What Is Earned Income?

Earned income is income that you had to work to earn, either working for someone else who pays you or working in a business you own and run. Use your earned income to figure your eligibility for certain tax benefits, such as the Earned Income Credit.

Earned income includes

  • wages, salaries, tips, and other taxable income
  • union strike benefits
  • long-term disability benefits received prior to minimum retirement age
  • net earnings from self-employment
  • gross income received as a statutory employee.


  • For reference, pay that is not considered earned income includes
  • pay received for work while an inmate in a penal institution
  • interest and dividends
  • retirement income
  • social security
  • unemployment benefits
  • alimony
  • child support