5204.0 - Australian System of National Accounts, 2000-01  
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The essential function of the national accounts is to provide a systematic summary of national economic activity. The structure of the accounts provides an economically meaningful aggregation of the wide range of diverse transactions occurring in the economy and the various entities (transactors) involved in those transactions. An ideal system would also allow any degree of disaggregation of transactors and transactions. The establishment of such links between the micro and macro economies would facilitate the use of more wide-ranging analyses. However, the data sets available for national accounting systems generally fall well short of this ideal.

The basic structure of the national accounts is determined by the classification of transactors into institutional sectors and the classification of transactions into accounts.

Australia's national accounts are compiled and presented in accordance with the System of National Accounts, 1993 (SNA93), which is the international standard for national accounts statistics.


Transactor units are grouped into institutional sectors according to their roles in the economy. The domestic institutional sectors are:

  • Non-financial corporations (including public non-financial corporations);
  • Financial corporations;
  • Households (including unincorporated enterprises); and
  • General government.

In addition, there is an external sector (encompassing non-resident governments, persons and businesses that engage in transactions with Australian residents).

SNA93 delineates a fifth domestic sector for 'private non-profit institutions serving households', but these units are included with the household sector in the Australian System of National Accounts (ASNA).

One feature of both the non-financial corporations sector and the financial corporations sector is that they are designed to cover businesses which are legally, or clearly act as, entities independent of their owners with regard to their incomes, outlays and capital financing transactions, and by virtue of this are required to maintain separate profit and loss and balance sheet accounts. Private enterprises classified to these sectors are mainly companies registered under the Companies Act or by other Acts of Parliament, but in principle, large, important unincorporated enterprises which maintain complete independent financial records (termed quasi-corporate enterprises) should also be included. In practice, private unincorporated enterprises included in these sectors are classified as quasi-corporate only if they are unincorporated financial enterprises, or unincorporated partnerships of companies, or unincorporated enterprises owned by non-residents, or unincorporated enterprises assessable for income tax as companies.

Public non-financial corporations include government owned or controlled enterprises which are mainly engaged in the production of goods and services for sale in the market with the intention of substantially covering their costs. These units may be incorporated under company or other special statutes or be unincorporated units of government enterprises.

Financial corporations are distinguished from non-financial corporations in that they are mainly engaged in both incurring liabilities and acquiring financial assets, i.e. in borrowing and lending money, in providing superannuation, life, health or other insurance cover, in financial leasing or investing in financial assets. Corporations providing services closely related to and designed to facilitate these activities are also classified as financial corporations. The Reserve Bank of Australia is included in the financial corporations sector.

Households and unincorporated enterprises are included in the one sector because the owners of ordinary partnerships and sole proprietorships frequently combine their business and personal transactions. Complete sets of accounts in respect of the business activity will often not be available. As mentioned above, large and important unincorporated enterprises and any unincorporated enterprises classified as financial enterprises are regarded in principle as quasi-corporate and included in the non-financial corporations and financial corporations sectors respectively.

The general government sector consists of all departments, offices and other bodies mainly engaged in the production of goods and services for consumption by governments and the general public, whose costs of production are mainly financed from public revenues and which provide goods and services to the general public, or sections of the general public, free of charge or at nominal charges well below costs of production. Included are government enterprises mainly engaged in the production of goods and services for other general government enterprises.

Non-profit institutions serving businesses or households which are mainly financed and controlled by governments are included in the general government sector. Private non-profit institutions serving businesses or households and which are not mainly financed and controlled by government are included in the non-financial corporations and households sectors respectively.

Although the institutional sector classification does not explicitly include a public sector/private sector dichotomy, the national accounts provide such a dissection of the income, capital and financial accounts and the balance sheets for relevant sectors.

Further information on the classification of institutional sectors generally in ABS statistics is contained in Standard Economic Sector Classification of Australia, 1998 (Cat. no. 1218.0).


Another feature of a classification of transactors is that rules need to be established for the delineation of the statistical units for which data are to be collected. Transactor units are grouped into two classes: producing units and owning (or financing) units.
  • Producing (establishment) units are concerned with the production of goods and services. In analysing production transactions, most interest usually centres on a classification of establishments according to industry.
  • Owning or financing (enterprise) units are the basic legal entities which own the producing units and make the financial decisions regarding their operation. They are grouped into broad sectors which reflect their institutional roles in the economy. These are the institutional sectors discussed in the first part of this Appendix.

It follows that any one enterprise may own and control a number of establishment units which may or may not be involved in different types of productive activities and/or operate in different physical locations. As the enterprise is primarily concerned with decisions relating to both current and capital financial flows, it is the relevant unit for income accounts and capital accounts. Establishments on the other hand are the relevant units for production accounts.


In the national accounts, a major distinction is made between transactions relating to the supply and disposition of goods and services on the one hand, and transfer payments and financial transactions on the other. Only the former payments are concerned with the production of goods and services and therefore affect the level of GDP. Transfer payments represent a transfer of income from one sector to another. Financial transactions are concerned with the acquisition of financial assets and liabilities and are the mechanism whereby surplus saving of one sector can be transferred into the productive investment of another sector. The net outcome of the acquisition of financial assets and liabilities is shown as the net lending item in the capital account of each institutional sector. Components of net lending are shown in the financial accounts for each institutional sector.

The supply of goods and services includes the gross output of resident producers and imports of goods and services. The disposition of goods and services is divided between intermediate uses and final uses. Intermediate uses consist of the consumption of non-durable goods and services in the process of production. Final uses consist of final consumption expenditure, gross fixed capital formation, changes in inventories and exports of goods and services. The supply and disposition of goods and services can also be viewed as the sum of incomes accruing from production - compensation of employees, gross operating surplus and gross mixed income - and taxes less subsidies on production and imports.

Two types of incomes are distinguished, primary and secondary. Primary incomes accrue to institutional units as a consequence of their involvement in the processes of production or the ownership of assets that may be needed for the purposes of production. They are payable out of the value added created by production. Secondary incomes are all other incomes, such as social assistance benefits and other transfer payments.

A description of the types of transactions used in the national accounts is provided in the Glossary.


The types of accounts reflect the major economic processes occurring in the economy, namely production, the distribution of incomes, consumption, saving and investment, financial flows and asset accumulation. The national accounts are composed of the following types of accounts:
  • Production accounts;
  • Income accounts;
  • Capital accounts;
  • Financial accounts; and
  • Balance sheets, supported by associated accumulation and revaluation accounts.

Each of these accounts is produced for the nation as a whole, and the set of accounts together constitutes the consolidated summary accounts. In addition, income accounts, capital accounts, financial accounts and balance sheets are constructed for each of the four domestic institutional sectors i.e. non-financial corporations, financial corporations, households, and general government. The national accounts also include a number of supplementary tables which provide more detailed presentations of the individual sector accounts. Although, in principle, production accounts could be constructed for the four individual institutional sectors, major interest centres instead around production on an industry basis. This cuts across the institutional type of sectoring used in the income and capital accounts since the classification of production units by industry in such a presentation is done without regard to institutional sector.

An important feature of the accounts is that they are a double entry system and, therefore, are fully balanced. Every entry has a counterpart entry i.e. every outgoing reappears elsewhere as an incoming, reflecting the circularity of the economic process. Materials and the services of factors of production flow into productive enterprises and final goods and services flow into consumption, capital formation, and changes in inventories. These flows of goods and services are matched by reverse flows of money. Producers pay for their materials and also pay out factor income which (after a number of transfers such as income taxes, and borrowing and lending transactions) flow back as payments from final purchasers.

Production accounts

Production accounts record the expenses incurred in production and the receipts from sales of goods and services. Sales of goods and services (including goods and services produced for own use) are recorded on the credit side of the account. On the debit side, expenses of production, namely intermediate consumption, compensation of employees, taxes less subsidies on production and imports, gross operating surplus and gross mixed income are recorded. The gross domestic product account is, in effect, a consolidation of the trading accounts of individual enterprises.

The receipts side of the gross domestic product account in the ASNA shows sales of goods and services to final consumers (including exports less imports) and changes in inventories. Because only sales to final consumers are shown, revenue from the sale of intermediate goods and services (i.e. goods and services used up in the production of final output) does not appear. In the process of consolidation of the production accounts of all sectors, intermediate goods and services cancel out as the revenue of one producer is a cost to another. On the payments side the incomes from production are shown, namely compensation of employees, gross operating surplus, gross mixed income and net taxes on production and imports. Where the gross domestic product account has been derived from balanced supply and use tables, the sum of the two sides of the account are balanced, otherwise statistical discrepancies are inserted to achieve balance. See the Explanatory Notes for further details.

Income accounts

The national income account records income and use of income. On the income side it shows compensation of employees, gross operating surplus, gross mixed income (from unincorporated enterprises) and taxes less subsidies on production and imports. Net secondary income from non-residents is added to derive gross national disposable income. The use of income (or disbursements) side of the account shows how gross disposable income is used for final consumption expenditure and the consumption of fixed capital (depreciation), with the balance being the nation's net saving - one source of finance for gross capital formation.

The sectoral income accounts are disaggregations of the national income account, and record for each institutional sector its net income arising both from production and from transfers from other sectors, and its uses of income (disbursements). The difference between income and use of income is net saving (the balancing item). For some institutional subsectors, it has not been possible to estimate consumption of fixed capital separately, so the balancing item is equal to net saving plus consumption of fixed capital.

For corporations (both financial and non-financial), the income accounts show income arising from gross operating surplus from the gross domestic product account and property income (such as interest, dividends, reinvested earnings on direct foreign investment and rent on natural assets) from other sectors. Total income is used to make various payments (such as interest, dividends, reinvested earnings on direct foreign investment and rent on natural assets) to other sectors. The balance is the saving of the respective sectors and is transferred to their capital accounts.

The income account of the household sector shows compensation of employees, gross mixed income (on account of unincorporated enterprises) and gross operating surplus on dwellings owned by persons, which are all from the gross domestic product account, as well as property income (interest, dividends, property income attributed to insurance policyholders and rent on natural assets) from other sectors, social assistance benefits and various other forms of secondary income. On the use of income side are shown final consumption expenditure, consumer debt interest and other property income payable, income taxes and other current taxes payable, other current transfers to non-residents and other sectors, consumption of fixed capital (on account of unincorporated enterprises and dwellings owned by persons) and net saving (the balancing item).

The general government income account shows receipts from income taxes, other taxes on income, wealth, etc., taxes on production and imports, property income (interest, dividends and rent on natural assets) and gross operating surplus. On the use of income side are shown final consumption expenditure, property income payable to other sectors, subsidies, social assistance benefits and other current transfers, consumption of fixed capital and net saving (the balancing item).

Capital accounts

The national capital account shows sources of funds (receipts) for financing gross capital formation and the use of these funds (disbursements). Sources of funds comprise consumption of fixed capital, net saving transferred from the national income account and net capital transfers receivable from non-residents. On the disbursements side gross fixed capital formation, the change in inventories, net acquisitions of non-produced non-financial assets are shown. Conceptually, net lending to non-residents is the balance of the national income account. However, if there are statistical discrepancies in the gross domestic product account, then these discrepancies must also be taken into account before the derivation of the balancing item.

Similar information is provided in the sectoral capital accounts. The balancing item, net lending, reflects the net lending of a particular sector to all other sectors. As sectoral production accounts are not compiled, it is not possible to break any national statistical discrepancies by sector. Accordingly, the sectoral net lending balance includes, implicitly, each sector's share of the national discrepancy.

Financial accounts

The financial accounts show, for Australia as a whole and for each sector, the net acquisition of financial assets and the net incurrence of liabilities. In the national financial account, transactions in financial assets and liabilities with non-residents are shown. In the financial account for each sector, the transactions relate to financial assets and liabilities with other sectors.

Conceptually, the balance in each financial account (i.e. net change in financial position) is the same as net lending derived from the relevant capital account. However, due to measurement imperfections, this is seldom the case in practice and a net errors and omissions item is included to achieve balance.

Balance sheets

The national balance sheet shows the value of Australia's assets, both financial and non-financial, and liabilities to non-residents at particular points in time. The difference is net worth. Similar information is shown for each sector in the sectoral balance sheets. For financial assets and liabilities, the amounts shown are the outstanding claims on and liabilities to other sectors on the balance sheet dates. For non-financial assets, the amounts shown represent each sector's share of the Australian value as at the balance sheet dates.

External accounts

All current transactions between Australian residents and non-residents are recorded in the external income account. The income of non-residents includes Australia's imports of goods and services, compensation payable to non-resident employees, property income receivable from Australia and other current transfers from Australia. The use of income side shows Australia's exports of goods and services, compensation payable by non-residents to Australian employees, property income payable to Australia and other current transfers to Australia. The balance on the external income account represents net lending to non-residents: positive net lending to non-residents corresponds to a surplus on current transactions and negative net lending corresponds to a deficit. Aside from some presentation differences, the external income account shown in the national accounts is the same as the current account in balance of payments statistics.

The external capital account shows, on one side, the balance on external current transactions (from the external income account) and net capital transfers receivable from Australian residents. On the other side, net acquisitions of non-produced non-financial assets by non-residents is shown. The balance is net lending from non-residents to Australia.

The external financial account records all transactions in financial assets between Australian residents and the rest of the world. The balancing item in the external financial account (that is, net acquisition of financial assets less net incurrence of financial liabilities) is conceptually equal to the balancing item in the external capital account. However, in practice a statistical discrepancy is required to achieve balance.

The external balance sheet records Australian residents' assets in the rest of the world and non-residents' assets in Australia. The balancing item is Australia's net international investment position, which is a component of Australia's net worth.


As well as the institutional sector classifications, other major classifications used in the national accounts are the industry and purpose classifications. The industry classification is primarily designed to classify establishment units by kind of economic activity (industry) although it may also be used in classifying institutional units. The purpose classifications are used to classify household and government expenditures.The industry classification employed throughout the Australian system of national accounts is the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification, 1993 (Cat. no. 1292.0) (ANZSIC). It has been developed as part of an integrated statistical system which allows for the consistent classification of units across a broad spectrum of ABS collections and compilations. Apart from its application in the national accounts, the ANZSIC is used in a large number of ABS collections, including the economic surveys.

The structure of the ANZSIC comprises four levels, namely Divisions (the broadest level), Subdivisions, Groups and Classes. In the national accounts, data for selected transactions are presented at the Division level; some data are also shown at the Subdivision level.

Household final consumption expenditure is classified according to the SNA93's Classification of Individual Consumption by Purpose (COICOP). This classification groups together goods and services that serve similar functions - in the sense of purposes or objectives - within households.

The Government Purpose Classification (GPC) is described in detail in the Classification Manual for Government Finance Statistics, Australia (Cat. no. 1217.0). The GPC is structured around the following four headings:
  • General government services (major groups 01-03)
  • Community and social services (major groups 04-08)
  • Economic services (major groups 09-13)
  • Other purposes (major group 14).