Important points about UK Balance of Payments data

  • UK Balance of Payments measures financial transactions between economic entities resident in the UK and the rest of the world.

  • Sources include ONS and external partners such as the Bank of England and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

  • The headline UK Balance of Payments current account and capital account figures published are seasonally adjusted, although non-seasonally adjusted estimates are available on our website.

  • Financial account and International Investment Position figures are not seasonally adjusted.

  • A time series is available on our website dating back to 1946 for annual estimates and 1955 for quarterly estimates.

Overview

The UK Balance of Payments (BoP) measures economic transactions between economic entities resident in the UK and those in the rest of the world. It also draws a series of balances between inward and outward transactions, provides a net flow of transactions between UK residents and the rest of the world, and reports how that flow is funded.

The UK’s BoP statistics are compiled at the same time as the National Accounts. The BoP is an alternative presentation of the rest of the world sector which is a component of the Sector and Financial Accounts (SFA), and uses common data sources.

Broadly speaking, the UK balance of payments is a statistical statement designed to provide a systematic record of the UK’s economic transactions with the rest of the world. It may be described as a system of consolidated accounts in which the accounting entity is the UK economy and the entries refer to economic transactions between residents of the UK and residents of the rest of the world (non-residents).

The balance of payments accounts are concerned not only with payments made but also any economic transactions during a period that give rise to a payment in an earlier or later period, for example, goods may change ownership in one period, though payment may be made in an earlier period (pre-payment) or in a later period (trade credit). They also include transactions for which there may never be a payment, for example, goods shipped under foreign aid or goods shipped between related enterprises. There is also more than one “balance”: the balance of payments is a system of accounts in which many balances can be derived, such as the balance of goods and services, the current account balance, and the capital and financial account balance. Balance of payments statements cover a wide range of economic transactions which include:

(i) goods, services, primary income and secondary income

(ii) capital transactions, such as capital transfers, and

(iii) financial transactions involving the UK claims on, and liabilities to, non-residents.

Category (i) is shown in the current account, category (ii) in the capital account and category (iii) in the financial account.

A BoP Statistical Bulletin and time series dataset is published quarterly on our website, 90 days after the end of the period to which the data relate. There are a number of different sources used in the production of SFA and BoP statistics, some of which are collected in our surveys and some of which are provided by external partners such as the Bank of England (BoE) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). A brief introduction to the UK Balance of Payments provides an overview of the concepts and coverage of the UK Balance of Payments using the Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Manual sixth edition.

Additional details of the methods followed and terminology used in UK BoP can be found in our methodological notes and glossary of terms.

Eurostat has established an annual BoP quality reporting process for all European Union (EU) Member States. This is one of the provisions in the EU Regulation of BoP Statistics. The reports are based around quantitative measures of quality developed by Eurostat which align with those assessed within this framework.

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