Skip to content

Annual Business Survey (ABS) quality and methods

equation on a black board
Annual Business Survey (ABS) methodology, technical reports, future developments and reviews.
  • ABS Quality and Methodology Information (149.3 Kb Pdf) - March 2014 
    A high level overview of the statistical methodology and quality for the ABS.

  • Standard Errors for Regional Annual Business Survey Data (2.2 Mb Word document) - February 2014
    An investigation into a methodology for calculating standard errors of regional ABS estimates of total turnover, total purchases and approximate Gross Value Added.

  • Information paper: Annual Business Survey - Exporters and importers in Great Britain, 2012 (214.3 Kb Pdf) - November 2013
    This note provides information on the experimental business export and import statistics from the Annual Business Survey (ABS) to help users determine if the estimates are fit for their purpose.

  • Background notes for Who owns businesses in the UK short story (20.9 Kb Pdf)  - October 2013 
    The background notes for Who owns businesses in the UK short story released 24 October 2013. 

  • Background notes for Businesses in the UK by Amount of Turnover (48.2 Kb Pdf) - October 2013
    The background notes for the Businesses in the UK by Amount of Turnover short story released 18 October 2013, to examine the characteristics of businesses registered for VAT and/or PAYE in the UK by the amount of turnover they generated in 2011.

  • ABS Technical Report (1.61 Mb Pdf) - August 2012
    This report describes the procedures used by the Office for National Statistics to produce the Annual Business Survey. The report is aimed at users who want to know more about the background and history, uses and users, and concepts and statistical methods underlying the survey. It includes information about questionnaire development, sample design, data collection, results processing, publications and quality issues.

  • ABS Admin Data Progress 2012 (67.5 Kb Pdf) - August 2012
    Progress report on using administrative data to supplement the Annual Business Survey

  • Review of ABS Timeliness - August 2012
    An initial review has been undertaken with the intention of improving the timeliness of the Annual Business Survey (ABS). This paper summarises the initial findings as well as providing a list of actions which we intend to take to revise the ABS timetable.

  • The Application of Selective Editing to the ONS Annual Business Survey (110.7 Kb Pdf)   - June 2012
    Description of the Eden principle for editing survey data, and details of the analysis undertaken to measure the impact of introducing selective editing to the ABS.

  • Apportionment of Financial Variables Using BRES Local Unit Turnover Data (202.1 Kb Pdf)  - April 2012 
    Further analysis of the proposals for apportioning ABS UK financial data to the UK regions using Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES) local unit turnover data. This analysis shows that the performance of the new apportionment method is broadly consistent in the two years it was applied, 2009 and 2010, and hence the new method should be robust. However, further validation against other data sources is needed to be confident of the reliability of the estimates produced using the new method.

  • Weighting in the Regional System (200.2 Kb Pdf)  - September 2011 
    A new regional estimation method using a design based approach. It replaces the previous regional estimation method which was model based, with the model reliant on fairly optimistic assumptions, making the estimates prone to bias. In the new regional method, the design weights are calibrated at local unit level to recover register employment totals. Analysis of the impact of the new weighting method shows that the resulting differences in the estimates are generally small, particularly at high levels of aggregation.
    The new method has been introduced to ABS for the revision to the 2009 Regional results and the provisional 2010 Regional results in July 2012.

  • ABS Questionnaire Review 2011 (151.2 Kb Pdf) - June 2011
    A report on the review of the ABS catering and services industries questionnaires (June 2011)
  • Regional Estimation Apportioning financial variables using BRES local unit turnover data (178 Kb Pdf)  - May 2011 
    Investigation of proposals for apportioning ABS UK financial data to the UK regions using Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES) local unit turnover data. This investigation shows that the new proposals should lead to more accurate estimates for turnover and purchases and, possibly to a slightly lesser extent, approximate Gross Value Added (aGVA). The added benefit for other variables may be limited.

Example questionnaires



Production sector questionnaires sent to businesses who, for example, manufacture food products, machinery, pharmaceutical products, motor vehicles, or electrical equipment.

Standard Production (long) (240.9 Kb Pdf)

Standard Production (short) (220.7 Kb Pdf)

Service sector questionnaires sent to businesses who, for example, provide Legal and accounting services, head office activities, architecture and engineering activities, advertising and market research, or employment activities.

Standard Services (long) (236.4 Kb Pdf)

Standard Services (short) (215.5 Kb Pdf)

To minimise burden on businesses, the ABS uses a 'short' and 'long' questionnaire. On the 'long' questionnaire there is a more detailed breakdown of variables such as turnover, purchases, and employment costs, whilst the 'short' questionnaire only requires totals. For example, the 'short' questionnaire asks for 'total employment costs',  whereas the 'long' questionnaire breaks this down into gross wages and salaries, employers’ National Insurance contributions, contributions to pension funds and amounts payable through redundancy and severance. The 'long' questionnaires are sent to all businesses with an employment of 250 or more and also to a proportion of selected businesses with lower employment. The 'short' questionnaires are sent to the remaining selected businesses.

Content from the Office for National Statistics.
© Crown Copyright applies unless otherwise stated.