Gross profit is defined as sales minus costs related to those sales. A gross profit ratio is gross profit expressed as a percentage of revenue. Gross profit is one of several measures of profitability. Investors use it to gauge the efficiency of a company and to see how much money is left over to pay for operating expenses.
To calculate gross profit, go to any company's income statement. Find the lines marked revenue and cost of goods sold. Subtract cost of goods sold from revenue. The answer is the gross profit of a company. Take the answer, and divide it by revenue to calculate gross profit margin.
Repeat the calculation, this time with a different year or comparable period of the company's results. Doing this will give a picture of a company's health over a period of time. Calculating gross profit for competitors gives a good idea about how a company stacks up against peers.
The Bottom Line
Companies have other expenses aside from the cost of goods sold, so gross profit isn't the ultimate measure of profitability. Additional expenses, such as interest and administrative costs, are also subtracted to give net income, also known as the bottom line.
Use to Investigators
Tax investigators use gross profit margin in a search for illegal operations. In the book Financial Investigations and Forensic Accounting, George Manning writes that higher-than-average gross profits can be an indication that criminals are adding cash to a business to launder the source of illegal funds. Lower-than-average profit margins are an indication that someone in the company is removing cash for the purposes of evading taxes.
According to VentureLine's dictionary of accounting terms, gross profit measures a company's efficiency. For manufacturers, it's the efficiency of turning raw materials into products. For retailers, it is a measure of markup over wholesale.
Philadelphia-based freelancer Pat Kelley has been writing since 2002, most recently for Scripps Texas Newspapers. He has won numerous awards for reporting. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science.