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Earnings Before Interest and Taxes EBIT and Similar Metrics
Defining Selective Income Metrics, Explaining Example Calculations

 

Selective Income metrics can provide a more accurate picture of earning performance than the bottom line Net Income.

Net Income by itself is not always the most helpful metric for evaluating a firm's earnings performance.

What are Earnings Before Interest and Taxes?

Earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) is probably the best known of the selective earnings metrics that analysts and financial specialists use to evaluate earnings performance. As the name suggests, EBIT measures earnings as Income Statement revenues less all expenses—except for interest and tax expenses.

This article explains why analysts sometimes turn to EBIT and other "selective" metrics, in place of "bottom line" Net Income. Sections below also define and compare five of the best known "selective income" metrics.

What is the Family of "Selective Income Metrics"

EBIT belongs to a family of metrics called Selective Earnings or Focused Incomemetrics. The term "selective" means these metrics represent just a few selected items on the Income statement. They do not reflect all revenues and expenses. Their names begin with "Earnings before...," and then a list of excluded items. As a result, they are also known as Earnings- Before metrics.

Selective Income metrics address questions like these:

  • Is the company earning acceptable profits in its core line of business?
  • Did the firm reach its objectives for earnings growth?
  • How do company earnings compare to competitors?

Analysts address such questions by comparing earnings from the firm's latest Income statement to:

  • Earlier Income statements.
  • Competitors earnings.
  • Industry averages and best-in-class standards.

Why Use Selective Income Metrics?

The first metric that comes to mind at the mention of earnings is Net Income, the Income Statement "bottom line." Net Income, however, can be less than helpful for specific earnings questions. Net Income can be misleading when:

  • The primary interest is income from the core line of business.
  • There are significant expenses for items such as depreciation, interest, or taxes.

As a result, corporate officers and shareholders sometimes turn instead to selective income metrics such as EBIT, for a more unobstructed view of the core line of business earnings.

The article further explains the purpose and use of "selective" earnings metrics. Sections below describe and calculate six favorite earnings metrics:

  • Net Income
  • Operating Income
  • EBT
  • EBIT
  • EBITDA
  • EBEITDA
 

Contents

Related Topics

 

Selective Income Metrics Purpose
Where Are They Used?

Net Income by itself is not always the most helpful metric for evaluating earnings. Potential problems with Net Income have to do with some of its revenue and expense components.

Remember that reported Net Income is simply an instance of the income equation:

Income = Revenues – Expenses

In reality, Revenues and Expenses can mean quite a few individual items. For Net Income, these include normal operating expenses, of course. And, they also include expenses outside the firm's normal business. Expenses for Net Income may also reflect accounting conventions, taxes, and "unusual" losses. When present, these can "muddy the waters." They can, that is, distort the meaning of Net Income—at least for the firm's core line of business.

Consider, for example, how Domino's Pizza LLC presents earnings in annual reports. When discussing earnings, Domino's officers highlight EBITDA instead of Net Income. (EBITDA represents earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization). Some shareholders no doubt ask: "Why EBITDA?"

Why Focus on EBITDA Instead of Net Profit?

Domino's business operates in the highly competitive "quick service restaurant" industry. For several years the company has pursued market and growth goals by adjusting its competitive strategy. As a result, management needs accurate feedback on how these changes impact earnings in their core line of business. In particular, they need earnings metrics that are precise. Precision is crucial because period-to-period changes of just a few percentage points can signal success or failure with strategic actions—the critical information for everyone with a keen interest in the firm's prospects for the future.

Domino's, however, has asset holdings, worldwide, which create large depreciation expenses from year to year. Also, the company and its franchise owners finance operations and acquisitions differently in different countries. Also, Domino's operates in many different tax jurisdictions. All this means that taxes, interest, and depreciation impact Net Income differently in different regions and countries. Also, Domino's operates in many different tax jurisdictions. All this means that taxes, interest, and depreciation impact Net Income differently in different regions and countries. Domino's, therefore, looks to EBITDA instead of Net Income for a more transparent, more accmeasure of earnings.

Bottom Line Net Income Still Matters.

All of the reasons for using "selective metrics" aside, however, it is still bottom line Net Income that determines a firm's legal responsibilities. Every year, for instance, companies must calculate and pay taxes. Directors must declare dividends and retained earnings. These actions deal with Net Income, not EBITDA.

Explain the Most Popular Earnings-Before Metric
Some are GAAP-Defined, Some Are Not

Selective Income metrics calculate from Income statement figures. In fact, those familiar with the Income Statement should find that the names of individual "metrics" define themselves.

The table below lists and compares favorite income metrics from their contents.

GAAP-Defined Metrics vs. Non-Standardized Metrics

When comparing earnings metrics across companies, remember that some definitions leave room for analyst judgment or preference. Some "selective income" metrics, that is, allow analysts to decide, partially, what the "metric" represents.

  • GAAP-defined metrics below offer the least flexibility of this kind
  • Non-standardized metrics provide flexibility. Non-standardized "Earnings-before" metrics, therefore, should always be annotated stating what the "metrics" include and what they do not include.

Selective Income Metrics



INCOME
METRIC
INCOME METRIC INCLUDES...
Op Rev & Exp Tax Imp Depr
&
Amort Exp
Int Exp
Paid
Non-Interest Financial income
& Exp
Non-Op Income &  Exp Including Ext Items
Net Income
GAAP-Defined
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Operating Income
GAAP-Defined
Yes No Yes No In some cases
[1]
No
Earnings Before Taxes (EBT)
GAAP-Defined 2
Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Earnings Before Interest and Taxes (EBIT)
Non-Standardized
Yes No Yes No Varies by user preference [3] Varies by user preference [3]
Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization (EBITDA)
Non-Standardized
Yes No No No Varies by user preference [3] Varies by user preference [3]
Earnings Before Extraordinary Items, Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization (EBEITDA)
Non-Standardized
Yes No No No Varies by user preference [3] No
 

Notes:

1. Revenues from interest earnings may appear in Operating income only if they represent the firm's regular business.
2. Earnings before taxes (EBT) results directly from GAAP-specified Income statement items. EBT is, therefore, "GAAP-Defined."
3. The Non-standardized Income metrics, EBIT, EBITDA, and EBEITDA, are defined differently by different analysts. Some choose to include financial revenues and extraordinary items in these metrics, for instance, while others prefer to exclude them.

Selective Income Metric
Operating Income

"Operating income," or "Operating profit," or "Earnings from operations" represents company earnings from its core business. This metric shows the firm's earnings before adding revenues and expenses for extraordinary items, and before financial earnings or "expenses" (if the firm is not in financial services).

Operating Income is a GAAP-Defined Metric.

Operating income appears on the Income statement, in currency units. It is often discussed, however, as operating margin, that is, as a percentage of Net sales revenues. Either way—as a margin or in currency units—operating income is appropriate for comparisons to competitors or industry standards.

Operating Income and Net Income Sometimes Send Opposite Messages

It is possible to report a positive Operating income and negative Net Income for the same period. This kind of "mixed message" from the Income statement typically occurs in periods with large, unusual expenses due to workforce reductions, natural disasters, or legal judgments. The same mixed message can also result when a firm not in the financial sector declares investment losses or substantial financial expenses.

When Operating income and Net Income differ like this, expect the officers to emphasize "Operating income" in the Annual Report.They do this to show that the company is performing well in its core line of business. They may also point to Operating income and argue that prospects are excellent, in spite of current losses.

Of course, companies sometimes report the reverse—positive Net Income along with negative Operating income. Here, overall profitability is "rescued" by extraordinary income or financial income. Such "income" may come from the sale of real estate, other assets, or investment securities, for instance. Even though net profit is above zero, however, the situation calls for serious concern. Directors, officers, and shareholders will want to know precisely why the core line of business is not performing well. And, they will want to know how leaders intend to improve prospects for the future.

Calculating Operating Income

Operating income before taxes appears typically directly on the Income statement. The income equation defines Operating income as follows:

Operating Income = Net sales revenues 
     –Cost of goods sold (or Cost of sales, Cost of services)
     – Operating expenses

In the example below, Grande Corporation reports:

     Operating income before taxes:  $3,130,000. 
     Operating income after taxes on operating income: $2,172,000
     Net Income after taxes: $2,126,000

Income Statement for Operating Income Input Data

This example statement shows only figures relevant to Operating income. A more detailed income version of the same statement appears at page bottom. 

Grande Corporation                                   Figures in $1,000's
Income Statement for the year ending at 31 December 20YY

Revenues
Net sales revenues
Les net cost of goods sold

Gross Profit
Less total operating expenses

Operating income before taxes

Net financial gain (expense)
Less income tax on operations
Income before Extraordinary Items

Extraordinary items after tax

Operating Income after taxes


32,983
22,043

10,940
7,810

3,130

(393)
   958
1,779

    347

2,126
Note:
Usually, companies do not report "Operating income after taxes" as a line item on the Income statement. The figure calculates as follows:
     Operating income before taxes
     Less income tax on operating income only:
     Operating income after taxes

4,732



3,130
 1,096
2034
 

Operating Income: Pretax or After Tax Basis?

Operating income discussions usually refer to "pre-tax Operating income." They do so because pre-tax operating income regularly appears directly on the Income statement, while "after-tax operating income" does not.

The analyst who wants to find after-tax operating income starts with the pre-tax income figure and then takes two steps.

  • Firstly, calculate the tax liability specifically for the pre-tax income figure.
  • Secondly, subtract that tax figure from the pre-tax income figure.

The bottom three lines of the above statement describe the calculations. Note from the above example that the income tax is Tax on "operating income" only. This result is not the standard Income statement line "Income tax on operations." The two can differ because the latter may include—as it does here—tax impacts of financial revenues and expenses.

Here, to find the tax on "operational income only," the analyst multiplies the marginal tax rate on operating income (here, 35%) by the before-tax operating income figure. Here, that is

Tax on operating income only = 35.0% * $3,130  =  $1,096 

Selective Income Metric
Earnings Before Taxes EBT

"Earnings before taxes" EBT, or "Pre-tax income," or "Profit before taxes" PBT shows--not surprisingly--company earnings before paying taxes. Pre-tax income is useful for comparing the earnings of companies in different tax jurisdictions.

A similar comparison occurs, for instance, when considering the salaries of individuals: two employees may have the same gross pay, but different after-tax income because they pay income taxes at different rates. Pre-tax salary figures show, however, that the employer pays both employees the same. Similarly, the pre-tax earnings metric is a more direct comparison of earnings between companies in different tax jurisdictions.

Using the Income statement equation, Pre-tax earnings are:

Pre-tax Income = Revenues – Expenses (Except Tax Expenses)

In reality, the simplest way to calculate Pre-tax income from Income statement data is to start with "after-tax Net Income," and then add back all taxes removed earlier. For example:

Grande Corporation                                   Figures in $1,000's
Income Statement Figures for Calculating EBIT
Net Income (Profit) after taxes
Plus income tax paid on operations
Plus tax paid on extraordinary gains
2,126
958
118
Pre-Tax Income (Earnings before taxes)

3,202
 

All Figures in the EBT example above are GAAP-defined. Therefore, EBT is GAAP-defined.

Selective Income Metric
Earnings Before Interest and Taxes EBIT

"Earnings before interest and Taxes" EBIT is another pre-tax income metric, slightly more selective than EBT(above). As its name says, EBIT represents earnings before considering tax and interest expenses.

  • EBIT and EBITDA (next section) are popular with investment analysts, who must compare earnings from companies with different capital structures.
  • Companies with a high leverage capital structure have higher interest expenses than companies with lower leverage. (High "leverage" means that lenders account for relatively more of the firm's funding than owners.)

EBIT measures income before interest expenses are factored in. Therefore, EBIT provides a more accurate comparison of earning between companies at different leverage levels.

And, as with EBT, EBIT is also useful for comparing earnings of companies from different tax jurisdictions.

Important Characteristics of EBIT

Several essential characteristics of EBIT are as follows:

  • EBIT is the same as Pre-tax net income, except that EBIT also excludes the contributions of interest expenses paid.
  • EBIT usually (but not always) appears as Pre-tax income from operations as well as all non-operational income and expense (except for interest paid). When analysts state EBIT in this way, the metric reflects extraordinary gains and extraordinary costs as well as depreciation and amortization.
  • For companies not in the financial sector, EBIT excludes the impact of interest paid.
  • EBIT is not GAAP-defined, and reports of EBIT may or may not include financial income and non-interest expenses.

Calculating EBIT

From the income equation, the EBIT definition is as follows:

EBIT = Revenues – Expenses (Except Tax Expenses and Interest Expenses)

When reporting non-standard metrics like EBIT, it is always good practice to state explicitly what the calculation includes. EBIT, for instance, should appear along with a note indicating whether or not financial or other non-operating revenues are present.

In practice, EBIT is more straightforward to calculate by starting with Net Income and adding back interest and taxes. With data from the example Income statement at page bottom, Grande Corporation's EBIT for the year is as follows:

Grande Corporation                                   Figures in $1,000's
Income Statement Figures for Calculating EBIT
Net Income (Profit) after taxes
Plus interest expense paid
Plus income tax paid on operations
Plus tax paid on extraordinary gains
2,126
511
958
118
EBIT
3,713
 

Selective Income Metric
Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation & Amortization EBITDA

"Earnings before interest, taxes, and depreciation and amortization EBITDA,"  or "Operational cash flow," is another pre-tax income metric, still more selective than EBIT. As the name suggests, EBITDA represents earnings before taxes, interest, depreciation, and amortization. 

EBITDA, like EBIT, excludes interest and tax expenses. As a result, EBITDA also is useful for comparing earnings under these conditions:

  • The companies have different capital structures. Different "capital structures" means they have different levels of interest obligations.
  • The companies operate in different tax jurisdictions are therefore taxed at different rates.

EBITDA excludes everything that EBIT excludes, but EBITDA goes further also to exclude depreciation have amortization. These expenses can be substantial, and they can vary considerably between companies or even from year to year within one company.

These expenses, moreover, are "non-cash expenses." In other words, these expenses do not cause real cash flow, but they do lower "Net Income." As such, they further distort the earnings picture from overall Net Income. By excluding depreciation and amortization expenses, EBITDA is immune to such distortions.

Important Characteristics of EBITDA

Note especially the following about EBITDA:

  • EBITDA is sometimes called "Operational cash flow." EBITDA has this name because it excludes depreciation and amortization (non-cash flow expenses),
  • GAAP does not define EBITDA. It is thus a non-standardized metric.
  • Some analysts choose to include only operating revenues and expenses in the metric. Those analysts claim that EBITDA and Operating income are the same metrics. They may even use the two terms interchangeably.
  • Others believe the definition should include financial revenues and expenses (other than interest expenses), as well as non-operating costs including extraordinary gains and losses.
  • Equating EBITDA and Operating income is a risky, at best, because GAAP includes depreciation in operating income, whereas EBITDA by definition does not.
  • Note, however, that analysts who do allow financial and non-operating revenues and expenses into EBITDA do not see operating income and EBITDA as the same thing.  

Defining EBITDA

Using the Income statement equation, EBITDA represents:

EBITDA = Revenues
     – Expenses (except expenses for taxes, interest,
             depreciation, and amortization)

Example Calculating EBITDA

In practice, EBITDA is more straightforward to calculate by starting with Net Income and adding back interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization expenses. The following example uses data from the example statement below.

Grande Corporation EBITDA for the year calculates as:

Grande Corporation                                   Figures in $1,000's
Income Statement Figures for Calculating EBITDA
Net Income (Profit) after taxes
Plus depreciation expense, store equipment
Plus depreciation expense, manufacturing equip.
Plus depreciation expense, computers
Plus interest expense paid
Plus income tax paid on operations
Plus tax paid on extraordinary gains
2,126
120
360
179
511
958
118
EBITDA
4,732
 

Here, EBITDA ($4,372,000) exceeds Operating income ($3,130,000). Thus, operating EBITDA are not always the same. Here, they differ for two reasons:

  • Operating income reflects depreciation expense, while EBITDA does not.
  • Also, the analyst chose to include non-operating revenues and expenses in EBITDA, whereas they usually are excluded from operating income.

Selective Income Metric
Earnings Before Extraordinary Items, Interest, Taxes, Depreciation & Amortization EBEITDA

"Earnings before extraordinary items, interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization" or EBEITDA is undoubtedly the most selective of the income metrics described here.

EBITDA is Not Standardized by GAAP

Note that EBEITDA is another "earnings-before" metric not standardized by GAAP. As with other non-standardized measures, merely naming the "metric" does not fully specify what it represents.

When is EBEITDA Just Another Instance of EBITDA?

To some, EBEITDA seems like another instance of the slightly less selective metric, EBITDA. That view is possible because EBEITDA and EBITDA differ on only two minor points.

  • Firstly, the analyst may choose whether or not to include extraordinary items in EBITDA.
  • Secondly, EBEITDA by definition excludes extraordinary items.

EBEITDA and EBITDA are therefore the same when EBITDA excludes extraordinary items.

Otherwise, EBEITDA serves a unique role in its own right. EBEITIDA and EBITDA are different metrics when both of these conditions apply:

  • An EBITDA metric is also in view
  • The EBITDA metric includes large extraordinary items

In such cases, analysts see EBEITDA (rather than EBITDA) as the more accurate measure of earnings in the core line of business. Analysts designate EBEITDA is more accurate because it explicitly excludes extraordinary items.

Example Detailed Income Statement
Data Source for Selective Income Metrics

Example calculations above use data from the sample Income Statement Below. This statement represents a manufacturing firm. However, the structure and contents are similar across a wide range of industries.

Grande Corporation                                   Figures in $1,000's
Income Statement for Year Ended 31 December 20YY   
Revenues
Gross sales revenues
   "Less" returns & allowances
      Net sales revenues
Cost of goods sold
   Direct materials
   Direct labor
   Manufacturing Overhead
      Indirect labor
      Depreciation, mfr equipment
      Other mfr overhead
      Net mfr overhead
         The Net cost of goods sold
Gross Profit








5,263
360
  4,000


33,329
    346


6,320
  6,100




 9,623



32,983








 22,043
 10,940
Operating Expenses
Selling expenses

   Sales salaries
   Warranty expenses
   Depreciation, Store equip
   Other selling expenses
          Total selling expenses
General & Admin expenses
   Administrative salaries
   Rent expenses
   Depreciation, computers
   Other general & admin expenses
      Total general & admin exp
           Total operating expenses
Operating Income Before Taxes
  

  4,200
  730
  120
   972


1,229
180
179
   200






6,022





  1,788













  7,810
  3,130
  Financial revenue & Expenses
  Revenue from investments
      Less interest expense
      Net financial gain (expense)
  Income before tax & ext items
  Less income tax on operations
    Income before extraordinary items
 



118
  511



  (393)
 2,737
  958
1,779
Extraordinary Items
   Sale of land
   Less initial cost
      Net gain on sale of land
      Less income tax on the gain
         Extraord items after tax
 
610
  145



465
  118





  347
Net Income (Profit)       2,126
 

Detailed example Income statement, showing how Revenue and Expense account items represent the Income statement equation:
    Income = Revenues – Expenses.