the income that a company gains from its main business, usually from the sale of goods or services to customers. In many countries, the term gross income is synonymous with the term turnover. Some companies may receive gross income from interest, dividends, or royalties paid by other companies. The surplus of gross income over accounting (external) expenses constitutes accounting income. The surplus of gross income over economic expenses (a set of external and internal costs) makes an economic impact. In order to calculate it, the accountants subtract internal costs, taking into account normal profits from accounting income[5][6].


  1. Hicks, J.R. (1946), p. 33-46
  2. Solomons, D (1961), p. 376
  3. Piros, C.D. (2013), p. 47
  4. Ryan, J. (2007), p. 37
  5. Solomons, D (1961), p. 374
  6. Pignataro, P. (2013), p. 6


Author: Kamil Piszczek