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OTE Meaning (On-target Earnings)

OTE Mean

What does OTE mean?

OTE stands for On-Target Earnings (or On-Track Earnings.) It is a measure of how much money an employee can expect to earn in a given year from base salary, commissions & bonuses. It provides a more accurate picture of total compensation than base salary alone. OTE is a useful tool for both employers and employees when negotiating salaries and evaluating job offers.

Key Facts

Here are 3 key takeaways about OTE and it’s meaning:

  1. OTE refers to On-Target Earnings, the total annual compensation an employee can expect to earn when hitting 100% of goals. It includes base salary plus target commission.
  2. To calculate OTE, start with guaranteed base pay, then add the potential incentive commission for meeting predefined quotas or objectives. For example, £30,000 base + £5,000 target commission = £35,000 OTE.
  3. OTE structures can be capped or uncapped. Capped OTE limits commission earnings but provides predictability. Uncapped OTE enables exceeding targets and higher commissions, motivating top performance. Companies weigh predictability vs. incentives.

Some key points:

  • OTE only factors base salary and target-level commissions, not bonuses or other compensation.
  • To calculate OTE, add the base pay to potential commission at 100% of goal attainment. For example, a £50,000 base salary plus £15,000 commission at target = £65,000 OTE.
  • Commission payouts are tied to individual metrics like sales quotas or team goals around revenue or recruitment numbers. Exceeding goals may result in commissions higher than target payouts.
  • OTE structures can be capped or uncapped. Capped OTE limits commission earnings while uncapped OTE enables higher commissions for top performers.

calculate salary

How Do You Calculate OTE?

  • OTE refers to the total annual compensation an employee can expect to earn when meeting 100% of their performance goals.
  • To determine an employee’s OTE, start by identifying their base salary. This is the guaranteed fixed pay they receive.
  • Next, identify the target commission or variable pay they can earn for hitting predefined targets. This is usually expressed as a percentage of salary or a fixed number.
  • Add the base salary and target commission together. This sum is the employee’s On-Target Earnings or OTE.

For example:

  • £40,000 base salary
    • £10,000 target commission (25% of base)
  • = £50,000 OTE

So if the employee hits all targets, their total annual earnings would be £50,000, which is their On-Target Earnings. This does not include any additional bonuses or benefits beyond base and target commission. Calculating OTE provides a clear projection of an employee’s expected total compensation.

Further Calculation Examples

What does 25k OTE mean?

You may see OTE expressed as a round number like “£25k OTE” in job postings. This refers to the On-Target Earnings potential for that role.

The £25k OTE indicates the total expected annual compensation if 100% of goals are achieved. This will be made up of:

  • A base salary that covers core responsibilities. For example, £20,000.
  • Target commission at full quota attainment. For example, £5,000.
  • Adding the £20,000 base salary and £5,000 potential commission totals the £25,000 OTE.

Expressing OTE as an even round number like £25k is a convenience to convey the full earnings potential in a simple and accessible way for candidates. But companies calculate OTE more precisely in setting the specific base salary and target commission numbers that make up the total On-Target Earnings.

What does 28k OTE mean?

Similarly, a “£28k OTE” indicates £28,000 in total expected annual compensation when 100% of goals are met. For example:

  • A £22,000 base salary
  • Plus potential commissions of £6,000 at full quota attainment
  • Totals the £28,000 On-Target Earnings amount.

Round OTE figures simplify the compensation potential for job seekers, while employers use exact base and commission numbers to calculate OTE precisely.

Capped vs. Uncapped OTE

Capped OTE

  • Some companies use a capped OTE structure which limits the amount of commission an employee can earn.
  • A cap provides predictability in budgeting and cost control for the business. However, it limits the upside potential for top performers.

Uncapped OTE

  • With an uncapped OTE structure, there is no limit set on commission earnings.
  • This enables high achievers to exceed targets and maximise their commissions. It provides stronger motivation but less cost predictability.
  • When designing an OTE plan, companies weigh the benefits of predictability with a capped structure vs. the performance incentive of uncapped earnings potential.
  • The right approach depends on the company’s objectives, sales model and appetite for risk. Most choose either capped or uncapped rather than a hybrid approach.

Examples of Positions with OTE Compensation

Sales Roles

  • Sales representatives and account executives frequently have OTE structures as part of their compensation package.
  • Their base salary provides steady income, while commissions on sales give them additional earnings potential for meeting quotas.

Business Development

  • Business development professionals who source new accounts and partnerships often have an OTE model.
  • The base covers their core responsibilities, while commission incentives drive business growth.


  • Recruiters and talent acquisition roles often include an OTE component.
  • Meeting hiring targets triggers commission payouts on top of their base salary.

Other Performance-Based Roles

  • Many performance-driven positions such as mortgage brokers, media sales, and investment brokers use OTE compensation.
  • The base salary covers core activities, while variable pay connected to metrics incentivizes top performance.

Paying Taxes on On-Target Earnings

For tax purposes, OTE is treated as income from employment and is subject to the same taxes as any other wage or salary. This includes both National Insurance Contributions and income tax. However, there are some important administrative distinctions to be aware of when it comes to OTE.

While OTE is considered income from employment for tax purposes, it is often not subject to the automatic deduction of tax at source. This means that employees who receive OTE will need to declare it on their annual tax return and pay any due taxes in a lump sum with failure to do so resulting in interest and penalties.

For these reasons, it is always important to seek professional advice if you receive On-Target Earnings as part of your compensation package to ensure you do not encounter tax issues.

Pro’s & Cons of OTE

What are the Benefits of On-Target Earnings (OTE)?What are the Potential Cons of OTE?
  • OTE provides motivation for employees to hit their targets and perform at their best.
  • OTE can also help to attract and retain top talent, as it offers a competitive compensation package.
  • OTE aligns the interests of employees with those of the company, helping to create a more cohesive and productive workforce.
  • OTE can help increase transparency and communication within an organization as it clarifies what is expected of employees and how they will be compensated for meeting those expectations.
  1. Additional pressure on employees which may lead to unhealthy levels of competition within an organization.
  2. Difficulty in accurately calculating OTE and reflecting an employee’s true value to the company.

Nonetheless, OTE remains a popular compensation model among businesses of all sizes and can work for both employers and employees.


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