5204.0 - Australian System of National Accounts, 2003-04  
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National accounts are designed to provide a systematic summary of economic activity and have been developed to facilitate the practical application of economic theory. At their summary level, the accounts reflect key economic flows: production, income, consumption, investment and saving. At their more detailed level, they are designed to present a statistical picture of the structure of the economy and the detailed processes that make up domestic production and its distribution.

The purpose of this Appendix is to outline the historical developments in the Australian national accounts, the basic structure of the Australian national accounting system, and the theoretical concepts that the system embodies.


Official estimates of national income and expenditure have been compiled by the ABS since 1945, when estimates were published for the years 1938-39 to 1944-45. Until 1993 they were published annually as papers entitled National Income and Expenditure issued by the Treasurer with the Commonwealth Government Budget Papers.

In 1963 a number of important changes in the structure and presentation of the national accounts and in the conceptual basis and definitions of the principal aggregates were introduced in a new annual publication entitled Australian National Accounts: National Income and Expenditure, 1948-49 to 1961-62 (cat. no. 5204.0). Constant price estimates of the principal expenditure aggregates were presented for the first time.

In Australian National Accounts: National Income and Expenditure, 1971-72 (cat. no. 5204.0), published in 1973, the structure of the accounts was revised to accord more closely to the international standard described in the United Nations publication A System of National Accounts (1968).

In the 1997-98 issue of cat. no. 5204.0, which was renamed the Australian System of National Accounts, a number of changes were introduced, including the implementation of a revised international standard for national accounting (entitled System of National Accounts, 1993 (SNA93)), the replacement of constant price estimates by chain volume measures and the integration of the national income, expenditure and product accounts with the input-output tables. Also, the scope of the publication was expanded to include balance sheets, capital stock and multifactor productivity statistics. Previously, these statistics had been published in separate publications.


The Australian system of national accounts (ASNA) is based on the principles expounded in the System of National Accounts, 1993 (SNA93). SNA93 was produced by five international organisations involved in the use of economic statistics and the promotion of international statistical standards: United Nations, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Commission of the European Communities.

The SNA is also being adopted by other government statistical offices throughout the world, although the degree to which the recommendations of the 1993 revision have been implemented varies considerably between countries.

SNA93 brings together, within the one integrated framework, the various streams of economic accounts, including estimates of national income, expenditure, and product, input-output tables, financial accounts and national and sector balance sheets. It is designed to provide international guidance to national statistical authorities in the compilation and presentation of national accounts, and to serve as a basis for standardised reporting to the United Nations and other international bodies such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). SNA93 provides definitions and classifications which form the basis for the collection of integrated economic statistics in general.

Although a number of other international standards have been developed for more detailed presentation of statistics for specific areas of economic accounts, such as the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) Balance of Payments Manual and Government Finance Statistics, the SNA has the central position in economic statistics standards. Considerable effort has been devoted in the international arena to the elimination of inconsistencies between the SNA and the other standards.


The ASNA includes not only the traditional annual and quarterly estimates of national income, expenditure and product, but also input-output tables, State estimates, estimates of capital stock, financial accounts, balance sheets and reconciliation accounts and productivity estimates. The system could also be defined more widely to include balance of payments and public finance statistics. However, these are documented in detail elsewhere and are not considered further in this Appendix except to the extent that they provide data items for elements of the ASNA. (For detail see Balance of Payments and International Investment Position: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 5331.0) and Government Finance Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 5514.0.55.001).)

A full discussion of SNA93 recommendations and their implementation in the ASNA is contained in the Information Papers Implementation of Revised International Standards in the Australian National Accounts (cat. no. 5251.0), Upgraded Australian National Accounts (cat. no. 5253.0) and Upgraded Australian National Accounts: Financial Accounts (cat. no. 5254.0). Although there are some areas where the ASNA does not follow SNA93 treatments precisely, to all intents and purposes the ASNA can now be considered to be on an SNA93 basis. The main reasons for not implementing all SNA93 recommendations are that the data required to support a recommendation are unavailable or that a recommendation is not significant in the Australian context.

The remainder of this appendix discusses the various elements that make up the complete ASNA covering both conceptual and practical issues as appropriate. More detail on the ASNA is contained in the publication Australian System of National Accounts: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 5216.0). It is available in printed form or can be accessed through the ABS web site <https://www.abs.gov.au> (starting at the home page select: Statistics - About Statistics - Concepts and classifications - ABS concepts, sources, methods and statistical frameworks - 5216.0).


Economic sectors

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)
  • General government.

In addition, there is an external sector which encompasses 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 national accounts.

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 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, financial corporations and households sectors as appropriate.

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, 2002 (cat. no. 1218.0).

Industry and purpose classifications

As well as the institutional sector classification, 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).

Statistical units

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 units (or type of activity units (TAUs)) are concerned with the production of goods and services. In analysing production transactions, most interest usually centres on a classification of TAUs according to industry.
  • Owning or financing units (enterprises) 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 above.

It follows that any one enterprise may own and control a number of TAUs 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. TAUs 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 central concept in a national accounting system is economic production. Production is a physical process, carried out under the management of an institutional unit, whereby labour, accumulated capital assets and knowledge are used to transform inputs of goods and services into outputs of other goods and services. Production is not confined to the production of goods by farms, mines, factories, etc. It also includes the provision of services of all kinds which either add to the value of goods (such as transport and merchandising services), or are directly bought and sold in the market in their own right (such as the services of doctors, teachers and entertainers).

All goods and services that are produced as outputs must be able to be sold in markets or at least be capable of being provided by one institutional unit to another, with or without charge. SNA93 defines the 'production boundary' to include:

'...all production actually destined for the market, whether for sale or barter. It also includes all goods and services provided free to individual households or collectively to the community by government units or non-profit institutions serving households.'

In principle, production should be valued at market prices, which are generally transaction prices. In the absence of market transactions, valuation is made according to costs incurred or by reference to market prices for analogous goods or services.

Most goods and services provided by general government bodies (as distinct from public enterprises such as government railways) are not normally sold but are nevertheless regarded as part of production. In practice, they are valued at a cost comprising the total of the wages and salaries paid to the employees of general government bodies and the cost of purchased goods and services used including an allowance for the consumption of fixed capital. Similar considerations apply to non-profit institutions - for example, clubs, trade unions, chambers of commerce and churches - whose costs are largely or wholly met by members and benefactors so that the goods and services produced need not be sold at a commercially determined price. As with general government bodies, the production of non-profit institutions is valued at cost in the national accounts.

Imputations are made for some goods and services which are not sold in the market place and therefore are not amenable to direct measurement. Imputation is confined to a small number of cases where a reasonably satisfactory basis for the valuation of the implied transaction is available, and where their exclusion could result in distortions in the accounts. In the ASNA, imputations are made for the following:

  • Rent of owner-occupied dwellings. The imputation of rent to owner-occupied dwellings enables the services provided by dwellings to their owner-occupiers to be treated consistently with the marketed services provided by rented dwellings to their tenants. This treatment is considered necessary because, if a large number of rented houses were sold to their occupiers and if estimates of imputed rent were not calculated for owner-occupied dwellings, then there would be an apparent decrease in gross domestic product without any decrease in the provision of housing services. In effect, owner-occupiers (like other owners of dwellings) are regarded as operating businesses; they receive rents (from themselves as consumers), pay expenses, and make a net contribution to the value of production which accrues to them as owners.
  • Income received in the form of imputed contributions by government employers to unfunded superannuation schemes and imputed property income on the accumulated financial assets of households in those schemes.
  • Income received in kind. Fringe benefits provided by businesses to their employees include the private use of company cars, rent subsidies, low interest loans, etc.
  • Value added by owner-builders in the construction of dwellings and alterations and additions to dwellings that are within the scope of building work covered by the ABS Building Activity Collection.
  • Goods and services produced by persons in the course of their normal occupation and consumed by them are included where practicable (e.g. an estimate is made for farm production consumed on the farm).
  • Goods produced by persons outside their normal occupations and consumed by them, that is, 'backyard production'.
  • Services provided by financial institutions over and above explicit charges made.

Among other unmarketed services for which imputations are sometimes mooted, one of the most important is the unpaid services of persons working in the home. Consistent with the recommendations of SNA93, the ASNA estimates of production do not include these services. However, in recognition of the importance of the issue of unpaid household and volunteer work, the ABS issued an Information Paper in February 1990 entitled Measuring Unpaid Household Work: Issues and Experimental Estimates (cat. no. 5236.0). In September 1994 an Occasional Paper was released entitled Unpaid Work and the Australian Economy, 1992 (cat. no. 5240.0) which provided a more comprehensive measure of unpaid work and was based on data from the 1992 Time Use Survey conducted by the ABS. This was updated and further extended in October 2000 with the release of the 1997 issue of cat. no. 5240.0 using data from the 1997 Time Use Survey. SNA93 recommends that estimates of the value of unpaid household work should be compiled in satellite accounts. These are accounting statements separate from, but consistent with, the gross domestic product account and other existing accounts, providing supplementary information which can be used in conjunction with the data in the existing national accounts. The ABS has not yet compiled such a satellite account.

Production, and associated income flows should conceptually be measured on an accruals basis. Under this basis, transactions between institutional units are recorded when something of economic value is provided by one party to the other. This may or may not coincide with a cash transaction. Transactions internal to one institutional unit are equivalently recorded when economic value is created or transformed. For the most part, transactions in the ASNA are recorded on an accrual basis. However, in some areas, it is only possible to record transactions on a cash basis.


An important objective of the ASNA is to measure the value of economic production in Australia in a given period. In doing so, care must be taken to avoid double counting. Many goods and services are bought by enterprises for use in their own productive activities. If the value of all goods and services produced were added together there would be serious duplication because some goods and services would be added in several times at successive stages of production. In the national accounts it is the value added in production which is important. This is the essence of the concept of gross domestic product (GDP) which is formally defined as:

'...the total market value of goods and services produced in Australia after deducting the cost of goods and services used up in the process of production (intermediate consumption), but before deducting consumption of fixed capital.'

GDP is defined geographically; it is the value added in production in the economic territory of Australia regardless of whether the factors of production are owned by Australians or by non-residents. Economic territory is defined in paragraph 14.9 of the SNA93 which states:

'The economic territory of a country consists of the geographic territory administered by a government within which persons, goods, and capital circulate freely. In the case of maritime countries, it includes any islands belonging to that country which are subject to exactly the same fiscal and monetary authorities as the mainland, so that goods and persons may move freely to and from such islands without any kind of customs or immigration formalities. The economic territory of a country includes: (a) the airspace, territorial waters, and continental shelf lying in international waters over which the country enjoys exclusive rights or over which it has, or claims to have, jurisdiction in respect of the right to fish or to exploit fuels or minerals below the sea bed; (b) territorial enclaves in the rest of the world (clearly demarcated areas of land which are located in other countries and which are used by the government which owns or rents them for diplomatic, military, scientific or other purposes - embassies, consulates, military bases, scientific stations, information or immigration offices, aid agencies, etc. - with the formal agreement of the government of the country in which they are physically located).'

An alternative aggregate measure is gross national income (GNI), which is equal to GDP less primary incomes payable to non-residents plus primary incomes receivable from non-residents. Thus GNI is equal to primary incomes receivable by resident institutional units, regardless of where the production takes place.

To ensure that GDP is a measure of economic production that is free of duplication, national accountants draw a distinction between intermediate and final purchases. All goods and services which are used up in the course of production by resident producers are intermediate purchases (and are referred to as intermediate consumption). Purchases of capital goods and finished goods and work in progress going into inventories are the only purchases of goods by resident producers that are regarded as parts of final demand.

The 'gross' in GDP indicates that no deduction is made for consumption of fixed capital; in other words, the gradual using-up of the economy's productive assets is not accounted for in GDP. A product figure net of capital consumed (i.e. net domestic product) would recognise capital consumption as a necessary cost of producing the economy's goods and services and would therefore be a purer measure of production. However, because of the difficulties involved in measuring capital consumption (and more particularly variations in methods used between countries), GDP has remained the major summary measure of economic activity.


GDP can be derived by three broad approaches: the income approach (I), the expenditure approach (E) and the production approach (P). A description of each approach is provided in the following paragraphs. While each measure should, conceptually, deliver the same estimate of GDP, if the three measures are compiled independently using different data sources then different estimates of GDP result. However, the Australian national accounts estimates have been integrated with annual balanced supply and use tables. These tables have been compiled from 1994-95, up to the year preceding the latest complete financial year. As integration with balanced supply and use tables ensures that the same estimate of GDP is obtained from the three approaches, annual estimates using the I, E and P approaches are identical for the years for which these tables are available.

Prior to 1994-95 the estimates using each approach are based on independent sources, and there are usually differences between the I, E and P estimates. Nevertheless, for these periods, a single estimate of GDP has been compiled. In chain volume terms, GDP is derived by averaging the chain volume estimates obtained from each of the three independent approaches. The current price estimate of GDP is obtained by reflating the average chain volume estimate by the implicit price deflator derived from the expenditure-based estimates.

As a result of the above methods:

  • There is no statistical discrepancy for annual estimates from 1994-95 up to the year prior to the latest complete financial year, in either current price or volume terms
  • For years prior to 1994-95, and the latest year, statistical discrepancies exist between estimates based on the I, E and P approaches and the single estimate of GDP, in both current prices and volume terms. These discrepancies are shown in the relevant tables.

Income approach (I)

GDP using the income approach is derived as the sum of factor incomes, consumption of fixed capital (depreciation) and taxes less subsidies on production and imports. Volume estimates are derived by deflating current price estimates by the implicit price deflator from the expenditure approach.

Expenditure approach (E)

GDP using the expenditure approach is derived as the sum of all final expenditures, changes in inventories and exports of goods and services less imports of goods and services. Volume estimates are derived for each of the components as well as for their sum.

Production approach (P)

GDP using the production approach is derived as the sum of gross value added for each industry, at basic prices, plus taxes less subsidies on products. Basic values represent the amounts received by producers, including the value of any subsidies on products, but before any taxes on products. The difference between the sum over all industries of gross value added at basic prices, and GDP at market (or purchasers) prices, is the value of taxes less subsidies on products.


There are several price-induced distortions in basic source data for which allowances can be made by the national accountant to put the national accounts on a more appropriate conceptual basis and to better meet the needs of many users of the data. A distinction can be made between two types of adjustment. The first concerns the compilation of volume estimates. Changes in the value of production over time are a function of movements in prices and changes in quantities. For many uses it is the change in the quantity of production which is of major interest. Therefore the development of time series which remove the effect of price changes is an important part of a national accounting system. In the past, constant price estimates were provided as a measure of volume. These have now been replaced by annually-reweighted chain volume measures. In general, chain volume measures provide better indicators of movement in real output and expenditure than do constant price estimates because they take account of changes in price relativities that occur between one year and the next. A full discussion of the concepts and methods underlying ABS chain volume measures is contained in the Information Paper, Introduction of Chain Volume Measures in the Australian National Accounts (cat. no. 5248.0), published in March 1998.

The second type of adjustment, which is relevant to the current-price estimates, concerns what is commonly known as 'inflation accounting' and has a parallel in some of the issues surrounding the adoption of current cost accounting in commercial accounts. It relates to price-induced distortions in the measurement of income, saving and inventories, with the price adjustment involving the expression of the aggregates in terms of the average prices applying in each accounting period. Examples include the stock valuation adjustment and the treatment of the consumption of fixed capital.

Inventory valuation adjustment

According to the standards of historical cost accounting, businesses measure the value of inventories as the lower of cost or net realisable value. In times of rising prices, the change in the book value of inventories from one period to the next will reflect an element of holding gain in addition to any physical change. This holding gain will also be reflected in business income and saving. In the ASNA, the element of holding gain is excluded from increase in inventories, income and saving by way of the inventory valuation adjustment.

Consumption of fixed capital (COFC)

According to the standards of historical cost accounting, businesses allocate the original purchase cost of an asset over the estimated life span of the asset. In periods of rising prices the book value of depreciation will understate the real cost of productive activity and therefore result in an overstatement of business income and saving. The book value of depreciation is adjusted to a current market price basis in the ASNA in order to reflect the fall in value of the asset at the prices current in the period for which the estimates are being made. This is referred to as consumption of fixed capital.

No adjustment is made in the ASNA income accounts for the effect of price change on monetary assets and liabilities, although it is recognised by national accountants that this can have important implications for some types of analyses. As discussed below, the impact of price change on monetary assets and liabilities is reflected, implicitly, in the balance sheets and, explicitly, in the reconciliations between the balance sheets and transaction accounts.


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
  • 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, and for the external sector. 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.

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 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. 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 for financing gross capital formation and the use of these funds. 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 use 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 capital 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

To this point, the discussion has centred around the measurement of the production of goods and services and the links with the income and expenditure of the various sectors of the economy. These are recorded in the production accounts (and input-output tables) and the income accounts and capital accounts of the system, all of which may be referred to as the 'real' accounts. The financial accounts on the other hand address the issue of transactions in financial assets and liabilities. The financial accounts show the changes in assets and liabilities that flow from production decisions in the real economy and, in concept, represent an elaboration of net lending in the capital accounts (where net lending represents the difference between a sector's saving and investment). As all transactions on the real side of the accounts have an exact counterpart on the 'financial' side, the surplus or deficit (net lending) of a sector can be measured from each side i.e. from the financial side as well as from the real side. Any differences in practice due to deficiencies in data sources are reflected in a statistical discrepancy. The major focus in financial accounts is on the different types of financial instruments and their flows between the various institutional sectors (including the rest of the world).

Balance sheets

National and sector balance sheets record, at particular points in time, values of tangible and intangible assets owned by a nation and its institutional sectors, and the outstanding financial claims between institutional sectors. For any one sector, the total value of all assets held less the value of financial liabilities (including equity capital issued by the sector) is equal to net worth. In a closed economy, national net worth (or national wealth) would be equal to the sum of net tangible and intangible assets. In an open economy, national net worth is equal to the sum of net tangible and intangible non-financial assets and financial claims on non-residents less the sum of liabilities to non-residents (including domestic shares held by non-residents).

The change in balance sheet values from one period to the next is necessarily linked to the flows shown in the capital and financial accounts given that stock is equal to the net accumulation of past flows. Produced tangible assets enter stock through gross fixed capital formation and exit through the consumption of fixed capital or scrapping. Non-produced tangible assets and intangible assets also enter the balance sheets as a result of transactions (flows) appearing in the capital accounts. The balance sheets also reflect the impact on stocks of financial assets and liabilities arising from transactions in financial assets and liabilities recorded in the financial accounts.

Although the difference between opening and closing balance sheet values is consistent with flows shown in the capital and financial accounts, there are other factors which can lead to a change in balance sheet values. As balance sheet values are measured at current market prices, changes in valuation will result in a different balance sheet position. Balance sheet values are also affected by such things as catastrophic losses, uncompensated seizures, and write-offs of financial claims. None of these things is recorded in the transaction accounts. Balance sheets also reflect net changes in the value of certain tangible assets that are not accounted for in the capital accounts. Included are natural growth less depletions of timber tracts and forests, and new finds less depletion of subsoil assets. All non-transaction changes in balance sheet values are reflected in an accumulation and revaluation account. This account, in association with the capital and financial accounts, provides a complete picture of the processes involved in moving from the balance sheet position at the beginning of the period to that at the end of the period.

In March 1995 the ABS released an Occasional Paper, National Balance Sheets for Australia: Issues and Experimental Estimates, 1989-1992 (cat. no. 5241.0) to provide a progress report on development work being undertaken and to encourage comments from users about the concepts, sources and methods employed in their derivation. This was followed in March 1997 by Australian National Accounts: National Balance Sheet, 30 June 1995 (cat. no. 5241.0). Subsequent years data appeared in the special data service release Australian National Accounts: National Balance Sheet (cat. no. 5241.0.40.001). Starting in 2000-01 the data previously contained in 5241.0 is presented in this publication and cat. no. 5241.0.40.001 has been discontinued.

The estimates for non-produced assets (subsoil assets, timber and land) are the result of ABS estimation techniques that are still considered experimental. It is recommended that interpretation of the monetary value of non-produced assets be undertaken in conjunction with the physical stock data.

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.


Input-output tables are essentially a disaggregation of the gross domestic product account. The gross domestic product account represents a fully consolidated measure of economic production for the economy where only transactions representing final production are shown and intermediate production is netted out. Input-output tables on the other hand bring back into focus inter-industry flows of goods and services, thereby providing a more complete description of the process of economic production. They provide detailed information about the supply and disposition of commodities in the economy and the structure and interrelationships of industries.

The ABS publishes detailed input-output statistics in Australian National Accounts: Input Output Tables 1998-99 (cat. no. 5209.0.55.001).


Information contained in the national accounts can be used, along with other information, to obtain estimates of multifactor productivity. For a short description of these estimates, along with a description of the closely-related capital stock estimates, the reader should consult the feature article in the 1997-98 issue of cat. no. 5204.0. (For a complete understanding, the feature article should be read in conjunction with Chapter 27 of Australian National Accounts: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 5216.0) and the Occasional Paper Estimates of Multifactor Productivity, Australia (cat. no. 5233.0).)