Define: Unearned Income

Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary

Definition: Unearned Income

What is the dictionary definition of Unearned Income?

Dictionary Definition

Unearned Income refers to income not derived from trades, vocations or professionals, or from the emoluments of office.

In the United Kingdom, it was formerly taxed more heavily than earned income through the imposition of an surcharge on investment-income.

Earned and unearned income are now taxed at essentially the same rate (with the exception of minor differences in the treatment of income from savings and company dividends).


Full Definition of Unearned Income

Unearned income is any income that comes from sources other than employment (work). Examples of unearned income include interest from bonds, savings accounts, and other sources; dividends from stocks; capital gains from selling investments at a profit; and income from rental property. Some unearned income is taxed at the regular income tax<tax rate; other unearned income is taxed at a lower rate, often to encourage further investment. Proceeds from retirement plans and Social Security payments are also treated as unearned income, even though they derive in part from the earned income of an individual’s prior employment. Gifts, inheritances, royalties, in-kind support, awards, and prizes are considered unearned income. As such, they are treated differently from earned income for tax purposes.


Synonyms For Unearned Income

unearned revenue, unearned income other than pensions, income, revenue, rents

Cite Term

To help you cite our definitions in your bibliography, here is the proper citation layout for the three major formatting styles, with all of the relevant information filled in.

Page URL
Modern Language Association (MLA):
Unearned Income. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. April 06, 2020
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Unearned Income. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. (accessed: April 06, 2020).
American Psychological Association (APA):
Unearned Income. Retrieved April 06, 2020, from website:

Definition Sources

Definitions for Unearned 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: 5th February, 2020