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Withdrawal of ONS surveys to ‘cut business costs’


The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has unveiled plans to change the way it calculates its economic growth estimates, cutting the time businesses need to spend on form-filling.


The ONS intends to partially replace monthly business surveys, which are currently used to estimate growth, with data gathered from VAT returns submitted to HMRC.


Some 45,000 surveys are currently sent out each month, which is thought to cover around 55% of the economy. However, using VAT turnover data should increase this coverage substantially, with around 1.75 million companies required to file VAT returns each month.


The ONS said it expects the number of surveys sent monthly could be reduced by up to half once the transition to the new system is complete.


It says the move will cut its costs by 40%, and result in a 50% reduction in compliance costs for participating businesses, with small and medium-sized firms expected to save the most.


Commenting on the plans, Nick Vaughan, director of national accounts and economic statistics at the ONS, said: ‘These plans are part of a wider ONS agenda to develop new and better sources of data and keep producing the highest quality statistics possible.’


The ONS aims to complete the transition to VAT data by 2020.