Cash Flow vs. Revenue: Definitions, Differences and Types

Key Takeaways. Revenue is the money a company earns from the sale of its products and services. Cash flow is the net amount of cash being transferred into and out of a company. Revenue provides a measure of the effectiveness of a company’s sales and marketing, whereas cash flow is more of a liquidity indicator.

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Revenue vs. Profit vs. Cash Flow – Know the Danger

What is revenue?

Revenue is the total income an organization makes from the sale of goods or services, and it derives directly from the core business operations of the organization. Because revenue is the total income before expenses, taxes, and interest are deducted, businesses and organizations report revenue as the top-line income value on an income statement. Although revenue can result from sales transactions, it also includes all other forms of income.

For instance, in addition to product or service sales, a company’s revenue may also come from bond interest, capital gains, and investment returns. Depending on the industry and types of transactions, businesses can report revenue for taxes and financial documentation using various accounting methods. For instance, businesses that deal in wholesale goods may report that their product sales generate the majority of their revenue.

What is cash flow?

Cash flow is the total amount of cash and cash equivalents that a company brings in and expends as a result of all of its operations, including sales. Businesses typically classify values as either positive cash flow or negative cash flow when analyzing cash flow. A company that has a positive cash flow typically has more liquid assets, which enables it to pay down debt more quickly and reinvest earnings in projects that foster business expansion. Conversely, a negative cash flow may be a sign that a company’s assets are losing value or are insufficient to pay short-term obligations like dividends and operating costs.

Types of cash flow

Several categories that include this kind of income are used by businesses to track and report cash flow:

Financing cash flow

Typically, the costs associated with debt or equity financing are included in financing cash flow. Debt financing accounts for outgoing cash flow to dividend, loan, credit, or stock repurchase payments, whereas equity financing covers the costs of raising capital to increase business value. Companies keep track of their financing cash flow to ensure that capital interest and credit line payments are made on time. This type of cash flow is always outgoing because it covers the ongoing, short-term costs of financing a business’s ongoing growth.

Investment cash flow

Investment-related incoming cash flow may include interest income, returns, and capital gains. Due to the ability of businesses to convert assets like cash equivalents, property, and equipment into usable funds, a company’s liquid assets also take incoming investment cash flows into account. Dividend payments, stock and security purchases, as well as interest costs, can all be considered as outgoing cash flow from investment activities.

Operating cash flow

Operating cash flow includes both incoming and outgoing values and results from a company’s regular business operations. Sales earnings, which can include revenues, are frequently accounted for by incoming operational cash flow. Operating costs, cost of goods sold, and overhead costs can all be included in outgoing cash flow. Additionally, the inflow and outflow of funds from both short- and long-term assets and liabilities can be accounted for by operational cash flow.

Types of revenue

Businesses and organizations often account for several types of revenue:

Operating revenue

The gross income that businesses make from their routine business operations is referred to as operational revenue. This amount represents the total revenue less all COGS and operational costs. Businesses also record this amount as the realized profit when accounting for operating revenue, after deducting depreciation, salaries, overhead, and expenses for supplying business operations.

Nonoperating revenue

Non-operating revenue includes all earnings from sources other than the primary business, such as income from the sale of assets or gains from investments. This kind of income can also offset losses from investments and other transactions, such as the sale of assets and currency conversions. Depending on how many shares a company owns, dividend income may also include non-operating value. Incoming cash flow may occasionally be explained by non-operating income, particularly income from liquidated assets.

Accrued revenue

Accrued revenue represents the expected earnings resulting from sales transactions. Companies that generate accrued revenue frequently obtain this income by offering goods or services to clients on credit, where the client accepts the item or service but has not yet made full payment. Businesses typically report revenue when a transaction occurs rather than when customers actually make payments when accounting for accrued revenue.

Unearned revenue

Unearned revenue is the money that a company receives when selling to clients but has not yet provided the good or service. This revenue primarily covers prepayments made by clients when they make purchases from a business. Only after customers receive the goods or services in exchange for their prepayments is unearned revenue reported.

Cash flow vs. revenue

Despite the fact that a company’s cash flow can increase its total revenue, there are a number of significant differences between these two financial metrics, including:

Tax reporting

Companies report revenue and cash flow differently. When it comes to revenue, reporting takes into account all accrued income, regardless of whether businesses receive payments for delivered goods or services at the time of reporting. In contrast, businesses do not account for prepayments for sales, investment activities, or expenses and only report incoming cash flow as it is generated. This distinction is crucial for tax reporting because, depending on the particular period, accounting for unearned revenues may not be necessary.

Financial documentation

Companies use various financial records to monitor and record revenue and cash flow. Companies track revenue on the income statement, which has line items for expenses, gross and net expenses, and gross and net profits. The cash flow statement, on the other hand, keeps track of all transactions involving cash and cash equivalents and allows businesses to account for operational, investment, and financing cash flows. The cash flow statement, which tracks current distributions of all assets and liabilities in addition to realized incomes, can also offer more financial insight than an income statement.

Accounting methods

Contrary to accounting for cash flow, revenue accounting can be done in a variety of ways. In most cases, businesses employ accrual accounting, which monitors and records revenue streams as they happen, regardless of whether customers use credit to buy goods or services. Cash-basis accounting, sales accounting, and accounting for recognized earnings are additional revenue accounting techniques. Only the cash flow statement, which businesses use to measure and track operational, investment, and financing cash flows, is subject to accounting.


Is cash flow more important than revenue?

Cash flow is the amount of money coming in and going out of a business at any given time, whereas profit is the revenue that is left over after business costs have been subtracted. Cash flow is more crucial to keep the business running on a daily basis than profit, which is a better indicator of your company’s success.

What is a good cash flow to revenue ratio?

A healthy cash flow to sales ratio is one that is between 10% and 55%.

Is cash flow same as profit or revenue?

The two metrics are not equivalent, as there are significant differences between them. Profit is the amount of money that remains from your revenue after costs are deducted, whereas cash flow is the money that enters and exits your business over the course of a specific time period.

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