|The Business Structure Database (BSD) contains a small number of variables for almost all business organisations in the UK. The BSD is derived primarily from the Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR), which is a live register of data collected by HM Revenue and Customs via VAT and Pay As You Earn (PAYE) records. The IDBR data are complimented with data from ONS business surveys. If a business is liable for VAT (turnover exceeds the VAT threshold) and/or has at least one member of staff registered for the PAYE tax collection system, then the business will appear on the IDBR (and hence in the BSD). In 2004 it was estimated that the businesses listed on the IDBR accounted for almost 99 per cent of economic activity in the UK. Only very small businesses, such as the self-employed were not found on the IDBR.
The IDBR is frequently updated, and contains confidential information that cannot be accessed by non-civil servants without special permission. However, the ONS Virtual Micro-data Laboratory (VML) created and developed the BSD, which is a 'snapshot' in time of the IDBR, in order to provide a version of the IDBR for research use, taking full account of changes in ownership and restructuring of businesses. The 'snapshot' is taken around April, and the captured point-in-time data are supplied to the VML by the following September. The reporting period is generally the financial year. For example, the 2000 BSD file is produced in September 2000, using data captured from the IDBR in April 2000. The data will reflect the financial year of April 1999 to March 2000. However, the ONS may, during this time, update the IDBR with data on companies from its own business surveys, such as the Annual Business Inquiry.
The data are divided into 'enterprises' and 'local units'. An enterprise is the overall business organisation. A local unit is a 'plant', such as a factory, shop, branch, etc. In some cases, an enterprise will only have one local unit, and in other cases (such as a bank or supermarket), an enterprise will own many local units.
For each company, data are available on employment, turnover, foreign ownership, and industrial activity based on Standard Industrial Classification (SIC)92, SIC 2003 or SIC 2007. Year of 'birth' (company start-up date) and 'death' (termination date) are also included, as well as anonymised postcodes for both enterprises and their local units.
The VML is continually developing the BSD, and so researchers are strongly recommended to read all documentation pertaining to this dataset before using the data.
Geographical references: postcodes
The postcodes available in the first and second editions of these data (i.e. data files prior to 2011) are pseudo-anonymised postcodes. The real postcodes were not available due to the potential risk of identification of the observations. However, these replacement postcodes retain the inherent nested characteristics of real postcodes, and will allow researchers to aggregate observations to other geographic units, e.g. wards, super output areas, etc. In the dataset, the variable of the replacement postcode is 'new_PC'. Users who specifically require postcodes to undertake their analyses for data prior to 2011 are advised to read the ONS document Geographical references in the Virtual Microdata Laboratory and Secure Data Service before applying for access to the data. Real postcodes are available for the 2011 data (third edition).
Linking to other business studies
These data contain IDBR reference numbers. These are anonymous but unique reference numbers assigned to business organisations. Their inclusion allows researchers to combine different business survey sources together. Researchers may consider applying for other business data to assist their research.
The third edition (October 2012) includes data files for the year 2011.
The following variables are available for enterprises and local units:
'Employment' includes business owners, whereas 'employees' measures the number of staff, excluding owners.
- employment (and employees)
- Standard Industrial Classification (1992, 2003 and 2007 classifications are available)
- legal status (e.g. sole proprietor, partnership, public corporation, non-profit organisation etc)
- foreign ownership
- birth (company start date)
- death (termination date of trading)
Observations for enterprises also include a variable for ownership if the enterprise is part of a large group of companies.
Local units have an additional 'death code' variable, which serves as an indicator as to why the plant closed (e.g. as a result of a merger). It should also be noted that there is no turnover information for individual plants. This is because the ONS does not collect financial information at the plant level, which is notoriously difficult, especially for manufacturing plants where often no financial transactions are processed.
The birth and death variables are particularly useful for research, although it should be noted that for businesses that began trading before 1973, their birth date will be set to 1973. This is the year that VAT was introduced in the UK, and hence the first point in time for VAT registration for these companies. Companies that began trading since 1973 have their 'real' date of birth listed.