What Is Net Sales?

Net Sales Explained in Less Than 5 Minutes

Accountant calculating in an office.

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Net sales refers to the total amount of sales made by a business after all deductions have been considered.

Net sales refers to the total amount of sales made by a business after all deductions have been considered. It is the total sales made within a specified time frame minus any sales returns, discounts, and sales allowances. Typically, this accounts for the actual sales made from customers purchasing its products and services. Net sales are indicated on financial statements and are an important component in overall finances.

Understanding how net sales works is especially important when calculating your business’s revenue and determining your overall net earnings, also known as the bottom line. Knowing how to calculate net sales is one of the first steps to creating an accurate income statement for your business.

Definition and Examples of Net Sales

Net sales may sometimes be simply referred to as “sales” on financial statements, and it may also be referred to as “net revenue.” Although sales and revenue are often used interchangeably, there is a slight difference in their meanings. Sales generally refers to the money earned from purchases by consumers, whereas revenue generally includes all income made by a business, including other sources besides its sales.

Net sales is the amount of sales calculated after sales returns, discounts, and allowances are deducted from gross sales. For example, if a business determines it has sold a certain amount of products, these deductions must be accounted for in terms of those goods to get an accurate representation of the numbers.

This provides insight to understand the amount to which the business has profited and can actually be calculated in a business’s overall finances. Because net sales depends on several components, it is important to record data accurately, typically in a ledger, so that net sales can be calculated accurately.

How Net Sales Works

Net sales is typically included on a financial document known as the income statement. An income statement is essentially a summary of the amount of income and expenses generated within a specified time period. The net sales of a company is listed at or near the top line of an income statement and, depending on its layout, may be included in the revenue section. To calculate net sales, a simple formula can be used:

Net Sales = Gross Sales - Sales Returns - Discounts - Allowances

For example, if your business sold a total of $50,000 worth of merchandise, but you haven’t accounted for returns, discounts, or allowances, then your gross sales would be $50,000. This amount would be placed at the very top of the income statement. This simply means you sold $50,000 worth of products but it doesn’t necessarily mean your business has all that income from the sales because other deductions have not yet been considered.

From your gross sales calculations, you can subtract the amounts for sales returns, discounts, and allowances. Let’s say you find the sum of these three to equal to $5,000—then your net sales would equal $45,000, as the table below illustrates.

Net Sales Gross Sales Sales Returns Discounts Allowances
$45,000 $50,000 $2,000 $2,000 $1,000

The data is then placed into the formula to show how net sales is calculated:

$45,000 = $50,000 - $2,000 - $2,000 - $1,000


Net sales is an important figure on the income statement and must be accurate, as this amount is used to calculate gross profit on the income statement and can impact a business’s bottom line.

Types of Deductions that Affect Net Sales

The amount of net sales that is calculated on an income statement is affected by different types of deductions, as noted in the formula:

  • Sales returns
  • Discounts
  • Sales allowances

Sales Returns

Sales returns include any returns of products purchased by consumers. For example, if a customer buys something from a retail store but later decides to bring the product back to the store for a refund, it is a return. The amount of that refund would be included under returns when placed on an income statement, and is deducted from gross sales to calculate net sales.


Make sure to keep records of all sales and returns to determine the correct calculations because this directly affects the totals on your business’s income statement.


Discounts are another type of deduction. When a discount is applied, the price of the product is reduced, usually by a percentage of the original price.

Discounts also are deducted from gross sales to calculate net sales. There can be many different types of discounts, including seasonal discounts, which are applied at certain times of the year when demand decreases, cash discounts, and quantity discounts for bulk buying

Sales Allowances

Like discounts, sales allowances are also deducted from a product’s original price; however, an allowance is deducted for a specific reason on a particular product. Discounts are generally available for every customer, but allowances are mostly applied to issues with the products or their orders. For example, if a product has a defect or damage, an allowance may be provided because that particular product is not up to the standard of other similar products ordered.   

Key Takeaways

  • Net sales refers to the total amount of sales made by a business within a specific period after sales returns, discounts, and sales allowances are deducted.
  • Net sales may be referred to as “net revenue” or simply “sales” when listed on an income statement.
  • Net sales is accounted for on the top line of the income statement, which is a summary of business income and expenses in the form of a financial document.
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  1.  Harper College. “Accounting for Merchandising Operations.” Page 2. Accessed Dec. 9, 2021.

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