What Is Farm Income?

Farm income refers to profits and losses that are incurred through the operation of a farm or agricultural business. A farm income statement (sometimes called a farm profit and loss statement) is a summary of income and expenses that occurred during a specified accounting period. This period is usually the calendar year for farmers (January 1 - December 31). Some farms are eligible for special farm tax credits and other tax breaks.

Key Takeaways

  • Farm income refers to the money generated by farm or agribusiness operations.
  • Farm income is treated a bit differently than non-farm income for tax purposes.
  • Farmers are required to fill out a Schedule F on their tax returns to report farm income.

Understanding Farm Income

In U.S. agricultural policy, farm income can be divided as follows:

Gross Cash Income: the sum of all receipts from the sale of crops, livestock and farm-related goods and services, as well as any direct payments from the government.

Gross Farm Income: the same as gross cash income with the addition of non-money income, such as the value of home consumption of self-produced food.

Net Cash Income: the gross cash income less all cash expenses, such as for feed, seed, fertilizer, property taxes, interest on debt, wagers, contract labor and rent to non-operator landlords.

Net Farm Income: the gross farm income less cash expenses and non-cash expenses, such as capital consumption and farm household expenses.

Net Cash Income: a short-term measure of cash flow.

Reporting Farm Income

If you are a farmer and your farming business is a sole proprietorship, for tax purposes you must file Schedule F (titled "Profit or Loss from Farming") to report your agricultural business’s net profit or loss for the tax year. Livestock, dairy, poultry, fish and fruit farmers as well as owner/operators of plantations, ranches, ranges, nurseries or orchards are considered farmers for the purposes of Schedule F. Your farming profit or loss is then transferred to a form 1040 for computing your total tax liability. Schedule F is to farmers what Schedule C is to other sole proprietors.

Schedule F asks about your principal farming activity or crop; your income from selling livestock, produce, grains or other products; and whether you received farm income from cooperative distributions, agricultural program payments, Commodity Credit Corporation loans, crop insurance proceeds, federal crop disaster payments or any other sources. Schedule F provides different ways to account for your income depending on whether you use the cash or accrual method.

You’ll also need to fill out Schedule F to claim tax deductions for your farming business, which will lower your tax bill. Deductions you may be able to claim include but are not limited to the expenses you paid for a business vehicle, chemicals, conservation, custom hire, depreciation, employee benefits, feed, fertilizers, freight and trucking, gasoline and other fuel, insurance, interest, hired labor, pension and profit-sharing plans, repairs and maintenance, seeds and plants, storage and warehousing, supplies, taxes, utilities, veterinary fees and rent or lease fees for vehicles, machinery, equipment, land and the like.

IRS Publication 225, or the Farmer's Tax Guide, is a document that helps individuals involved in agribusiness navigate the farming-specific tax code. The document details and outlines how the federal government taxes farms. Individuals will be liable for taxes if the farm is operated for profit, whether the taxpayer owns the farm or is a tenant. IRS Publication 225 outlines the different accounting methods that farmers may use for running their operations and how farmers must report farm income.