Other comprehensive income is those revenues, expenses, gains, and losses under both Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and International Financial Reporting Standards that are excluded from net income on the income statement. This means that they are instead listed after net income on the income statement.
Revenues, expenses, gains and losses appear in other comprehensive income when they have not yet been realized. Something has been realized when the underlying transaction has been completed, such as when an investment is sold. Thus, if your company has invested in bonds, and the value of those bonds changes, you recognize the difference as a gain or loss in other comprehensive income. Once you sell the bonds, you have then realized the gain or loss associated with the bonds, and can then shift the gain or loss out of other comprehensive income and into a line item higher in the income statement, so that it is a part of net income.
Examples of items that may be classified in other comprehensive income are:
Foreign currency translation gains or losses
Pension plan gains or losses
Pension prior service costs or credits
It is acceptable to either report components of other comprehensive income net of related tax effects, or before related tax effects with a single aggregate income tax expense or benefit shown that relates to all of the other comprehensive income items.
Other comprehensive income is designed to give the reader of a company's financial statements a more comprehensive view of the financial status of the entity, though in practice it is possible that it introduces too much complexity to the income statement.
Total comprehensive income is the combination of profit or loss and other comprehensive income.