Survey Participation Information - Update of Business Structure

The Update of Business Structure survey form collects information to update the ABS Business Register and ensure it accurately reflects the structure of operating businesses. The ABS Business Register provides details of Australian businesses for most ABS economic surveys to enable a consistent, coherent, point-in-time picture of the Australian economy.

The activities of large and small businesses make an important contribution to the Australian economy, especially at state and territory levels. In addition to being useful in their own right, the results of many ABS business surveys are inputs into quarterly and annual updates of the Australian National Accounts. The statistics produced from business surveys provide information for government, businesses and the community to support informed decision making.

Further information on the purpose and conceptual framework of the ABS Business Register can be found on the Australian Bureau of Statistics Business Register page.







What kinds of questions are asked in the Update of Business Structure survey?

The Update of Business Structure survey collects details regarding the structures of organisations. This includes information about the legal entities that are part of the business, the structure of the business and key characteristics such as main business activity, income, employment and contact details (including payroll).

You can find detailed definitions of Business Unit, Total gross income, and Employment on page 2 of your Update of Business Structure paper form. To discuss further please contact us on 1800 624 562.

How should I report employment?

For the purposes of the Update of Business Structure survey form employment should be reported as headcount of all persons as at the last pay period prior to completion. 


Full-time and part-time employeesPersons paid by commission only (i.e. a retainer/wage/salary is not paid)
Permanent, temporary and casual employeesNon-salaried directors
Managerial and executive employeesConsultants, contractors and other self-employed persons engaged by this business
Persons paid a retainer, wage or salaryVolunteers
Working proprietors and partners of this businessEmployees paid solely under the Australian Government’s Paid Parental Leave Scheme
Employees absent on paid or prepaid leave
Employees on workers’ compensation who continue to be paid through the payroll

Some businesses operate without any employees (for example, businesses operated entirely by owners of unincorporated entities). In this case, provide a detailed explanation in the comments field. In order for the ABS to determine the correct course of action for this business, you may be contacted and asked some additional questions (for example, is there is any intention for the business to employ in the future?).

What if my business did not operate during the reference period (e.g. seasonal businesses)?

If your business did not operate during the reference period please complete all relevant sections of the form and provide a detailed explanation in the comments field. In order for the ABS to determine the correct course of action for this business, you may be contacted and asked some additional questions.

If your business no longer operates due to an internal restructure or sale/merger but has been issued an Update of Business Structure survey form, information about why the business operations have ceased should be provided in the comments field (include final date of operation, what happened to employees and to business assets).

Please note that an ABS officer may contact you for clarification on any data that you provide. This additional information helps to ensure that statistics produced by the ABS are fit for purpose and of high quality.

Why have I or my business been included in the Update of Business Structure survey?

To efficiently collect information from businesses, the ABS maintains information about the business structures of both private and government organisations on the ABS Business Register. The structures of large, complex and economically significant organisations are updated using the Update of Business Structure survey. Your business has been selected in this survey to confirm your business structure and key characteristics such as business activity, income, employment and contact details (including payroll).

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 producing a frame for most ABS economic surveys to enable a consistent, coherent, point-in-time picture of the Australian economy. Data is extracted from the ABS Business Register on a quarterly basis, producing the "Common Frame". Subsequently, survey frames are extracted from the Common Frame and supplied to various areas of the ABS on cyclical intervals. The information produced from these surveys are used by businesses and governments who make decisions based on these statistics to address policy and planning issues.

These statistics are drawn upon by a wide variety of individuals and organisations in both the public and private sector, with major users including:
  • Reserve Bank of Australia
  • The ABS' National Accounts
  • The Australian Government Treasury and the States and Territories treasuries
  • State and Commonwealth Government departments and agencies
  • Industry organisations and associations
  • Market analysts and economists

Do we have to answer the questions?

Yes. Under the Census and Statistics Act 1905 you are obliged to provide the information requested by the ABS. All the information you provide will remain strictly confidential.

We recognise that you or your business may have been impacted by recent unprecedented events, including natural disasters or the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Our aim is to ensure that Australia has access to the best possible information on the social and economic impacts of these events. Your participation in our surveys at this time is critical in informing our country’s response.

You can use the final comment box at the end of the survey form to provide extra information about circumstances impacting your organisation's activity. You can also use this box to tell us about your current situation or business conditions and your expectations for the coming months, as well as any further comments on information you have provided in the survey.

We understand this is a difficult time and we are here to help. We will contact you if your survey participation is delayed, and we will help you if you are having difficulties.

How long will we need to participate in this survey?

The length of time you will be in the Update of Business Structure survey generally depends upon the size of your business. Some larger businesses will remain in the survey on an ongoing basis because of their significance to survey results.

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

Yes. The industry, business and government users of the statistics that this survey helps produce need the most accurate and timely information possible so they can make well-informed decisions which impact Australian businesses and communities.

What about the workload we already have?

The ABS is very conscious of the reporting load imposed on businesses in completing ABS statistical surveys. For some time the ABS has been actively pursuing a policy of reducing this load to the minimum necessary to fulfil its obligations as a national statistical agency. (see Steps the ABS is taking to minimise reporting load on businesses)

What if I don't have time to fill in the form?

Businesses experiencing difficulties in completing ABS survey forms by the due date can request an extension of time by calling us on 1800 624 562

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

Yes. We take the security of the information you provide to us very seriously. Your completed form and personal information will remain strictly confidential to the ABS. The information is used to calculate statistics and these are only released in the form of aggregated data. The information in this survey is collected under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act 1905. Under the Act, ABS staff are obliged to maintain the confidentiality and privacy of information provided.

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 and Statistics Act 1905 to reimburse individuals, businesses or organisations 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.

We have already completed the Update of Business Structure survey this year and have received a reminder notice. What should we do?

If you have received a reminder letter or email about completing the Update of Business Structure survey it is likely that you have returned the survey at the same time that we issued the reminder notice. If you wish to confirm this, please call us on 1800 624 562 and we will check the information against our records.


How do I submit my form?

Most Update of Business Structure survey forms are returned by mail but respondents also have the option of reporting by telephone if it is more convenient. In that case an ABS officer will contact your business representative to gather information via telephone. Update of Business Structure paper forms should be returned in the Reply Paid envelope provided.

If you have lost the envelope the address is:

Australia Bureau of Statistics
Reply Paid 91903
Dandenong VIC 3175

Can I keep a record of my completed form?

Yes, the ABS highly recommends that you keep a copy of your completed form for your own personal records and to refer to if we require any clarification after we receive the form. Please note that an ABS officer may contact you for clarification on any data that you provide. This additional information helps to ensure that statistics produced by the ABS are fit for purpose and of a high quality.

How do we answer the Update of Business Structure survey?

You will have received a letter with a paper form, please complete the paper form and return it to us using the enclosed Reply Paid envelope.

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

Currently the form is not available for online completion however in special circumstances the ABS can provide an electronic worksheet by calling us on 1800 624 562

Can I email details? 

The ABS adheres to strict guidelines for the transmission of data by email. Where email exchange is required, the ABS will arrange lodgement through an online Secure Deposit Box which is the ABS' data lodgement service. Use of the Secure Deposit Box ensures that each file lodged is encrypted during transmission to protect the confidentiality of the data. 

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


How accurate do the figures need to be?

We require information to be as accurate as possible. The more accurate the figures you supply, the more accurate the statistics will be. However, if accurate data is not readily available, careful estimates will be accepted.

Can we use the statistics produced from this survey?

Yes. We provide statistics free of charge on our website.

Results from this survey feed into the survey selection and data analysis for critical economic surveys and the production of the Australian National Accounts and other economic indicators.

Results of the Update of Business Structure survey form are used to produce the Counts of Australian Businesses, including Entries and Exits (cat. no. 8165.0).

Our website also provides additional and up-to-date information over and above our existing statistical releases to enhance understanding of the economic impacts of COVID-19, in Measuring the impacts of COVID-19.


Who can we contact for more information?

For help, or more information about this survey, call us on 1800 624 562 during business hours. For help outside these hours, please leave a message with your contact details and we will call you back.

You can also use our online Business Surveys Contact Form to outline the details of your situation and we will be in touch

How can we provide feedback about our involvement in this survey?

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.

The Update of Business Structure form is reviewed on a regular basis. Questions on ABS business survey forms are usually determined through consultative processes involving major users of ABS business statistics, such as Commonwealth and State government departments and relevant ABS business survey collection areas. Factors such as whether information can be obtained from other sources, why the data is needed, how the information will be obtained, ability of businesses to provide the information and cost are all considered. Forms testing is undertaken to ensure that new questions can be readily understood and completed appropriately.

You can use the final comment box at the end of this survey form to tell us about your experience participating in this survey, along with any suggested improvements to the form.

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

For further information on ABS run surveys, please refer to the ABS Surveys Charter which specifies the standards involved in all ABS surveys.

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