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Appendix 2 Differences between ASNA and 2008 SNA

Australian System of National Accounts: Concepts, Sources and Methods
Reference period
2020-21 financial year

Introduction

A2.1    As mentioned previously, the ABS endorsed the 2008 edition of the SNA, and has implemented its recommendations to the fullest extent practicable. There are a number of 2008 SNA recommendations and treatments that the ABS does not plan to implement or is not currently in a position to implement because of inadequate data. These recommendations and treatments, relating to concepts, the production boundary and presentation, are described below.

Non-profit institutions serving households sector

A2.2    The SNA recommendations are adhered to with regard to the sectoral allocation of NPIs classified as market producers, and those which are controlled by government units. The latter are not recognised in the ASNA as there are considered to be few (if any) operating in Australia, and their operations are assumed to be insignificant.

A2.3    In principle, the ABS has agreed to identify and implement the NPISH sector. Due to source data limitations, it will be some time before a complete set of accounts for this sector can be developed, including the provision of an adequate time series. In the interim, NPISHs are included in the household sector. For more information, see the feature article in the 2013-14 issue of Australian System of National Accounts on the deconsolidation of household income account.

Non-money market investment funds

A2.4    The 2008 SNA includes all non-money market investment funds in the financial corporations sector. The ABS considers that non-money market investors which invest mainly in non-financial assets should be included in the non-financial corporations sector, and be referred to as non-financial investment funds. Non-financial investment funds mainly invest in real estate.

A2.5    Non-money market investment funds that invest mainly in financial assets are classified to the financial corporations sector. They are referred to as non-money market financial investment funds.

Holding companies

A2.6    The 2008 SNA indicates that holding companies (a unit which holds the assets of subsidiary corporations but does not undertake any management activities) receive the sectoral classification of captive financial institutions and money lenders. This treatment would result in the holding companies of some very large enterprise groups being classified to a sector other than the main activity of the group. The ASNA treatment for holding companies in the financial accounts and balance sheets is that they receive a sector classification that reflects the major economic activities of the controlled entities.

Definition of basic prices

A2.7    The 2008 SNA reaffirms the 1993 SNA treatment of basic prices. Analysts who use I-O tables, however, have expressed a strong preference for the 1968 SNA definition of basic prices. The 1993 SNA altered the definition of basic prices with regard to the treatment of transport margins, so that transport which is not separately invoiced is included in the basic price, while that which is separately invoiced is not included in the basic price of the product being transported. This was a change from the 1968 SNA definition of basic price which excluded the transport component whether separately invoiced or not.

A2.8    The ABS considers that the 1968 SNA definition provides more useful statistics for detailed analysis of the Australian economy, and has implemented this basic price definition in the I-O tables. This treatment results in changes to estimates of output and intermediate consumption by industry for series at basic prices, with no impact on gross value added or GDP series at purchasers' prices. The 2008 SNA treatment of transport margins is implemented in the S-U tables, which constitute benchmarks for the annual and quarterly GDP accounts.

Identification of market and non-market transactions

A2.9    The 2008 SNA makes a distinction between market and non-market output in the measurement of production. The latter includes services provided by general government, housing services produced for own consumption by owner occupiers, and own-account capital formation. The ABS does not explicitly make this distinction in either the I-O tables or the national income, expenditure and production accounts. Some major components of non-market output are available separately in the ASNA, such as government final consumption expenditure and imputed rent of ownership of dwellings.

Consolidation – income account, financial account and financial balance sheets

A2.10    The sectoral and total economy, for the income account, financial account and financial balance sheets, are produced on a consolidated basis in the ASNA. The 2008 SNA recommends unconsolidated compilation of these accounts. The ABS does not believe this practice produces analytically meaningful estimates and in some cases may be misleading as they contain double-counting. For example, financial resources of the sector (or subsectors) will be overstated within the financial accounts and balance sheets, as will liabilities. From an analytical perspective, the increase in assets and liabilities of the banking system is money moving through the financial system without an economic impact; for example, by counting an interbank deposit as both an asset and liability of the banking sector. Similarly, increasing household income and expenditure by the same amounts through measuring inter-household income transfers is not analytically useful in the macroeconomic context.

Illegal activities

A2.11    The 2008 SNA recommends that, in principle, all economic transactions associated with illegal activities should be included in the accounts. Current estimates in the ASNA do not include any specific estimates for such activities, but some transactions arising from them are likely to be included in the data sources used to compile the accounts. For example, some income earned from illegal gambling or prostitution activities may be reported as unincorporated business income in the taxation statistics. ABS research has identified that the current adjustments to GDP for underground production and informal production adequately account for the estimated activities of the non-observed economy. For further information, see Information Paper: The Non-Observed Economy and Australia’s GDP, 2012.

Crops – time of recording in output and GDP

A2.12    The 2008 SNA recommends that cultivated natural growth be included in output as work-in-progress or gross fixed capital formation over the entire period of the growth process. This recommendation covers growth of agricultural crops, livestock, cultivated fish and crustaceans, vineyards, orchards and timber tracts. In the 1968 SNA, only growth in livestock and fishstock were treated in this way, although the recommended treatment was not adopted in the ASNA. The existing ASNA treatment is to include crops and forest products in output when harvested, but to follow the 2008 SNA recommendations for major categories of livestock (i.e. beef and dairy cattle and sheep).

A2.13    The recommendations for crops and forest products have not been implemented for data availability and operational reasons. Implicitly this means crops have no economic value until harvested. Implementation of the 2008 SNA treatment for crops would require crop output to be forecast at the beginning of the crop year and then distributed to quarters as crop growth occurs. Because the crop year generally spans more than one financial year in Australia, it would also require a redistribution of output across years. Given Australia's variable weather conditions, which can give rise to downgrading or destruction of crops prior to harvest, as well as variations in prices for agricultural commodities, revisions to the previous year could be substantial if the 2008 SNA approach were to be adopted. A further difficulty is that measurement of the crop production process throughout the season would be quite arbitrary, given the amount of growth allocated to quarters will differ from crop to crop, from year to year, and from region to region. The major expenses associated with wheat production would be incurred in the June (planting) and December and March (harvesting) quarters, although substantial crop growth would also occur during the September quarter. Notwithstanding the somewhat arbitrary nature of the recommended allocator, quarterly costs data by type of crop are not available. Furthermore, farm income estimates are less certain under the 2008 SNA and are subject to revision in line with changes in forecasts.

A2.14    The approach taken to the treatment of crop output in the accounts can have a significant impact on year-to-year growth, especially in a year following the breaking of, or coming into, a drought. In the quarterly accounts, the choice of seasonal adjustment method is of major importance to the interpretation of the data. Because crop output is almost exclusively in the December and the March quarters, it is difficult to seasonally adjust in the standard manner. Instead of the standard multiplicative time series model, where the seasonal and residual components are both directly proportional to each other and to the trend, a pseudo-additive model is used, where the relationship with the trend is preserved but seasonal and residual components are no longer proportionally related to each other. This allows for an adequate seasonal adjustment to be made of time series data, such as crop output, where regular null quarterly estimates are observed in the original time series. This method of seasonal adjustment is applied to aggregate cereal crops (wheat, barley, other cereals), to other crops such as sugar cane and fodder and grass, and to wheat marketing costs in both current price and volume terms.

Repairs and maintenance of dwellings

A2.15    The 2008 SNA recommends that purchases of materials used for minor repairs and maintenance (i.e. do-it-yourself activities of decoration and minor repairs), which are normally the responsibility of the tenant, should be treated as household final consumption expenditure for both owner-occupiers and renters. The ASNA deviates from this recommendation and treats all repairs and maintenance on dwellings as intermediate consumption of the Ownership of dwellings industry.

Speculative construction – timing of recording in gross fixed capital formation

A2.16    The 2008 SNA recommends that speculative construction be shown as part of inventories until the ownership has been transferred to the eventual user of the asset. Hence, work done on speculative construction would not be treated as gross fixed capital formation until that time. The value of output would remain as part of the work-in-progress of the institutional unit producing the asset until sold. However, construction for own use or work completed under contract of sale should be included as gross fixed capital formation as the work is put in place. The ASNA currently adopts the latter treatment for all building and construction activity, including speculative construction.

A2.17    The ABS has decided to retain the existing approach in the ASNA for operational reasons, and because the ASNA treatment is not regarded as a significant departure from the intentions of the 2008 SNA. It would be difficult to collect the data needed to implement the 2008 SNA treatment in the ABS Building Activity Survey, which is the major source of data on the value of new buildings for the national accounts. In particular, the nature of the survey would have to change from a 'work done' basis to an 'inventories' basis for speculative building projects. Information about individual speculative building projects would need to be collected until the building was sold. It is considered that the gains in adopting the 2008 SNA treatment of speculative construction are minimal and not worth the extra burden on respondents, especially as there would be no impact on the measurement of GDP. Moreover, speculative activity is only important at certain times in the building cycle and, as dwellings are generally completed over one or two quarters, any timing adjustment to investment and capital stock would be relatively insignificant.

Sick leave, termination and redundancy payments

A2.18    The 2008 SNA recommends that severance, termination, and redundancy payments by employers; sick leave payments; and payments for other forms of leave other than annual leave and long service leave; be classified as employers' social contributions. In Australia, however, data providers are unable to consistently differentiate between these various types of severance and leave payments, and other wage and salary payments. Therefore, these payments are included in the ASNA estimates of wages and salaries.

Superannuation contributions and benefits in the household income account

A2.19    In the ASNA, employers' contributions to superannuation funds (a component of compensation of employees), and interest received on householders' equity in life insurance and pension funds, are recorded as household income and contribute to disposable income and saving. Contributions to and drawdowns from superannuation reserves are treated as financial transactions by households and do not impact on income or saving. In addition, contributions placed with financial institutions managing superannuation funds are not treated as income of the financial institutions, neither are payments of benefits from the funds regarded as disbursements of income from the financial institutions. Rather, the contributions made to the schemes and the benefits paid by them, represent changes in the equity of households in the schemes and are reflected instead in the financial accounts and balance sheets.

A2.20    The 2008 SNA continues this conceptual treatment in so far as it affects household saving. In contrast to the ASNA practice, it recommends that some additional transactions on account of superannuation should be included in households' secondary income receivable and payable, in order to make explicit the underlying economic processes taking place. Actual receipts of benefits would be shown as receipts of secondary income by households. Similarly, contributions by households to superannuation schemes (both the employers' and employees' components, including property income attributable to householders' equity) would be shown as secondary income payable. Therefore, the 2008 SNA treatment alters the measure of household disposable income. In order to maintain the conceptual integrity of the system, the additional transactions need to be reversed by including the item, 'Adjustment for change in net equity of households on life insurance and pension funds', so as to leave household saving unaffected. The ABS has not implemented the 2008 SNA treatment in the ASNA as it is considered too confusing for users of the accounts.

Ownership transfer costs – separately identified

A2.21    The 2008 SNA includes ownership transfer costs (OTCs) in the values of dwellings and non-dwelling construction and a separate series for OTCs on non-produced assets (excluding land as these are included with land improvements, a component of non-dwelling construction). The ASNA, however, records all OTCs as a separate item.

A2.22    OTCs in the ASNA relate to dwellings, non-dwelling construction, and unoccupied land. They are compiled on a quarterly basis; the annual estimate is the sum of the four quarters produced. The basic calculation of total ownership transfer costs is as follows:

Total ownership transfer costs=Stamp duty
  plus        Government charges
  plus        Real estate agents fees
  plus        Legal fees

A2.23    Stamp duties and real estate fees combined contribute over ninety per cent of total ownership transfer costs. The remainder is attributed to legal fees and government charges, including fees paid to lawyers; fees and commissions paid to real estate agents, auctioneers, architects, surveyors, engineers and valuers; Titles Office charges; and local government charges.

Databases

A2.24    The ASNA does not separately identify databases from computer software. The valuation treatment in ASNA is consistent with the 2008 SNA treatment. It remains unclear if the entire scope of database production, particularly the updating of databases, is being captured in practice. Further work is being undertaken to ensure the activity is measured completely.

Valuables – inclusion within the asset boundary

A2.25    The 1993 SNA introduced a new produced non-financial asset; namely, valuables. Valuables are defined as goods of considerable value that are not used primarily for purposes of production or consumption but are held as stores of value over time. The economic benefits embodied by these assets are that their values are not expected to decline relative to the general price level. For Australia, the most important of these assets is gold. While the 1993 and 2008 SNA treatments are supported in principle, existing and prospective data availability is a major problem. It has not been possible to implement this treatment in the ASNA at this stage, although further investigations will be undertaken. In the ASNA, that part of gold production which is retained as a store of value will contribute to the item 'changes in inventories' rather than to an item for 'valuables'.

Purchased goodwill and marketing assets – inclusion within the asset boundary

A2.26    Purchased goodwill and marketing assets are classified as non-produced assets. Due to data limitations, these assets are not included in ASNA.

Contracts, leases and licences – inclusion within the asset boundary

A2.27    Contracts, leases and licences includes marketable operating leases; permits to use natural resources; permits to undertake specific activities; and entitlement to future goods and services on an exclusive basis. The ASNA includes permits to use natural resources only, which includes spectrum licences.

Monetary gold

A2.28    The 2008 SNA definition of monetary gold is gold to which the monetary authority has title, and which is held as reserve assets. All monetary gold is included in reserve assets or is held by international financial organisations, and is treated as a financial asset, even though the holders do not have a claim on other designated units.

A2.29    The ASNA treatment of monetary gold departs slightly from the treatment outlined in the 2008 SNA in that a liability of the rest of the world is imputed. The reason for not adopting the 2008 SNA treatment is to preserve consistency with the international investment position (IIP) for Australia within the financial accounts. The IIP according to Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Manual, 6th edition (BPM6) permits recording of assets in the form of monetary gold as assets of the domestic economy (i.e. external claims). In re-presenting external claims data in a 2008 SNA framework, the major presentation is to show cross-border positions as assets and liabilities of the rest of world. Thus, the external assets of BPM6 are represented as foreign liabilities, and external liabilities are represented as foreign assets, in the financial accounts. The IIP (external assets less external liabilities) of BPM6 should be derivable from the rest of world accounts in the ASNA; that is, foreign liabilities less foreign assets. Omitting monetary gold from liability positions of the rest of the world will not produce this result. This treatment in ASNA has been adopted to minimise confusion among the users of the statistics.

Repurchase agreements

A2.30    A repurchase agreement (repo) involves the sale of securities or other assets with a commitment to repurchase equivalent assets at a specified date. The buyer may on-sell these securities to another party. Both the 1993 SNA and BPM5 treated repos as collateralised loans, or as other deposits if repos involve liabilities classified under national measures of broad money. After considering whether the 1993 SNA treatment should be revised to treat repos as security trades rather than loans, the international community decided that 2008 SNA would continue the 1993 SNA treatment (collateralised loan), and the issue would be placed on the international long-term research agenda.

A2.31    The collateralised loan treatment is not supported by the ABS. The ABS maintains that the best statistical representation of a repo is that of a sale of securities, with the obligation to sell/buy-back similar securities recorded as a forward contract (i.e. a form of derivative). This treatment has the advantage of unduplicated recording of securities assets whereas the collateralised loan approach (2008 SNA) requires recording of negative security assets to maintain equality between total securities' asset holdings and total securities' liabilities on issue. The ABS treatment will impact on compositional aspects (e.g. securities versus loans, classification of asset holders), but will have no impact on analytical aggregates (net assets, net lending/borrowing).

Recording interest on debt securities

A2.32    The 1993 SNA and BPM5 did not explicitly clarity the situation of changing interest rates and the measurement of income flows on tradable securities. There are two schools of thought on this topic. The debtor approach records the interest accruing at the contractual rate agreed at the time of issue of the security. The creditor approach records the interest accruing at the current market interest rate. Proponents of the debtor approach argue that it records the legal liability of the debtor to the creditor. Proponents of the creditor approach argue that it is consistent with the market valuation principle. The 2008 SNA and BPM6 recommend the debtor approach be applied for recording interest accruing on debt securities. This approach leads to complications when interest rates change after the date of issue of variable interest rate instruments.

A2.33    The ABS applies the creditor approach as the best reflection of the market reality in terms of valuing the underlying instrument and the interest that accrues over the life of the instrument. The ABS will maintain consistency throughout the accounts by applying the creditor approach for debt securities.

Valuation of loans and placements

A2.34    Financial institutions make a general provision for loan losses based on known characteristics of the loan portfolio and its performance over time. Because the provision is general, the specific loan contracts and the counterpart liabilities incurred are not identifiable, making it conceptually difficult to record such a provision in the 2008 SNA accounting structure. By contrast, specific provisions for impairment arising from poor performance (non-performing) of an individual loan contract are more certain as to likely occurrence and counterparty identification.

A2.35    The 2008 SNA recommends valuation of loans in the balance sheet at nominal value, with non-performing loans identified and two memorandum items concerning them included in the balance sheet of the creditor. The first is the nominal value of the loans so designated, including any accrued interest and service charges. The second is the market equivalent value of these loans.

A2.36    The ABS considers that, in order to maintain consistency regarding the valuation of all financial instruments, market valuation of loans or a close approximate should be recorded. The ASNA takes into account specific loan loss provisions in valuing loan portfolios and their counterparts and as a result the closest approximation to market value or fair value is recorded in the ASNA. The ASNA does not take account of general loan loss provisions. Valuation of loans at nominal values is produced in supplementary tables in the ASNA.

Economically demonstrated resources

A2.37    The SNA 2008 defines mineral and energy resources as proven subsoil resources of coal, oil and natural gas, metallic minerals or non-metallic minerals that are economically exploitable given current technology and relative prices. In the ASNA, the volume of mineral and energy resources available for production is more accurately reflected by the term 'economically demonstrated resources' (EDR), which equates to proven plus probable resources. EDRs are those resources that have a very high probability of existence, and are economically feasible to extract, given current technology and relative prices.

Recording of emissions reduction schemes

A2.38    Emissions permits are unique policy instruments designed to achieve specific economic and environmental objectives. They have some properties of the broad category of contracts, leases and licences and share certain characteristics with other types of permits issues by governments. The discussion of emissions trading schemes in the 2008 SNA was found to be inadequate in the face of rapid development of schemes internationally.

A2.39    As a result, the international statistical community, through the United Nations Statistical Commission (UNSC), made a decision on the treatment of greenhouse gas emission reduction schemes in February 2012 which effectively updates the 2008 SNA. In arriving at this decision, there was significant disagreement over valuation and timing of recognition of elements of such schemes that involve a market trading component, such as cap and trade schemes.

A2.40    The international statistical community ratified a treatment based on a historic cost approach. The ABS disagreed with the UNSC decision, considering that the endorsed treatment will distort the impact of such schemes on both government and business statistics as represented in the national accounts. Accordingly, the ABS consulted with stakeholders about the implications of deviating from recommended international standards in respect of this case, and, as a result, has decided to apply fundamental market valuation principles to such schemes.

A2.41    For further information, see Information Paper: Recording Emissions Reduction Schemes in ABS Statistics.

Presentation of the accounts in ASNA

A2.42    The main differences between the ASNA and the 2008 SNA presentation of accounts include:

  • The ASNA GDP account is presented as three separate accounts reflecting each measure of gross domestic product. That is expenditure, production (i.e. gross value added) and income (i.e. 2008 SNA account for generation of income).
  • The ASNA income accounts are a combination of the 2008 SNA accounts for allocation of primary income, secondary distribution of income, and use of income.
  • The 2008 SNA's Other changes in volume of assets account and Revaluation account are not presented as separate accounts, rather the details contained in these accounts are presented as part of ASNA's Balance sheets.
  • The Non-profit institutions serving households sector is not separately identified. It is combined with the Households sector.