Quarterly Business Indicators Survey

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Purpose of the survey

The Quarterly Business Indicators Survey (QBIS) is conducted every quarter with businesses throughout Australia. Your participation in QBIS is essential for calculating Australia’s major economic statistics including Gross Domestic Product (GDP). These statistics enable industry, business and government to make informed decisions.

Frequently asked questions

About this survey

What kinds of questions are asked in QBIS?

This survey collects a range of information to produce important data about income, employment, labour costs and other expenses. Depending on the size, industry and other characteristics of a business, we may also ask for operating profit and inventories figures.

Why has this business been included in QBIS?

QBIS is answered by a selected group of businesses that represent the wider Australian business community.

Businesses of a range of sizes and industries are included in QBIS, as they are all affected differently by government policies. Large businesses, and those that are significant to industry or state or territory statistics, are generally selected every quarter. The process for selecting other businesses is through random selection, and if a business is selected, it represents a number of other businesses with similar characteristics.

We are a small business: should we be included in this survey?

The ABS considers the activities of small businesses to be as important as larger businesses. Therefore, small businesses cannot be excluded from participation in ABS surveys. Smaller businesses have specific characteristics and can be differently impacted by government policies and incentives. Answering the QBIS questions helps enable government and others to best design policies that support the range of businesses across the states and territories of Australia.

In QBIS, a sample of smaller businesses is selected to represent a large number of other similar businesses. As such, small businesses’ contribution to QBIS statistics is essential.

How is the information from this survey used? Why is it important?

Your participation in this survey provides us with data that is essential for calculating Australia’s major economic statistics, including Gross Domestic Product (GDP), as well as contributing to statistics in Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product.

The results from this survey are published in Business Indicators, Australia and include statistics about profits, inventories, sales, and wages and salaries. These statistics enable industry, business and government to make informed decisions which may affect your community or business.

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

Do we have to answer the questions?

Yes. The questions included in this survey are being asked under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act 1905, which has provisions to make surveys compulsory. Under the Act, you are obliged to provide the information being requested. All the information you provide will remain strictly confidential.

How long will we need to participate in this survey?

The length of time that a business is selected in any particular survey will depend on factors such as the size of the business, the number of businesses with similar characteristics, and how significant the activities of the business are to the overall results.

Larger businesses have a high chance of selection in multiple ABS business surveys. Due to their significant contribution to the overall survey results, they will usually remain in a survey on an ongoing basis.

Smaller businesses have a lower chance of selection and will usually be included in QBIS for three years at a time. However, there are exceptions to this rule and some small businesses could need to stay in longer than three years, particularly if the business has a significant impact on measurement of economic activity, for example, due to the type or location of the business.

Due to the large number of smaller businesses in Australia, they are generally not included in more than one survey at a time. However, there will always be some cases where inclusion in more than one survey cannot be avoided.

Where possible, we use data from existing administrative data sources to replace, or reduce, direct data collection from smaller businesses.

Do we have to provide figures for this survey right now?

Yes. The industry, business and government users of QBIS statistics need the most accurate and timely information possible so they can make well-informed decisions which impact Australian businesses and communities. Please note that careful estimates are acceptable where actual data is not available.

How will the information we provide be kept safe, secure, and confidential?

We take the security of the information you provide to us very seriously. Your information remains strictly confidential to the ABS and is not shared with other agencies. We use the information you provide to calculate statistics, which are released in ways that do not allow for the identification of businesses or organisations.

All ABS employees have signed a legally enforceable Undertaking of Fidelity and Security in which they agree to keep any information, including personal information which they may deal with in the course of their work, private and confidential. This agreement applies to ABS employees for the rest of their lives, even if they leave the ABS. The penalty for breaching this is two years jail, a $21,600 fine, or both.

We comply with the Australian Privacy Principles. If you believe we have breached these principles, please see the information on how to lodge a complaint about privacy matters, contained within our privacy policy.

Will we be paid for our time?

No. There is no provision within the Census & Statistics Act 1905 to reimburse businesses for the cost of providing statistical information. In line with other national statistical organisations throughout the world, individuals, businesses and other organisations are asked to supply information for statistical purposes without compensation. It is only with the support of people like you that we can continue to produce the statistics that inform Australia's important decisions.

Why isn’t this survey due at the same time as our Business Activity Statement (BAS)?

The ABS is governed by the dates and deadlines given to us by the Reserve Bank of Australia and National Accounts. QBIS figures are an essential part of the quarterly GDP figures. As a result, the due date for QBIS, which occurs prior to the BAS deadline, cannot be changed, as the timely release of quarterly GDP figures are relied on by key government and private sector stakeholders and international organisations.

Do we still need to complete the survey if the business was sold before the beginning of, or during the reference period?

Please complete your survey form with comments indicating the sale of the entity and the date of the sale. This will help determine whether the business will be selected in the next survey reference period.

If the business operated by the selected entity (e.g. ABN) was sold during the reference period, then the survey 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 for the remainder of the survey reference period. Please also provide the name of the new business owners.

Do we still need to complete the survey if the business is still operating but didn't trade during the reference period?

You will still need to submit your survey with comments stating that your business/organisation did not trade this quarter. You do not need to include any figures or zero values.

Do we still need to complete the survey if the business has gone into liquidation or administration during the reference period?

Please complete the survey using figures up to, and including, the day that the business was liquidated or went into administration. It is also important to report the date that this occurred.

If you are unable to access the accounts, then the liquidator or administrator should complete the survey. Where this is not possible, best available estimates of the data should be provided. It is acceptable to provide an estimate based on a percentage change from the previous year’s figures. Where estimates are not possible, please call us on 1800 642 149 (+61 2 6252 8802 overseas) and one of our team will be happy to assist you.

We have already completed QBIS for this quarter, and have received a reminder letter. What should we do?

If you have received a reminder notice about completing QBIS, it is likely that you have returned the survey at the same time as we issued your reminder notice. If you wish to confirm this, please call one of our team on 1800 642 149 (+61 2 6252 8802 overseas) and we will check the information against our records.

How to complete this survey

How do we answer QBIS?

For this survey, you will have received a letter with a Form Access Code to access your survey form online. You can then set up, or log in to, your ABS Survey Account and add your Form Access Code to access the survey form.

Your account is a secure service that allows a survey to be accessed as many times as is needed before final submission. The same account can be used for other ABS surveys.

If you are unable to complete your survey online, please call us on 1800 642 149 (+61 2 6252 8802 overseas) and one of our team will be able to mail you a paper form with a reply paid envelope.

We’re having trouble completing the survey online – where can we find help?

For more information on completing our surveys online, help is available on our Survey Account Help page. This page provides assistance with technical difficulties and includes frequently asked questions which assist in creating and using the ABS Survey Account.

If you are having trouble creating or accessing your account, completing the survey online, or have lost your Form Access Code, please call us on 1800 642 149 (+61 2 6252 8802 overseas) and one of our team will be happy to assist you.

If you would like more general information about participating in one of our surveys, please see our Survey Participant Information page.

Information about the questions in this survey

What has changed under Australian Accounting Standard AASB 16 - Leases?

In January 2016, the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) issued a revised standard for the accounting of leases in financial statements. This change has been adopted by the Australian Accounting Standards Board (AASB) in ‘AASB 16 – Leases’.

In order to retain consistency in data collection, the QBIS questions relating to Expense Items affected by the revised standard will remain unchanged. The components of Operating Lease payments relating to Interest Expenses and Depreciation Expenses are to be reported as previously defined under Other Operating Expenses in the Q3 and Q4 form types. This will ensure consistency with economic concepts in the Australian System of National Accounts.

How accurate do the figures need to be?

We require information to be as accurate as possible. The information supplied by your business is used to produce estimates which represent businesses within the same industry operating in Australia. The more accurate the figures you supply, the more accurate the estimates will be.

Why can't we see the figures we provided last quarter in the current survey form?

Due to strict privacy policy guidelines protecting the information submitted by our data providers, we create new online survey forms every quarter that do not contain previously submitted data. We recommend printing a copy of your completed form prior to submission so that you have a copy for your records.

Why do we need to provide a reason for why figures this quarter differ by more than 10 percent from those reported last quarter?

As this survey measures the growth of Australian industries over time, understanding why businesses/organisations report profits or losses of more than 10 per cent each quarter is important.

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

If the estimate provided in the last quarter differs by more than 10 percent of the revised value, it is important that the figure provided is revised. To do this, please call us on 1800 642 149 (+61 2 6252 8802 overseas) and one of our team will be happy to assist you in revising your figures.

How should we report data in thousands of dollars (A$'000)?

Organisations that have small turnovers and report income or 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), rounded to the nearest thousand. However, all values between $1 to $999 will be rounded up and reported as $1,000. Examples are shown below:

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

How should we report sales and services income?

Please report all gross income generated from the sale of goods or provision of services from each state/territory in which your business operates. This excludes the Goods and Services Tax (GST), and is net of any discounts given.

Please include:

  • Sales or transfers to related businesses or to overseas branches of this business
  • For long term contracts include progress payments billed
  • Export sales (f.o.b.)
  • Rent, leasing and hiring income
  • Income from consulting services
  • Repair and service income and fees
  • Contract, subcontract and commission income
  • Management fees/charges from related and unrelated businesses
  • Sponsorship income
  • Income from operating leases
  • Delivery charges separately invoiced or itemised to customers
  • Commission earned from providing the service of travel bookings
  • Total income earned from tours directly provided
  • Commission earned from providing services
  • Income earned from the provision of labour hire or recruitment services.

Please exclude:

  • Excise and duties received (on behalf of the government)
  • Sales of assets
  • Export freight charges
  • Interest income (include this in Question 2)
  • Income from finance leases
  • Payments received under hire purchase arrangements
  • Royalties income (include this in Question 7)
  • Natural resource royalties income (include this in Question 7)

This business operates all over Australia. What should we do if we are unable to split the income by state?

State figures should be reported on the basis of where the goods or services were sold from, rather than to which state the goods or services were sold. In particular, exports or online purchases should be reported under the state from which they were sold within Australia, not the destination to which they were sent. 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 and is used by various government bodies, including state Treasury departments, as a measure of state performance.

How should we report labour costs?

For labour costs, please report:

  • All wages and salaries, including provisions for employee entitlements - gross (i.e. before tax)

Please do not report:

  • 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
  • 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)
  • Payments made to contractors or sub-contractors operating under their own ABN

For superannuation, please only include employer contributions paid into superannuation. This does not include personal superannuation contributions for business owners not drawing a wage.

What is meant by 'provisions for employee entitlements'?

Provisions for employee entitlements includes 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 people working for the business under contract?

Contractors and subcontractors who are separate businesses (i.e. have their own ABN and are paid on a fee for service or commission only basis) should not be counted in the Wages section of your survey.

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

People employed on a fixed term contract; e.g. temporary staff or 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.

This business has employees all over Australia. What should we do if we are unable to split wages and salaries by state?

In this case, 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 and is used by various government bodies, including state Treasury departments, as a measure of state performance.

What is meant by inventories and how should we report these?

Inventories include 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 and split into the following three categories:

  • 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 (produce a good) 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 or inventories held overseas.

How should we report employment?

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

Using QBIS statistics

How can this business use QBIS statistics?

We provide statistics free of charge on our website. Statistics produced from QBIS are published in Business Indicators, Australia and contribute to statistics in the Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product.

How can we provide feedback about our involvement in QBIS?

If you have participated in this survey, or any of our other surveys, we want to hear about your experience. We value your feedback and will use it to improve how we work with our survey participants.

You can use our feedback form to provide us with feedback. For this survey, please select the option "Participation in an ABS Business Survey".

Who can we contact for more information?

For help, or more information about this survey, please call us on 1800 642 149 (+61 2 6252 8802 overseas) Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm AEST.

For help outside these hours, please leave a message with your contact details and we will call you back.

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