What is Ordinary Income?

Definition of Ordinary Income

Ordinary income, also known as ordinary gain or profit, is income generated from several sources, including wages, salaries, dividends, and self-employment. It is generally taxed at the ordinary tax rate as opposed to any special treatment given to capital gains or investments.

Ordinary profit is earned by individuals regularly and reported on the taxpayer’s federal income tax return. It includes wages, salaries, tips, bonuses, commissions, other forms of compensation, and ordinary dividends earned. It also has income from self-employment activities such as operating a business or providing services to others.

How is it Calculated?

Before calculating ordinary income, you’ll first need to know the gross income by taking all sources of income and subtracting any applicable deductions. After this step, ordinary income is the remaining amount.

This income rate is based on an individual’s tax bracket and can range from 10-37%. The ordinary profit rate will also vary depending on earned income, such as wages versus self-employment income.

Why are ordinary gains different from taxable income?

The difference between ordinary income and taxable income lies in the tax rate. Taxable income is subject to tax at the applicable rate, while you’ll pay taxes for ordinary gains at a rate ranging from 10-37%. Also, taxable income includes deductions such as charitable contributions or medical expenses, while this type of income does not.

Ordinary Profit Examples


Ordinary income for wages is any type of income you might receive for your work. These wages can include hourly pay, salary, commissions, and bonuses.  For example,  a restaurant server may receive ordinary business income wages for the hours they have worked.


Salary ordinary gain is any type of salary received by an employee. This salary can include annual wages, hourly pay, and other forms of compensation such as bonuses or commissions. Salary ordinary business income is taxable and reports on a person’s federal income tax return.

For example, an executive assistant may receive an income salary for their work hours.


Ordinary income for dividends is any type of income you might receive for owning company shares. Therefore, include cash dividends, stock dividends, and other types of distributions.

For example, when a company pays its shareholders a dividend, it is considered ordinary income.

Dividends are taxable income on a person’s federal income tax return. The ordinary profit rate for dividends is generally 15%.

Self-employment income

Ordinary income for self-employment is any income received from operating a business or providing services to others. This income can include sales, fees, commissions, and other types of payments.

Self-employment ordinary gain is taxable and reports on a person’s federal income tax return. However, there are several deductions that self-employed individuals can claim, including contributions to a retirement account, health insurance premiums, and more. For example, a self-employed individual may receive ordinary gains for their services.

Next Steps

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