Reading A Profit And Loss Report

stock exchange 921605 1920The profit and loss report is one of the essential reports that most business owners hold on to in order to find out which direction their business is heading. Going over the numbers require accuracy in interpreting data. There should be no room for mistakes because bookkeepers base their recommendations and suggestions on the report. In essence, a Profit and Loss Report is a determining factor whether a business is making money or losing it. While most business owners leave this task to the bookkeeper, there are still some business owners who do not know understand the report. If you are heavily relying on your bookkeeper without taking time to look at the report, it could only mean that you are not actively planning your business or budgeting.

Interpreting numbers is a bookkeeper’s second nature, but to some business owners, they are often dazed and confused because all they know is that these numbers are only meant for forecasting where there business is going. When figures are good enough, it is easy to overlook some other details. Unfortunately, business owners are missing the point because financial reports offer more than just the figures. They are also crucial to making business decisions that can contribute to the business’ success. If you fail to regularly monitor the performance of your business, it may not take a while for you to discover that your business is already losing money.


The Income refers to the total of sales or invoices you have invoiced over a selected period of time. This amount is also GST exclusive and considered as accrual based. Keep in mind that the Income amount does not include investment income as this falls under a section known as ‘other income’, which is found on the bottom of the report. Your income is also referred to as ‘turnover’.

Cost of Purchases or Goods Sold

The Cost of Purchases and Goods Sold refers to the total of all the expenses you have incurred. These expenses have directly contributed to your income. The purchases are the inventory items that the company has purchased and sold. The Cost of Goods Sold are the items for sale including the freight charges for the items and the costs incurred to bring the purchased item into a saleable state.

Gross Profit

The Gross Profit is the income less the Cost of Goods Sold and purchases. As a business owner, you will be able to understand the markup percentages by referring to the gross profit. In a report, this is expressed as a percentage of income. 


Aside from the Cost of Goods Sold, the expenses also provide you figures of other business expenses. The expenses are categorised according to your industry and it includes operating expenses such as rent, power, telephone and many others.

Net Profit or Net Loss

The total net profit or loss refers to the total of income, less cost of goods sold or purchases less expenses. The business makes a profit if the figure is positive. A negative figure indicates that a business is losing money.

Another important note to consider is that the profit and loss report is an indicator of the amount of money you have in your bank account. Your profit may be high, but your cashflow is low. However, you should also keep in mind that a healthy cash flow does not necessarily mean healthy profit.


Andrew Donnelly

Written by : Andrew Donnelly

Andrew Donnelly is a degree qualified accountant and registered tax agent. He is the principal of Brisbane Bookkeepers, which provides bookkeeping services to small businesses in Brisbane and its immediate surrounds.

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­ Questions? Give Andrew a call 0450 605 592