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Topics @ a Glance - Business Indicators
Respondent's Help Page

Welcome to the Business Indicators Respondent's Help Page

Refer to this Section if you have received a Quarterly Business Indicators Survey 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.

The ABS has changed the title of the Quarterly Business Indicators Survey from the Quarterly Economic Activity Survey, from the December quarter 2002 onwards, mainly in order to strengthen the link between the survey form completed by businesses and the survey publication Business Indicators, Australia.


The ABS has a Business Surveys Charter which sets out the relationship between the ABS and businesses which provide it with information for statistical purposes.


1. How was I selected?

The survey is based on a sample of approximately 16,400 businesses from a total population of approximately 700,000 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. 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).

3. How long will I be in the sample?

The Quarterly Business Indicators Survey rotates businesses into 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 that where a smaller business has been included in the same survey for more than three consecutive years, it can seek an exemption by writing to the contact address shown on the survey form. We will grant exemptions where doing so would not significantly bias the results of the survey. Larger businesses make a more significant contribution to survey results and exemption is generally not possible.

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

Low values are just as valid as very large values. There are many other businesses in the survey with little business activity and it is important to know this. If we left these businesses out of the survey we could easily overestimate the level of business activity in Australia.

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

If you are unable to supply us with figures by the due date, it may be possible for us to give you an extension of time. Please note that careful estimates are acceptable if actual data are not available.

6. 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.

ABS surveys are rarely voluntary as high response rates ensure that the statistics produced are of an acceptable quality, and allow us to reduce the total burden on businesses by selecting the minimum sample size which is effective.

7. 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).

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. How accurate do the figures need to be?

The ABS requires information that is as accurate as possible. The more accurate the figures you supply, the more accurate the total estimate of our statistics will be. However, where accurate data are not readily available, careful estimates are accepted. You are better placed to provide these estimates given your knowledge of current business conditions. Careful estimates can be based on the latest financial year accounts, stocktake or last quarter's reported data.

We know that some businesses claim to fill in rubbish on their survey forms and possibly a few do. However, our processing systems contain checks for consistency and validity and we 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. As many businesses use ABS statistics to assist in managing their operations, they appreciate the need to supply the ABS with accurate information.

11. Can the ABS collect this data from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO)?

The ABS is currently examining Business Activity Statement data to determine whether we can incorporate this data to improve our quarterly indicators of economic activity. These investigations need to take account of the data items and their consistency with National Accounts concepts, their level of detail, reliability and timeliness.

The ABS utilises ATO data, and data from other State and Federal organisations, in existing survey estimates. ATO data are used by the ABS to update its business register, obviating the need to survey new businesses, while ATO income tax data are used to supplement data that the ABS collects in its annual economic activity surveys. These developments will result in a reduction in the number of businesses required to provide data directly to the ABS, and thereby reduce the overall reporting load.

There is only a one-way flow of information from the ATO to the ABS and no information on individual businesses goes back to the ATO. Data provided to the ABS remains strictly confidential.

12. 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.

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.

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