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Chapter 17 The balance sheet

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

The balance sheet

17.1    2008 SNA defines a balance sheet as:

. . . a statement, drawn up in respect of a particular point in time, of the values of assets owned and of the liabilities owed by an institutional unit or group of units. A balance sheet may be drawn up for institutional units, institutional sectors and the total economy.⁵⁶

17.2    The ASNA provides details of the consolidated national and sectoral balance sheets. The balance sheet contains estimates of the value of some of Australia's natural resources as well as data on produced assets, and net financial claims on the rest of the world. The summary aggregate is net worth, which is defined as the difference between total assets and liabilities.

17.3    The balance sheet completes the sequence of accounts, showing the ultimate result of the entries in the production, distribution and use of income, and accumulation accounts.

Classification of assets in the balance sheet

17.4    According to the 2008 SNA, an asset must be an economic asset to be included in the national balance sheets:

  • over which ownership rights are enforced by institutional units, individually or collectively; and
  • from which economic benefits may be derived by its owner by holding it, or using it, over a period of time.

17.5    The 2008 SNA describes three types of assets that should be included in the national balance sheets:

Produced assets are non-financial assets that have come into existence as outputs from production processes that fall within the production boundary of SNA.⁵⁷

Non-produced assets are non-financial assets that have come into existence in ways other than through processes of production.⁵⁸

Financial assets consist of all financial claims, shares or other equity in corporations plus gold bullion held by monetary authorities as a reserve asset.⁵⁹

17.6    The definitions of the assets in the balance sheet are consistent with the definitions of assets in the capital and financial accounts.

17.7    The balance sheets shown in 2008 SNA as:

National balance sheet account
Non-financial assetsLiabilities to the rest of the world
 Produced assetsNet worth
  Fixed assets 
  Inventories Valuables (a) 
 Non-produced assets 
  Natural resources 
  Permissions to use natural resources 
Financial assets with the rest of the world 
Total assetsTotal liabilities and net worth
Memorandum Items 
  1. currently not compiled in the ASNA.

17.8    The financial and non-financial resources at the disposal of an institutional unit or sector shown in the balance sheet provide an indicator of economic status. These resources are summarised in the balancing item, net worth. Net worth is defined as the value of all the assets owned by an institutional unit or sector less the value of all its outstanding liabilities (including share capital). It is important to note that net worth is a balancing item and can be negative, for example if loans owed are greater than the value of assets held.

Differences between 2008 SNA and ASNA in the asset boundary

17.9    The balance sheet estimates are generally consistent with 2008 SNA recommendations, although there is one main area where the ABS has not followed the recommendations of 2008 SNA with regard to the asset boundary. This relates to the types of mineral and energy resources valued in the balance sheet. 2008 SNA defines these assets as:

. . . consisting of mineral and energy reserves located on or below the earth's surface that are economically exploitable, given current technology and relative prices.⁶⁰

17.10    The ASNA treatment of mineral and energy resources reflects the treatment adopted by Geoscience Australia for identifying Australia's mineral resources. In the ASNA, the volume of mineral and energy resources available for production is more accurately reflected by the term 'economically demonstrated resources' (EDRs), which equates to proven plus probable resources. EDRs are those resources which have a very high probability of existence, and are economically feasible to extract, given current technology and relative prices.

17.11    Further, while 2008 SNA recommends that some assets such as valuables; water resources; goodwill and marketing assets; and contracts, leases and licences be included in national balance sheets, they are not recorded in the ASNA with the exception of spectrum licences. The ASNA agrees, in principle, that these assets should be included, though at present there is insufficient data to do so.


  1. 2008 SNA, para.13.2.
  2. Ibid., para.10.9.
  3. Ibid., para.10.9.
  4. Ibid., para.3.36.
  5. 2008 SNA, para.10.179.