UK Data Service data catalogue record for:

Business Structure Database, 1997-2017: Secure Access

Title details

SN: 6697
Title: Business Structure Database, 1997-2017: Secure Access
Alternative title: BSD
Persistent identifier: 10.5255/UKDA-SN-6697-9
Depositor: Office for National Statistics
Principal investigator(s): Office for National Statistics
Data collector(s): Office for National Statistics
HM Revenue and Customs
Sponsor(s): Office for National Statistics
Other acknowledgements: The development of the Business Structure Database was made possible by funding provided by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). The research team are also grateful for the comments of colleagues from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), DTI and the University of Nottingham who contributed to the project steering boards during the course of the research programme.


The citation for this study is:

Office for National Statistics. (2017). Business Structure Database, 1997-2017: Secure Access. [data collection]. 9th Edition. UK Data Service. SN: 6697,

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Subject Categories

Income, property and investment - Economics
Trade, industry and markets - Industry and management


Abstract copyright UK Data Service and data collection copyright owner.

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 Survey (SN 7451).

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 postcodes for both enterprises and their local units. Previously only pseudo-anonymised postcodes were available but now all postcodes are real.

The ONS is continually developing the BSD, and so researchers are strongly recommended to read all documentation pertaining to this dataset before using the data.

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.

For the ninth edition (October 2017), data and documentation for 2017 have been added.

Main Topics:
The following variables are available for enterprises and local units:
  • employment (and employees)
  • turnover
  • 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)
'Employment' includes business owners, whereas 'employees' measures the number of staff, excluding owners.

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.

Coverage, universe, methodology

Time period: 1997 - 2017
Country: United Kingdom
Spatial units: Wards (Electoral)
Government Office Regions
Unitary Authorities (England)
Output Areas
Training and Enterprise Councils
Westminster Parliamentary Constituencies
Postcode (Unit)
British National Grid
Super Output Areas (Lower Layer)
Super Output Areas (Middle Layer)
Travel to Work Areas
NUTS-V Areas
Local Authority Districts
Wards (Census Area Statistics)
Observation units: Institutions/organisations
Kind of data: Alpha/numeric data
Individual (micro) level
Universe: National
Businesses in the United Kingdom registered for VAT and/or PAYE in 1997-2016
Time dimensions: Time Series
Sampling procedures: No sampling (total universe)
All Businesses on Inter-Departmental Business Register
Number of units: Up to approximately 4 million enterprises, and up to approximately 5.5 million local units
Method of data collection: Compilation or synthesis of existing material
From VAT and PAYE records on Inter-Departmental Business Register
Weighting: No weighting used.

Thesaurus search on keywords

Administrative and access information

Date of release:
First edition: 12 September 2011
Latest edition: 16 October 2017 (9th Edition)
Copyright: Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland
Access conditions: Registration is required and standard conditions of use apply. The depositor may be informed about usage. Controlled data requirements and conditions also apply. Further information is available from Access Secure Lab.

In addition, the Service is required to request explicit permission from the data owner prior to providing the researcher with access to the data

Please note:
Since these data are more sensitive and/or pose a higher risk of disclosure than data made available under the standard End User Licence, they are not available for download but may be accessed through our Secure Lab. Access requires: ONS Accredited Researcher status (including the requirement to attend and pass the Safe User of Research data Environments (SURE) training course); submission of a project proposal; and completion of a Secure Access User Agreement. This is to ensure that the guarantee of confidentiality given to survey respondents is protected. Users are required to read and follow the Microdata Handling and Security: Guide to Good Practice.

To apply for access, users should use the Download/Order link on this page and will be directed to the relevant forms as part of the ordering process.

Availability: UK Data Service
Contact: Get in touch


Title File Name Size (KB)
Enterprise Unit Variable Catalogue, 1997-2016 6697_bsd_eu_var_cat_1997_2016.xls 63
Local Unit Variable Catalogue, 1997-2016 6697_bsd_lu_var_cat_1997_2016.xls 64
Variable Details, Enterprise, 2013 6697_enterprise_variable_details_2013.xlsx 1885
Variable Details, Enterprise, 2014 6697_enterprise_variable_details_2014.xlsx 1753
Variable Details, Enterprise, 2015 6697_enterprise_variable_details_2015.xlsx 2644
Variable Details, Local Unit, 2013 6697_localunit_variable_details_2013.xlsx 1902
Variable Details, Local Unit, 2014 6697_localunit_variable_details_2014.xlsx 1791
Variable Details, Local Unit, 2015 6697_localunit_variable_details_2015.xlsx 2665
Enterprise Unit Lookup, 2017 6697_ukb_enterprise_lookup_set_2017_vml.xlsx 2861
Local Unit Lookup, 2017 6697_ukb_localunit_lookup_set_2017_vml.xlsx 2811
Extract Layout, 2013 6697_vml_extract_layout_2013.xlsx 23
Extract Layout, 2014 6697_vml_extract_layout_2014.xlsx 22
Extract Layout, 2015 6697_vml_extract_layout_2015_expanded.xlsx 27
Extract Layout, 2017 6697_vml_extract_layout_2017.xlsx 32
Business Register Recommendations Manual, Eurostat 2003 6697_eurostat_business_register_recommendations_manual_2003.pdf 1210
OECD Manual on Business Demography Statistics, 2007 6697_manual_on_business_demography_stats.pdf 858
UK Data Archive Data Dictionary 6697_ukda_data_dictionary.pdf 948
BSD User Guide 6697_user_guide.pdf 926
Study information and citation UKDA_Study_6697_Information.htm 6
READ File read6697.htm 12


View publications... Hide publications...

By principal investigator(s):

Resulting from secondary analysis:
Riley, R. and Robinson, C. (2011) Agglomeration spillovers from intangible capital: An analysis of UK city regions, FP7 Innodrive Working Paper No. 15, March. Retrieved May 4, 2012, from

Riley, R. and Robinson, C. (2011) Skills and economic performance: The impact of intangible assets on UK productivity growth (UK Commission for Employment and Skills, Evidence Report No. 39). Retrieved 4 May, 2012, from

Riegler, R. (2012) Fragmentation and integration: new evidence on the organisational structure of UK firms, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Nottingham.

Sanchis-Guarner, R. (2012) Driving up wages: the effects of road construction in Great Britain, SERC Discussion Paper SERCDP0120, London School of Economics and Political Science LSE Research Laboratory, see

Gibbons, S., Lyytikainen, T., Overman, H., Sanchis-Guarner, R. (2012) New road infrastructure: the effects on firms, SERC Discussion Paper SERCDP0117, London School of Economics and Political Science LSE Research Laboratory, see

Faggio, G. and Silva, O. (2012) Does self-employment measure entrepreneurship? Evidence from Great Britain, SERC Discussion Paper 109, London School of Economics and Political Science: Spatial Economics Research Centre (SERC). Retrieved March 6, 2014 from

Riley, R. and Robinson, C. (2013) 'The role of intangible capital in productivity growth – a British city region perspective', paper presented at the ZEW Workshop on Intangible Assets, Mannheim, Germany, 2-3 May, 2013.

Riley, R. and Robinson, C. (2013) 'Intangibles and business performance: evidence from the UK', paper presented at the EU FP7 e-Frame Workshop on Intangible Assets ZEW, Mannheim, Germany, 2-3 May, 2013.

Faggio, G., Silva, O. and Strange, W.C. (2014) Does Heterogeneous Agglomeration, SERC Discussion Paper 152, London School of Economics and Political Science: Spatial Economics Research Centre (SERC). Retrieved March 6, 2014 from

Morrissey, K. (2014) 'Using secondary data to examine economic trends in a subset of sectors in the English marine economy: 2003–2011', Marine Policy, 50, pp.135-141.

Foreman-Peck, J. and Nicholls, T. (2015) 'Inter-regional mobility of entrepreneurial SMEs', Annals of Regional Science, January, 54(1), pp.57-87. doi 10.1007/s00168-014-0646-9

Ugur, M., Trushin, E. and Solomon, E. (2016) 'A firm-level dataset for analyzing entry, exit, employment and R and D expenditures in the UK: 1997–2012', Data in Brief, vol. 8, pp.153-157.

Ugur, M., Trushin, E. and Solomon, E. (2016) 'Inverted-U relationship between R and D intensity and survival: Evidence on scale and complementarity effects in UK data', Research Policy, 45(7), pp.1474–1492. doi:10.1016/j.respol.2016.04.007


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