Revenue Reporting

What is Revenue Reporting?

Revenue reporting is the process of documenting and analyzing the income a business generates from its normal business activities, typically from the sale of goods and services to customers, over a given accounting period.

It’s a crucial aspect of financial reporting as it provides a detailed breakdown of the company’s income and helps in assessing its financial performance. Across the organization, there are several reasons this is important:

  • Financial analysis and planning
  • Investor and stakeholder communication
  • Compliance and regulatory requirements
  • Operational insights
  • Benchmarking and performance measurement
  • Decision-making and strategy development

First and foremost, revenue reporting is an accounting process — you’re required to report cash flow, sales revenue, and profitability to the government and your stakeholders. But the goal is to accurately represent the company’s financial health, progress toward its goals, and overall performance. And that’s essential for running a thriving business, legal implications or not.


  • Income reporting
  • Sales reporting

Key Concepts in Revenue Reporting


Revenue is any income a business generates from its day-to-day operations. That primarily includes selling products or services to customers. But it also can include advertising, subscription fees, affiliate marketing, rent, royalties, reseller partnerships, and any other financial gains.

It’s often referred to as the “top line” of a company’s financial statement because it’s the first line listed. It reflects the total amount of money coming into the business, before accounting for deductions and expenses.

On the income statement, there are two types of revenue: operating and non-operating revenue.

  • Operating revenue is the income you generate from the core activities of a business (such as product/service sales or ad space on a website).
  • Non-operating revenue is all the additional income that’s unrelated to the main operations (think: investments, interest earned, etc.).

Non-operating revenue drivers might be significantly profitable for your company. But they aren’t considered “sustainable” because they’re likely to fluctuate each year. They’re normally excluded when potential investors evaluate your company’s financial performance.

Reporting Period

When you create a revenue report, it’ll either be a monthly, quarterly, or annual report.

  • Monthly reports are useful for tracking revenue trends, current performance, and short-term strategies (like a monthly sales quota or new product launch).
  • Quarterly reports provide a balance between detail and big-picture thinking. They’re often used for board meetings, investor updates, and strategy discussions that take place a few times per year.
  • Annual reports zoom out to highlight YoY performance and the overall state of a business (e.g., year-end financials). They’re used for legal filings, annual meetings, finalizing strategic decisions, and demonstrating long-term growth.

Each reporting period has its own specific uses and goals. If you were assessing a GTM plan or new sales methodology, for example, you’d let it run for three months before critically evaluating its performance. A monthly report wouldn’t allow enough time to see if there is any long-term potential, but an annual report leaves no room for agility.

Components of Revenue Reporting

Sales Revenue

Sales revenue is your company’s income from selling its products or services. You can present it as gross revenue (total income before deductions) or net revenue (income after deducting returns, allowances for damaged goods, and discounts).

It encompasses all income from the sale of goods or services. However, it doesn’t include income from non-core business activities like interest earned on savings, dividend payments, or revenue from the sale of assets. You’ll also exclude the cost of goods sold (COGS), which comprises the direct costs of production like materials and labor.

Other Revenue Streams

Depending on the nature of your business, you may or may not have revenue streams other than a product or service. Examples include:

  • Interest
  • Royalties
  • Licensing fees
  • Advertising revenue
  • Affiliate marketing revenue
  • Channel sales
  • API calls
  • Rental income

Your revenue report might detail all of your revenue streams, even if they’re not directly related to your core business to deliver a comprehensive view of your company’s financial health and performance.

Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)

On the income statement, COGS represents the cost of creating or acquiring the products or services you sell. It includes direct costs like labor, materials, and shipping. Calculating COGS is essential because it allows you to determine your gross margin (the difference between net revenue and COGs).

The general COGS calculation is as follows:

COGS = Beginning Inventory Cost + Purchases During Period – Ending Inventory Cost

For the SaaS revenue model, you’ll calculate COGS a little differently because you don’t have any inventory. Instead, you’ll look at things like hosting and infrastructure fees, cloud storage, development cost, and customer implementation/support.

Methods of Revenue Recognition

Revenue recognition is the process of recording income when it’s earned, regardless of when cash changes hands. Depending on whether you use accrual-basis or cash-basis accounting, it may or may not have significant implications for your business.

Accrual Accounting

In accrual-basis accounting, you record revenue when you earn it, regardless of whether cash has been exchanged. It provides a better overview of your financial health and performance because it reflects the full value of a sale.

That said, it can also make cash flow management more challenging. You may have recorded revenue you haven’t been paid for. Or, you might have upfront payments for services you haven’t yet delivered. This is especially challenging in SaaS revenue recognition, where customers typically pay annually or monthly for access, and you recognize revenue in the month(s) following your payment.

To comply with the ASC 606 and IFRS 15 standards, you have to recognize revenue in the period it is earned. So, you must use accrual-basis accounting.

Cash Accounting

Cash-basis accounting is an accounting method where revenue is only recognized once payment has been received. This means you won’t record revenue until the cash from a sale has been deposited into your bank account. Small businesses and sole proprietors often use it because it shows immediate cash flow.

The main advantage of cash-basis accounting is its simplicity. It’s much easier to track cash flow and understand when payments are coming in. However, it can also be misleading as it only captures short-term cash flow and doesn’t give a full picture of the company’s financial health.

This method doesn’t comply with GAAP, ASC 606, or IFRS 15 standards. It also makes it more challenging to track certain expenses (e.g., those that are paid on credit) and can make it difficult to project future revenue accurately.

Common Metrics in Revenue Reporting

Gross Revenue

Gross revenue represents all the money your business has earned from sales, before deducting revenue expenses. It’s a measure of how much money your company is making at the top line and is useful when you want to evaluate growth over time.

Net Revenue

Net revenue is the income your business earns after deducting expenses from gross revenue. It’s a measure of how profitable your company is overall because it provides insight into the actual value of your sales after accounting for returns, discounts, money-back guarantees, and other revenue-related deductions.

Operating Revenue

Operating revenue is the money your business earns from its primary operations, excluding non-core revenue streams like interest and rental income. It helps you understand how well your company is performing in its main line of business.

Regulatory Compliance and Standards

Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)

Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) are a comprehensive set of accounting practices the United States uses to govern corporate accounting and financial reporting. While primarily applicable to publicly traded companies, plenty of private companies also adhere to GAAP, especially if they plan to go public or seek additional financing in the future​​​​.

GAAP covers a wide range of financial accounting issues, including:

  • Revenue recognition
  • Expense recognition
  • Treatment of financial and non-financial assets
  • Liabilities (e.g., taxes and leases)

ASC 606 is the GAAP standard for revenue recognition, and it requires companies to follow a five-step model to determine when they should recognize revenue. These steps are as follows:

  1. Identify the contract with the customer.
  2. Identify the performance obligations in the contract.
  3. Determine the transaction price.
  4. Allocate the transaction price to each performance obligation.
  5. Recognize revenue when (or as) you satisfy each performance obligation.

International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS)

International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) are global standards for accounting developed by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), a London-based organization. They’re generally used by companies outside of the United States, although private and public US companies also use IFRS if they have subsidiaries in other countries.

IFRS 15 is the standard for revenue recognition under IFRS, and it has a similar five-step model to ASC 606. The main difference is that it includes additional guidance on contracts with multiple performance obligations and time-based revenue recognition. It also imposes stricter evaluations when capitalizing contract costs, which must be expected to generate future economic benefits.

Challenges in Revenue Reporting

Revenue Recognition Issues

Revenue recognition issues can arise from complex contracts with multiple performance obligations, service subscriptions, and upfront fees. These issues are especially prevalent in SaaS companies, where customer contracts almost always include a combination of these elements.

Let’s say you’re a software company that just closed a new enterprise customer. The contract includes:

  • Integration and implementation fees
  • Annual payments for year-long access to your platform
  • Monthly fees for technical support

First, you have to consider your upfront costs. Even if they paid for integration and implementation upfront, you’ll still have to recognize the revenue over time as you complete service milestones. Then, for the annual payments, you’ll need to recognize 1/12th of the revenue each month to reflect the ongoing service provision.

Without revenue recognition automation software, reporting that revenue on financial statements correctly without making errors is virtually impossible.

Compliance Challenges

Getting revenue allocation wrong during this process can result in a variety of compliance challenges that could land you in hot water with the SEC, IRS, or international regulatory bodies.

  • Regulatory fines and sanctions
  • Reissuance of financial statements
  • Financial penalties
  • Contractual breaches
  • Litigation risk

All these compliance challenges can damage your company’s reputation, reduce your stock price, lower investor confidence, and jeopardize future financing opportunities.

Best Practices in Revenue Reporting

Transparent Disclosures

To avoid potential legal and financial issues related to revenue reporting, strive for transparency in your financial statements. Clearly disclose all relevant information about the nature of your company’s revenue streams, including an explanation of the company’s performance obligations and how it recognizes revenue.

Regular Audits

Audit your income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement regularly to ensure they accurately represent your company’s current financial health. That way, you can address potential issues ahead of time and avoid costly mistakes.

Invest in Software

If you haven’t already, invest in accounting and revenue reporting software to streamline the process and ensure accurate reporting. As an added benefit, it’ll provide you with real-time insights into your financial data, which you can use to make informed decisions.

People Also Ask

What is the difference between income and revenue?

Revenue refers to the overall earnings a company generates across various sources. Income, on the other hand, represents the total earnings remaining after deducting all expenses. It encompasses taxes, depreciation, rent, commissions, production costs, and other kinds of expenses.

What are the differences between gross revenue, net revenue, and net profit?

Gross revenue is the total amount of money a company earns before deductions and expenses. Net revenue is the total income minus discounts and returns. This number reflects the actual income a company receives from sales. Net profit is a company’s ultimate bottom line after considering all expenses and taxes. It represents the company’s true profitability.