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Introduction

Refer to this Section if you have received a Quarterly Business Indicators Survey (QBIS) form from us recently, and require assistance in completing the survey form. Listed below are "Frequently Asked Questions" from businesses and our response. If you have any further queries, please refer to the Business Indicators Contact Us page for details on how to contact us.

QBIS collects data relating to profits, inventories, sales, and wages and salaries. These key indicators are released on a quarterly basis, providing measures of economic growth that indicate changes in the business cycle. The results from this survey are published in Business Indicators, Australia(cat. no. 5676.0). QBIS statistics are drawn upon by a wide variety of individuals and organisations in both the public and private sector, with major users including:

- The ABS' National Accounts
- Reserve Bank of Australia
- Commonwealth Department of Treasury and the State Treasuries;
- State and Commonwealth Government departments and agencies;
- Industry organisations and associations
- Schools, universities and other educational institutions;
- Market analysts and economists
- Media

QBIS data is one of the main components in the calculation of the quarterly Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures, which is published in the quarterly publication Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product(Cat No 5206.0).


For common questions about participation in ABS business surveys, please see Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

For help using the online survey tool (eSurvey) please see eSurvey Help.

If your question about the Quarterly Business Indicators Survey is not answered on these pages please contact the free-call (excluding mobile phones) phone number 1800 642 149.



General Questions

1. How was I selected?
2. Why are you collecting this data?
3. How did you get my company name and address?
4. How long will I be in the sample?
5. I am only a small business with insignificant data. Should I be in the survey?
6. Can I have more time to complete the form?
7. Why is this survey not due at the same time as my Business Activity Statement?
8. Is it compulsory? What if I refuse to fill it in?
9. This is an intrusion into my private business. Is confidentiality guaranteed?
10. Do I still need to complete the form if my business/organisation was sold during the reference period?
11. Do I still need to complete the form if my business/organisation was sold before the start of the reference period?
12. What do I do if my business/organisation is still operating but didn't trade during the reference period?
13. Do I still need to complete the form if my business/organisation has gone into liquidation/administration during the reference period?
14. I'm not sure how to report data in thousands of dollars (A$'000) on the form.
15. What about the workload we already have?
16. Why don't you pay people to fill in your forms?
17. How accurate do the figures need to be?
18. I have already sent you the information requested.
19. My business is ASX listed and we are unable to release any financial information until we announce our results to shareholders.
20. Why do I need to change passwords for my eSurvey every quarter?
21. Why can't I see the figures provided last quarter in my current form?
22. Why do I need to provide a reason if the figures provided differ by more than 10 percent from that reported last quarter?
23. The data I provided last quarter was an estimate and I now have more accurate figures available. What should I do?


1. How was I selected?

The survey is based on a sample of approximately 16,000 businesses from a total population of approximately 1,000,000 businesses which are in scope of the survey.

The probability of a business being selected in an ABS survey depends on its expected contribution to the resulting statistics, which are presented by industry and state/territory. Large businesses, and those which are significant to industry or state/territory statistics, are generally selected every quarter. The process for selecting other businesses is random, and if a business is selected, it represents a number of like business.


2. Why are you collecting this data?

QBIS collects quarterly data relating to profits, inventories, sales, and wages and salaries. The survey, which was fully implemented in the March quarter 2001, collects data from private sector businesses. While being an indicator of economic performance in its own right, the results of this survey are used as major inputs into the compilation of the quarterly estimates of the Australian National Accounts.


3. How did you get my company name and address?

Your company's name and address details are sourced from the ABS Business Register. This contains the name and addresses of all business in Australia, and is primarily based on registrations to the Australian Taxation Office's Pay As You Go Withholding (PAYGW) scheme (and prior to 1 July 2000 the Group Employer scheme).


4. How long will I be in the sample?

The Quarterly Business Indicators Survey rotates businesses in and out of the survey each quarter. Once selected, a business may be included in the survey for up to three consecutive years. Maintaining businesses in the survey for this period is necessary because the survey is designed to measure change and collecting data from a gradually changing sample provides the most reliable statistics. It is generally not possible to exclude individual businesses from participating in a survey without introducing biases to the survey results and therefore reducing the reliability of the important estimates. However the Business Surveys Charter does provide exemptions to smaller business that have been included in the same survey for more than three consecutive years. A business can seek an exemption by writing to the contact address shown on the survey form. Exemptions will be granted where doing so would not significantly bias the results of the survey. Larger businesses make a more significant contribution to survey results and exemptions are generally not possible.


5. I am only a small business with insignificant data. Should I be in the survey?

The ABS considers that the activities of small businesses are just as important as large businesses and so they cannot be excluded from participation in ABS surveys. Smaller businesses have different characteristics from large businesses and make an important contribution to the Australian economy, especially at state and territory levels. Usually a sample of smaller businesses is selected to represent other like businesses. As such their impact on the survey results is important.


6. Can I have more time to complete the form?

Businesses experiencing difficulties in completing ABS survey forms by the due date can request an extension of time. Extensions may be granted on a case by case basis, and should be requested by contacting the toll free telephone number which appears on the front of the survey form. Please note that careful estimates are acceptable if actual data is not available.


7. Why is this survey not due at the same time as my Business Activity Statement?

The Quarterly Business Indicators Survey (QBIS) is a major input for the quarterly GDP figures, produced by the ABS National Accounts. As a result, the due date for QBIS cannot be changed as the timely release of quarterly GDP figures are relied on by key government and private sector stakeholders.


8. Is it compulsory? What if I refuse to fill it in?

The ABS relies on the willing cooperation of businesses selected in our surveys to provide accurate information as requested. The vast majority of businesses respond regularly to our requests for information.

However, the Census and Statistics Act 1905 provides the Australian Statistician with the power, if necessary, to direct you in writing to answer the questions. As most business survey results contribute towards policy and legislation formulation it is highly important that a response is provided as this will ensure that we are able to produce reliable and useful results.


9. This is an intrusion into my private business. Is confidentiality guaranteed?

Data supplied by businesses to the ABS remains strictly confidential. It is used to compile aggregate estimates and under no circumstances does the ABS publish any data which would enable your data to be identified. Further, it is an offence under the Census and Statistics Act 1905 for ABS staff to either directly or indirectly, divulge or communicate any information furnished in pursuance of the Act to any person (other than the person from whom the information was obtained). The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS will handle any personal information that you provide to us.


10. Do I still need to complete the form if my business/organisation was sold during the reference period?

If your business/organisation was sold during the reference period, then the form should be completed using figures up to and including the day that the business was sold, as well as figures relating to any other new activity undertaken by the selected entity (e.g. ABN) for the remainder of the reference period.

It is important to report the date the business was sold in the comments field on the form. If your business/organisation ceased to operate after the sale, please also indicate in the Comments section of the form whether there are intentions for the business/organisation to trade in the future. This will assist us in determining your requirements for inclusion in the next survey reference period.


11. Do I still need to complete the form if my business/organisation was sold before the start of the reference period?

If your business/organisation was sold prior to the beginning of the reference period, you will still need to submit your form with comments indicating the sale of the entity and the date of the sale. This will assist us in determining your requirements for inclusion in the next survey reference period.


12. What do I do if my business/organisation is still operating but didn't trade during the reference period?

If the business/organisation is still operating, but did not trade during the reference period, you will still need to submit your form with comments stating that your business/organisation did not trade this quarter. You do not need to include any figures or zero values.


13. Do I still need to complete the form if my business/organisation has gone into liquidation/administration during the reference period?

If your business/organisation has gone into liquidation or administration during the reference period, you should completed the form using figures up to and including the day that the business was liquidated or went into administration. Best available estimates of the data should be provided. It is also important to include the date that this occurred and provide details in the Comments and Time Taken fields.

If you are unable to access the accounts, please include details of the liquidator or administrator in the Comments section.


14. I'm not sure how to report data in thousands of dollars (A$'000) on the form.

Organisations that have small turnovers and report income/expenditure of less than $1,000 should use the rounding techniques outlined below.

All monetary values should be reported in thousands of dollars (A$'000) on the form, and rounded to the nearest thousand dollars. However, all values between $1 to $999 would be rounded up and reported as $1,000 on the form. Examples are shown below:

Actual IncomeReport data in ABS form
('$,000)
< $500$1
> $500$1
< $1,500$1
≥ $1,500$2
$10,000$10
$100,000$100
$1,000,000$1,000
$10,000,000$10,000
$100,000,000$100,000


15. What about the workload we already have?

The ABS is very conscious of the reporting load imposed on businesses in completing our statistical surveys. For some time the ABS has been actively pursuing a policy of reducing this load to the minimum necessary to fulfil its obligations as a national statistical agency. In addition, the ABS is continuing to explore ways of using administrative data, including the use of the data reported in the Business Activity Statement, to further reduce the business reporting load.


16. Why don't you pay people to fill in your forms?

To enable the ABS to fulfil its responsibilities as the national statistical organisation, the Census and Statistics Act 1905 provides for the compulsory furnishing of statistical information. The Act does not provide for payment of respondents to statistical collections. If the ABS was required to pay for the statistical information it collects it could not do so without significant additional funds. It is ABS policy that businesses responding to ABS surveys are entitled to a complimentary copy of relevant publications upon request.


17. How accurate do the figures need to be?

The ABS requires information that is as accurate as possible. The information supplied by your business is used to produce estimates for all businesses within the same industry operating in Australia. The more accurate the figures you supply, the more accurate the estimates will be. However, if accurate data is not readily available, careful estimates will be accepted.

Our processing systems contain checks for consistency and validity and are usually able to identify figures which are seriously incorrect. These checks suggest that most businesses do behave responsibly and give the best figures that they can.


18. I have already sent you the information requested.

If you have received a reminder notice about your form, it probably means you have returned the form at the same time as your reminder notice was issued. If you wish to confirm this, feel free to contact us so we can check against our records. See the Business Indicators Contact Us page for details on how to contact us.


19. My business is ASX listed and we are unable to release any financial information until we announce our results to shareholders.

The Census and Statistics Act 1905, under which surveys are conducted, protects the confidentiality of all information supplied to the ABS. The information contained in your return is published at an aggregate level and ensures that individual companies cannot be identified.


20. Why do I need to change passwords for my eSurvey every quarter?

For security purposes, it is imperative that providers receive a new eSurvey password every quarter. This step ensures the safety of individual business information and protects against security breaches.


21. Why can't I see the figures provided last quarter in my current form?

Due to strict privacy policy guidelines protecting the information submitted by our providers, the ABS creates new eSurvey forms every quarter and does not roll forward the responses provided in the previous quarter. This can affect some businesses/organisations when completing their forms. To ensure the accuracy of the responses provided in the next quarter, it is recommended that prior to submitting the webform, a copy is printed for your records. This will be useful to refer to when providing reasons for figures which differed by more than 10 percent from that reported last quarter (see Question 22).


22. Why do I need to provide a reason if the figures provided differ by more than 10 percent from that reported last quarter?

It is important to provide a reason if your figures this quarter differ by more than 10 percent from what your business/organisation reported last quarter. As this survey measures the growth/contraction within industries in the Australian economy on a quarterly basis, understanding why businesses/organisations report increased profits or losses each quarter is important. The ABS adheres to strict confidentiality guidelines with all information provided in survey forms protected under the ABS Privacy Policy. For more information on confidentiality, please see Question 9 above.


23. The data I provided last quarter was an estimate and I now have more accurate figures available. What should I do?

If the sales estimate provided in the last quarter differs by more than 10 percent of the revised value, it is important that we revise the figure provided. To do this, please call the free-call (excluding mobile phones) phone number 1800 642 149. An ABS representative will be able to assist you in revising your figures. For more information, please see Question 17 in the General Information section.


Income Items

How should I report sales income?

Report all income generated from the sale of goods or provision of services by your business/organisation. This excludes the Goods and Services Tax (GST), and is net of any discounts given. Also excluded are items such as interest income, sales of assets, income from finance leases, funding from federal, state and/or local government, and royalties income.

Other examples of income include:
    - tuition fees
    - performing arts venue operation
    - income from the sale of advertising 'space' in print or other media
    - consulting fees
    - franchising fees received
    - geological surveying
    - site preparation
    - drilling
    - transportation
    - waste management
    - total income from levies (include administrative and sinking fund levies)

My business has sites all over Australia. What should I do if I am unable to split my income by state?

State figures should be dissected on the basis of which state the goods or services were sold from rather than which state the goods or services were sold to. Where exact data is unavailable, estimates for state breakdowns should be provided.

A dissection of income and sales by state is published in Business Indicators, Australia (cat. no. 5676.0) and is used by various government bodies including state Treasury departments as a measure of state performance.

Labour Costs

How should I report labour costs?

All wages and salaries including provisions for employee entitlements - gross (i.e. before tax) should be reported. Payments made to another business for the supply of staff on a fee or contract basis, where the staff entitlements are paid by the business supplying the employees, should not be recorded in Labour Costs. Any costs incurred by your business in the conduct of its own recruitment processes (e.g. payment directly to newspapers for running job vacancy advertisements) should also not be reported in this section.

Labour costs should exclude payments to contractors or sub-contractors operating under their own ABN.

Only include employer contributions paid into superannuation. This does not include personal superannuation contributions for business owners not drawing a wage.

Payroll tax is levied by State/Territory governments on businesses with large payrolls (usually greater than $500,000 for the year). It does not refer to income tax withholding for employees.


What are 'provisions for employee entitlements'?

Provisions for employee entitlements are all forms of consideration given by a business/organisation in exchange for services rendered by its employees. Provisions for employee entitlements include wages, annual leave, sick leave, superannuation contributions and long service leave. These liabilities are measured at the present value of management’s best estimate of the expenditure required to settle the present obligation.


What about persons working for the business under contract?

Contractors and subcontractors who are other businesses, (i.e. have their own ABN and are paid on a fee for service or commission only basis), should not be counted in Wages.

If the business paid another business for contract staff, and those persons were on the payroll of the other business, they should not be counted in Wages.

Persons employed on a fixed term contract, e.g. temporary staff/ workforce, should only be included if they were paid through the payroll during the reference pay period and Pay As You Go (PAYG) tax was deducted for them.


My business has employees all over Australia. What should I do if I am unable to split wages and salaries by state?

Wages should be split by where the actual physical work was undertaken rather than where the salaries were paid from. Where exact data is unavailable, estimates for state breakdowns should be provided.

A dissection of wages and salaries by state is published in Business Indicators, Australia (cat. no. 5676.0) and is used by various government bodies including state Treasury departments as a measure of state performance.


Inventories

What are inventories?

All materials, work in progress and finished goods owned by the business, whether held at locations of the business or elsewhere (except overseas). Inventories should be reported at book value at the end of the reference quarter.


How should I report inventories?

Inventories are divided into three sections, and do not include inventories held overseas.
    - Raw materials: goods that a business holds with the intention of using to produce other goods or in rendering services. For example, iron ore to produce steel (good produced) or raw food to make a restaurant meal (provide a service).
    - Work-in-progress: goods that still require work to reach the condition they are to be sold in, such as partially assembled machinery. The value of work-in-progress inventories should be reported net of progress payments billed.

    - Finished goods: goods that are to be sold in their current condition, including goods for resale. Inventories do not include depreciable assets of the business.

Employment

How should I report employment?

Employment is a headcount of all persons who worked for the business as proprietors, partners, salaried directors or other employees in the reference pay period. It excludes casual or seasonal employees who are on the payroll, but did not work during this pay period.


Thank you

The ABS is grateful for the cooperation of businesses in returning their completed forms promptly to enable early processing and production of high quality business indicator statistics. We look forward to your continued support.



Commonwealth of Australia 2008

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