What Are the Different Types of Income?

By Walecia Konrad · February 27, 2024 · 8 minute read

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What Are the Different Types of Income?

You may think of your income as being your paycheck or your freelance earnings, but there are actually many different types of income. If you have stocks that are generating dividends, that’s income, as is interest you earn on any savings accounts. Do you own a rental property that has rent payments flowing your way? That’s income, too.

Here, you’ll learn about seven common types of income and how they may affect your financial life.

Key Points

•   Income refers to money earned from labor, investments, or other sources, and can be categorized as earned, business, interest, dividend, rental, capital gains, or royalty income.

•   Earned income includes wages, salaries, tips, and bonuses, while business income is generated from products or services provided by a business.

•   Interest income is earned from interest-bearing financial vehicles like CDs or savings accounts, and dividend income comes from stock dividends.

•   Rental income is earned from property rentals, and capital gains are realized when selling assets for more than their purchase price.

•   Royalty income is earned from allowing others to use your property, such as patents or copyrighted work.

What Is Income?

Simply put, income is money that a person or business earns in return for labor, providing a product or service, or returns on investments. Individuals also often receive income from a pension, a government benefit, or a gift. Most income is taxable, but some is tax-exempt from federal or state taxes.

Another way to think about income types is whether it is active (or earned) or passive (or unearned).

•   Active or earned income is just what it sounds like: money that you work for, whether you are providing goods or a service.

•   Passive or unearned income is money you receive even though you are not actively doing anything to get it. For instance, if you have a certificate of deposit (CD) that earns you interest, that is passive income. Government benefits, capital gains, rental income, royalties, and more are also considered passive income. (We’ll go through these variations in more detail in a minute.)

People who are paid a salary may tend to think that their annual paycheck earnings are their income, but in truth, it’s common for many people to have multiple income streams. Granted, your salary may be by far the largest stream of income, but when considering your overall financial picture, don’t forget to think about the other ways that money comes to you.

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Different Types of Income

Now that you know the answer to “What is income?” question, here’s a look at the various kinds of Income. These are usually categorized as seven different types of income (though these may also be called income streams).

1. Earned Income

Earned income is the money you earn for work you do, either in a job or self-employed. Earned income includes wages, salaries, tips, and bonuses.

Earnings are taxed at varying rates by the federal and state governments. Taxes may be withheld by your employer. Self-employed workers often pay quarterly and annual taxes directly to the government. Low-income workers may be eligible for the earned income tax credit.

2. Business Income

Next up: What is business income? This is a term often used in tax reporting; you may sometimes also hear it referred to as profit income. It basically means income received for any products or services your business provides. It is usually considered ordinary income for tax purposes.

Expenses and losses associated with the business can be used to offset business income. Business income can be taxed under different rules, depending on what type of business structure is used, such as sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, etc.

3. Interest Income

When you invest in various types of interest-bearing financial vehicles, the return is considered interest income. Retirees often rely on interest income to fund their retirement. You can earn interest from a variety of sources including:

•   Certificates of deposit (CDs)

•   Government bonds

•   Treasury bonds and notes

•   Treasury bills (T-bills)

•   Corporate bonds

•   Interest-bearing checking accounts

•   Savings accounts.

In most cases, interest income is taxed as ordinary income. Some types of interest are fully taxable, while other forms (such as interest from Treasury bonds) are sometimes partially taxable.

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4. Dividend Income

Some companies pay stockholders dividends as a way of sharing profits. These are usually regular cash payments that investors can take as income or reinvest in the stock. Dividend income is one of the most common ways investors can make money from stocks. (Worth noting: Money-market funds distributions may seem like interest, but they are usually considered dividends.)

Dividends from stocks held in a taxable brokerage account are considered taxable income. These funds will be taxed at your regular income-tax rate or as a long-term capital gain. By contrast, dividends that are paid from a stock held inside a tax-advantaged savings account such as an IRA or 401(k) are not taxed.

5. Rental Income

Just as it sounds, rental income is income earned from rental payments on property you own. This could be as straightforward as renting a room in your house or as complicated as owning a multi-unit building with several tenants.

Rental income can provide a steady stream of passive vs. active income. It may enhance your livelihood or even be your main income. When your rental property increases in value, you may also gain from that appreciation and increase in equity. In addition, rental income qualifies for several tax advantages, including taking depreciation and some expense write-offs.

But there are downsides. Owning a rental property isn’t for the faint of heart. Unreliable tenants, decreasing property values, the cost of maintaining and repairing properties, as well as fees for rental property managers can all take a bite out of your rental income stream.

6. Capital Gains

Another important income stream can come from capital gains. You incur a capital gain when you sell an asset for more than what you originally paid for it. For the purposes of capital gains, an asset usually means an investment security such as a stock or bond. But it can also encompass possessions such as real estate, vehicles, or boats. You calculate a capital gain by subtracting the price you paid from the sale price.

There is another key point to know on this topic: Two types of capital gains are possible — short-term and long-term.

•   Short-term capital gains are realized on assets you’ve held for one year or less.

•   Long-term capital gains are earned on assets held for more than a year.

The tax consequences are different for each type of capital gain. Short-term gains are taxed as ordinary income, while long-term capital gains are taxed at a lower rate depending on income. Taxpayers could typically pay 0%, 15%, or 20% on long-term capital gains, depending on their income.

Keep in mind, however, that capital losses can happen too. That’s when a capital asset is sold for less than the purchase price. While it’s never pleasant to experience losses, there can be a small silver lining in this case. Many times capital losses can be taken as a tax deduction against current and/or future capital gains.

7. Royalty Income

Royalty income comes from an agreement allowing someone to use your property. These payments can come from the use of patents, copyrighted work, franchises, and more. An example or two:

Inventors who sell their creations to a third party may receive royalties on the revenue their inventions generate. Celebrities often allow their name to be used to promote a product for royalty payments. Oil and gas companies pay landowners royalties to extract natural resources from their property. The market for music royalties has been particularly lucrative in recent years with the proliferation of music streaming services.
Royalty payments are often a percentage of the revenues earned from the other party using the property. Many things impact how much royalty is paid, including exclusivity, the competition, and market demand. How royalty payments are taxed can also vary, depending on the type of agreement.

Now that you’ve reviewed the seven different types of income, you may be wondering, “What about residual income?” That’s a term that doesn’t actually describe money that’s heading your way. Instead, think of that as the amount of your income left over after you’ve paid your financial obligations. It’s similar to discretionary income. Unfortunately, it’s not another way to enrich your bank account.

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The Takeaway

Understanding the seven general income streams (such as earned, dividend, and rental income) can help you make the most of your financial planning. Earning income from any of these sources can add stability and help achieve long-term goals, such as saving for retirement. Because some types of income have unique tax implications, it can be important to check with your tax advisor about any tax consequences that may exist.

Aside from earned income, it’s likely that interest is the kind of income most people receive. And seeking out the best possible interest rate can be a solid way to enhance your money; looking for a high-yield bank account may be a good place to start.

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SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.


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