What is gross income for tax reporting purposes?

Gross income for tax reporting purposes includes almost everything of value received by a taxpayer during the taxable year. Gross income includes wages and salaries, interest, dividends, stock sales, self-employment income, income from business entities, prizes, rents, real estate sales, bartering, babysitting, and most other forms of income.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Gross income is almost everything of value received by a taxpayer during the taxable year. In fact, the law is that everything of value a taxpayer receives during the year is income unless the taxpayer can establish that it is not income. The amount of that income is the value of what is received.

For example, if you perform services for another person and she pays you by giving you a new computer, the fair market value of that computer is income to you. This is because the law presumes that the agreed-upon value of your services is the fair market value of the computer.

Even if the person paying you sells computers for a living, the amount of income is the fair market value of the computer, not the wholesale price.

Gross income includes, wages and salaries, interest, dividends, stock sales, self employment income, income from business entities, prizes, rents, real estate sales, bartering, babysitting and most other forms of income.  Basically, any money that you receive from any source, is almost always part of gross income.  Sometimes it is actually easier to state what is not gross income rather than what is.

Payments not considered gross income


1. Casual sales of personal property.  Selling a personal automobile, garage sales, selling personal property online etc.,  are generally not included in gross income because they are personal, depreciating property and you cannot claim a loss on personal property.  If the rare ocassion occurred where you did actually make a profit (gain) selling personal property, that profit (gain) would have to be included in gross income.

2. Reimbursements for employee business expenses are not included in gross income if the reimbursement is based on actual expenses.

3. Repayment of personal money you loaned to family or friends is not included in gross income; however any interest that you charged them would be included.

4. Housing that is provided for the convenience of the employer is generally not included in gross income.

5. Gifts and inheritances are not included in gross income unless the gift or inheritance would have been taxable to the gifter or decedent.  A good example of that is an inherited IRA.  If you roll it over into a retirement account of your own it is not included in gross income.  If you cash it out, it is included.

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