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Income: Earned, unearned and contributed money

Income is money that a business acquires that is earned, unearned and contributed. It has a credit balance in the ledger accounts when it increases and a debit balance when it decreases.

Earned money is acquired for work done when selling goods and rendering services. Unearned money is acquired through investment activities that bring passive income. Contributed income is money received without effort or investment.

Money received by the business appears in the Income Statement, Profit and Loss, or Income and Expenditure account. Earned, unearned or contributed money is classed under the headings Operating Income and Non-operating Income.

Operating income

Operating income is the money earned, unearned or contributed from activities that relate directly to the running of the organisation. There are several accounts that fall under this heading.


Sales account records goods for resale sold to customers to generate revenue for the business to make a profit. A mini-mart Purchases bread at a wholesale price and sells it with a mark-up to retail customers.

Sales account only records increases. When Sales decreases, a Returns Inwards account is debited to make the adjustment. On the Income Statement, Sales is the first item and it subtracts Returns Inwards which is the second item.

Discount Received

Discount received account records the amount deducted from the debt owed to a supplier when the business pays it off in cash. It is money saved on Purchases of goods for resale. This means that there is more money available from which to deduct other expenses. Discount received is added to Gross profit.

Bad Debts Recovered

Bad debts recovered account records money received from a debtor whose account had been written off as a bad debt in the past. Bad debts recovered is added to Gross Profit.

Proceeds or Benefits

Proceeds or Benefits account records money received from activities in an organisation. It may be winnings in sporting activities and performances. It may be earnings from sale of tickets, cookies and washing cars to raise funds. It is the revenue for a non-profit organisation.


Commission account records money received as a percentage of the value of sold goods or services. A real estate agency with a 3 percent rate of commission on the sale of a 1-million-dollar property would receive $30,000 in commission. It is the revenue for many types of businesses.


Fees account records money received as a charge for entry into an event, registration, security, transport, or membership subscription to use a service. Fees usually generate a lot of revenue for different types of businesses.


Donations account records money received from individuals and private businesses as contributions to help fund the running of a non-profit organisation. Donations are unearned money that is used in the charitable operations for supporting people in need and is the revenue for the foundation.


Grants account records money received from government bodies that offer contributions to non-profit organisations. Grants are unearned cash that help the organisation carry out its duties successfully. It is the revenue used to cover many expenses.

Non-operating income

Non-operating income is the money from activities that do not relate directly to the running of the business and are mainly unearned. There are several non-operating income accounts that appear after operating expenses in the Income Statement.

Rent Revenue

Rent Revenue account records money received from tenants who occupy space on the compound of the business. It is unearned income as the business receives it without effort. A small food business that rents space inside the yard of a large business is convenient to workers who have access to meals. It is additional income for the large business.

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Gains on sale of assets

Gains on sale of assets account is money received for selling an asset for more than the carrying amount. This is the purchase price of the asset, minus any subsequent depreciation and impairment charges. The money is unearned and is a one-time gain for the business.

Interest on loans

Interest on loans account is money received on money lent by the business to individuals and other businesses. The amount of extra cash also known as Interest Income is determined by the agreed period of the loan and the prospect of the loan actually being paid back.

Gains on foreign exchange transactions

Gains on foreign exchange transactions account is money received on the conversion rate of currency received for sale of goods and services. A business may charge a customer with foreign currency a lower rate of exchange than the bank. When the business converts the money at the bank at a higher rate, the difference is income received.

Dividend income

Dividend income account is money received on the investment made by the business on shares purchased in another business. The business may buy 500 shares of stock at $5 per share for $2,500 from a Public Limited Company. If the PLC announces a special dividend of 10c per share, then the business would receive a dividend income of $50 which is 500x10c. This is unearned money that falls under non-operating income.


When you buy something through our retail links, we may earn commission and the retailer may receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes.

See also:

ALICE accounts

Assets: Owned fixed and liquid items with a debit balance

Liabilities: Owed long and short term items with a credit balance

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