Forthcoming changes to Government Finance Statistics
This information paper will provide an overview of forthcoming changes to the quarterly Government Finance Statistics (GFS) publication that will result from the implementation of the new Australian System of Government Finance Statistics 2015 framework (AGFS15). Changes to the annual GFS publication will be covered in a separate information paper to be released in 2018.
Australia's system for producing GFS has been updated as a result of revised international standards for compiling national accounts (2008 SNA) and the consequent revision of the International Monetary Fund's GFS Manual 2014 (IMF GFSM 2014). An updated ABS GFS Manual was released on 23 December 2015 to reflect the AGFS15 changes and can be found in Australian System of Government Finance Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2015 (cat. no. 5514.0).
AGFS15 will be effective for all GFS data that is reported from 1 July 2017 onwards, beginning with the September quarter 2017 publication that will be released on 5 December 2017.
The introduction of AGFS15 will require data providers to comply with a new reporting framework which may result in changes to some data series. The ABS has been working with data providers to limit the effect on key GFS data items that flow into public sector measures of the Australian National Accounts.
Additional details on historical revisions and forthcoming changes in the 2016-17 issue of the Australian System of National Accounts (ASNA) (cat. no. 5204.0) are covered in a recent Information Paper: Changes to the 2016-17 release of the Australian System of National Accounts (cat. no. 5204.0.55.012). The section on 'Changes to the Government Finance Statistics Standard' in the paper provides information on the impact of AGFS15 implementation for the ASNA.
Conceptual changes that will impact on quarterly data
A range of conceptual changes under AGFS15 are outlined in the updated ABS GFS Manual.
Only a small number of these changes will impact on quarterly GFS data due to the narrower scope of published quarterly outputs when compared to annual outputs.
Treatment of current transfer expenses to the non-public sector
Current transfer expenses refer to regular payments that are current in nature and where no economic benefits are received in return for payment.
Under the previous AGFS05 framework, current transfer expenses from the general government sector to the non-public sector were typically recorded against current grant expenses. Under AGFS15 this has changed to align with the clearer IMF GFSM 2014 definition whereby grants only include transfers between units within the general government sector or international organisations.
Current transfer expenses to the non-public sector, primarily to non-profit institutions, will now be recorded against current transfer expenses n.e.c. rather than current grant expenses. Current transfer expenses from the general government sector to public corporations will continue to be recorded against subsidy expenses.
Removal of fines and interest charges from taxation revenue
Taxation revenue refers to compulsory, unrequited amounts received by government units through the taxation of individuals, corporations, property, products, production and other taxes.
Under AGFS05, fines and penalties for breaching tax laws and regulations were included and consolidated within the associated taxation revenue category. Under AGFS15 this has changed, with the charges on overdue taxes and the evasion of taxes now recorded against fines, penalties and forfeits. In addition, interest expenses that are applied to the unpaid tax liabilities arising from these charges are now recorded against interest income. Goods and services tax (GST) revenue will be impacted most significantly by this change of treatment.
Valuation of interest using the creditor approach
Interest is an operating expense for the borrower (debtor) and an operating revenue for the lender (creditor) that accrues continuously to the value of the underlying debt instrument.
Under AGFS15, interest expenses will be calculated using the creditor approach. This is a change from AGFS05 and has been implemented to ensure that interest is valued more consistently across all macroeconomic statistics at the ABS using market principles.
In public sector accounts under AASB standards, interest expenses are typically calculated using the debtor approach which is based on contractual value. Under this approach the amount of interest paid in a particular reference period will differ from the creditor approach whenever the prevailing market interest rate differs from the contractual rate at that point in time. The change to a creditor approach under AGFS15 will therefore create reporting differences when comparing the financial accounts of the public sector to GFS outputs.
The ABS is currently considering options for the implementation of the creditor approach to interest expenses. Full implementation of the new approach will proceed across all sectors when high quality GFS outputs can be assessed. In the interim the September quarter 2017 publication will include experimental estimates for key aggregate sectors as a memorandum item in the publication spreadsheet so that users are aware of the potential impact on GFS outputs.
Content changes in the quarterly publication
National accounts public sector measures
The primary output table in the 5519.0.55.001 Government Finance Statistics, Australia, Quarterly publication is the key public sector measures table which feeds directly into the quarterly National Accounts. There will be no change to the layout of this table or the GFS key figures table under AGFS15.
New quarterly balance sheet
The IMF encourages transparency and openness of member countries by setting best practice standards for the dissemination of economic and financial data. These data dissemination standards enhance the availability of timely and comprehensive statistics, which then contribute to sound macroeconomic policies and the efficient functioning of financial markets.
To support best practice reporting by Australia against these standards, the ABS has committed to the production of quarterly GFS balance sheet outputs through AGFS15 implementation. These outputs will be incorporated into the publication spreadsheet and will cover the Commonwealth General Government and Total State General Government sectors.
As this is a new GFS output the September quarter 2017 publication will include one reference period of quarterly balance sheet data before expanding to more periods in future quarterly publications.
Revised quarterly data cube
A blank copy of the revised data cube that will be included in the GFS quarterly publication from September quarter 2017 is included in the Data downloads section.
The key change is the introduction of two new tables in the data cube for quarterly GFS balance sheet outputs. There are also minor changes to the Operating Statement when comparing AGFS05 outputs to AGFS15 but these will not impact on the interpretability or analysis of GFS data.