Adjusted Gross Income

Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary

Definition: Adjusted Gross Income

Quick Summary of Adjusted Gross Income

In the US, a person’s income on which federal income tax is calculated. This is gross income less adjustments such as Individual Retirement Account, Simplified Employee Pension Plan, Keogh Plan and alimony payments but before itemised deductions such as state and local income taxes, interest expenses and medical expenses.

What is the dictionary definition of Adjusted Gross Income?

Dictionary Definition

Adjusted gross income (AGI) is a United States tax term for an amount used in the calculation of an individual’s income tax liability. AGI includes all gross income adjusted by certain allowed deductions and is an important benchmark determining certain other allowed benefits.

For example, most limitations on deductions or credits are determined based on either AGI or modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). MAGI is AGI modified by certain amounts specific to the given limitation.

Gross income includes wages, interest income, dividend income, income from certain retirement accounts, capital gains, alimony received, rental income, royalty income, farm income, unemployment compensation, and certain other kinds of income. AGI is the last number on the first page of the Form 1040, the standard U.S. income tax return form for individuals.

Full Definition of Adjusted Gross Income

Adjusted gross income is the amount of income used on IRS Form 1040 to calculate a person’s income tax liability. The adjusted gross income is an individuals income (wages, interest, dividends, capital gains/losses, etc.) less various adjustments (IRA contributions, alimony paid, etc.). Adjusted gross income is calculated before the itemized or standard deductions, exemptions, and credits are taken into account. Adjusted gross income is recorded at the bottom of the 1040 form. Adjusted gross income is also used to determine an individual’s eligibility for various tax benefits and exemptions. Adjusted gross income is used on many non-IRS forms as a true measure of an individual’s income. Most state forms use the federal adjusted gross income figure to reflect an individual’s income for state taxes.

Deductions from gross income allowed in arriving at AGI (above the line deductions)

For the 2016 tax year, some examples of the deductions from gross income allowable in computing AGI include:

  • Certain business expenses of reservists, performing artists, and fee-basis government officials;
  • Health savings account deductions;
  • Certain moving expenses;
  • One-half of self-employment tax;
  • Penalties on early withdrawal of savings;
  • Alimony paid;
  • Deduction for contribution to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA); and
  • Student Loan interest deduction.

The above list is not comprehensive. The deductions allowable in arriving at adjusted gross income should not be confused with itemized deductions such as home mortgage interest expense, medical expenses, property taxes, charitable contributions, etc. For a complete list of deductions that help you compute your AGI, see §62 of the Internal Revenue Code.

These deductions are called “above the line” deductions because they are taken while computing a taxpayer’s AGI. The AGI is “the line.” Itemized deductions are “below the line,” and are generally not favoured by taxpayers because only the amount exceeding a fixed percentage of their AGI can be deducted. For instance, only business expenses over 2% of AGI and medical expenses over 7.5% of AGI would be eligible for deduction in 2007. See itemized deductions for more on this.

Modified Adjusted Gross Income

In U.S. tax law, modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is the adjusted gross income (AGI), modified by various adjustments. There are various MAGIs, computed in different ways; the most used is Modified AGI for Roth IRA purposes, detailed in the instructions to Form 8606. Other MAGIs appear in Form 8839 (Qualified Adoption Expenses) and Form 8815 (Exclusion of Interest From Series EE and I U.S. Savings Bonds Issued after 1989).

Modified AGI For Roth IRA Purposes

The Modified AGI for Roth IRA purposes is used to determine how much can be contributed to certain personal retirement programs. The starting point to determine MAGI is adjusted gross income (AGI), which is basically total income minus certain adjustments.

Once AGI is determined, then under certain circumstances, taxpayers must calculate their modified adjusted gross income (MAGI). Among other situations, this calculation is called for in determining whether Roth IRA income limits have been reached, and therefore whether a Roth contribution can be made. Certain adjustments allowed in arriving at AGI are then added back to arrive at modified adjusted gross income.

Upward adjustments that modify AGI are generally made by disallowing deductions for passive activity losses, to include all rental losses, not allowing adjustments taken for tuition, fees, student loan interest paid, IRAs, nor the deduction for paying one-half of self-employment tax. Deductible money placed in a 401(K) is allowed.

Additionally, MAGI is raised by including interest earned from U.S. Savings Bonds that were used for higher education expenses (which is usually excluded income for simple AGI purposes).

Finally, the taxpayer’s MAGI is lowered by excluding Taxable Social Security income received.

Cite Term

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Modern Language Association (MLA):
Adjusted Gross Income. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. June 23, 2021
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Adjusted Gross Income. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. (accessed: June 23, 2021).
American Psychological Association (APA):
Adjusted Gross Income. Retrieved June 23, 2021, from website:

Definition Sources

Definitions for Adjusted Gross Income are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:

  • A Dictionary of Economics (Oxford Quick Reference)
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Accounting
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Business & Management

This glossary post was last updated: 26th April, 2020 | 5 Views.