What Is The Difference Between Gain and Profit?

difference between gain and profit

It is important to get a firm understanding of all accounting terms in business, especially since they involve your finances. One great example is the inaccurate interchangeable use of profit and gain. These two accounting terms both pertain to business earnings, but their similarities end there. It is time to create a clear distinction between the two words, which is the difference between gain and profit, as they have a lot to do when it comes to your financial performance.


Difference Between Gain and Profit

What Is A Gain?

In financial accounting, gain refers to any economic benefit or cash inflow obtained from the sale of a long-term asset outside the company's normal operations. It is calculated by subtracting the acquisition value (ie purchase cost) of an asset to its current market value.

There are two types of gains in business, realised and unrealised.


A realised gain happens when a firm sells an asset or investment at a price higher than its original amount or book value cost. A gain is only "realised" once it is sold or donated and is completely removed from the company's accounting books. 

Realised gains are taxable. The income you gained in selling an asset is subjected to tax and reported as a taxable income. This is why most owners hold off in selling a particular asset or investment until such time that the tax burden is reduced.


gains of the business

While realised gains are tangible earnings, an unrealised gain is theoretical earning that only exists on paper; thus, serving as a company's investment income that is expected to be received in the future.

 An unrealised gain pertains to an increase in the value of an asset that has yet to be sold. 

They are usually called "paper profits" since there isn't actual cash to be collected, not until a transaction is completed.


What Is Profit?

Profit, also known as net income, is the total amount of revenue remaining after all expenses are paid. To sustain day-to-day activities, a firm uses its revenue to pay for all operational costs such as raw materials, labour, inventory, and utility bills. It is also used to settle a company's taxes, liabilities, and debts. After all of the expenses are remunerated, the leftover is considered as profits.

Profit is a significant metric for all businesses as it measures a company's profitability and financial stability. Whether it is a billion-pound tech service or a coaching business, all have the same goal: to earn money. Thus, making profit is a huge part of every venture, regardless of industry and structure.


There are three main types of profit:

  • Gross profit – a business's total revenue minus the total costs of goods sold. A high gross profit margin means an efficient execution of business activities. 
  • Operating Profit – is the income realised from primary business operations before interests and taxes. It is calculated by subtracting the operational costs to the gross profit.
  • Net Profit– is the third level of profitability. It refers to the residual income after all expenses and costs are deducted or have been paid. A high net profit means more money is able to be remunerated to owners and shareholders.

Profit Margin vs. Gross Profit
What is Net Profit Margin and Gross Profit Margin?`


The Difference Between Profit And Gain

In accounting terms, profit and gain are not interchangeable. Profit is a much larger entity where gains only represent a portion of its calculation. 

Gains refer to financial benefit from the sale of an asset or investment outside the firm's normal operations. Once realised, gains are reported under the income statement (also known as the profit and loss account) together with profit calculations.

Despite close relationships, business terms such as profits and gains should be distinguished from each other.


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About the Author

Annette Ferguson 

Owner of Annette & Co. - Chartered Accountants & Certified Profit First Professionals. Helping online service-based entrepreneurs find clarity in their numbers, increase wealth and have more money in their pockets.

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