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Annual National Accounts Methodology


This publication accompanies the preliminary estimates of the annual national accounts for the year 2021 together with revised estimates for the years 2016 to 2021. The tables relate to national income and expenditure, capital formation and savings together with details of transactions of the government sector classified in accordance with national accounting definitions.

This year’s publication has been renamed from National Income and Expenditure (NIE) to Annual National Accounts (ANA). This is to reflect the additional data and development of the annual output method, which complements our income and expenditure data. We have also grouped the material to present it under each method of compilation, e.g. showing the wages and profits data under the income method. Another development this year is a permanent link on PxStat to the latest annual national accounts data, rather than renaming it each year.

Particular attention is drawn to the detailed definitions and notes given in this document which must be borne in mind in interpreting the various items. Thus, in considering the figures for trading profits, it should be noted that domestic trading profits as compiled for GDP purposes refer to profits arising from productive activity within the State; items such as receipts of national debt and other interest and income arising outside the State are excluded. Furthermore, all losses are taken fully into account for the year in which they were incurred. For these reasons, trading profits as computed for national income purposes differ in principle both from the aggregate of profits shown by individual concerns in their own accounts and from total profits liable for taxation purposes by the Revenue authorities.

It should be understood that most of the elements in the compilation of the national accounts are estimates subject to margins of error. Generally, more reliance can be placed on the changes between years than on the absolute level of any single figure.

The estimates for 2021 are based upon indicators for the different aggregates and must be regarded as preliminary. The provisional nature of the estimates for 2019 and 2020 must also be borne in mind. Many of the inquiries upon which the basic compilations rest are incomplete and to the extent that figures given for 2019 and 2020 are still partly subject to revision, projections for the year 2021 are also affected. While no guarantee can be given that published figures will remain unaltered as inquiries proceed and as sources and methods are reviewed, it is expected that any changes made in future in relation to years earlier than 2016 will have a relatively insignificant effect on the year-to-year trend in these data.
Except where otherwise indicated the Annual National Accounts 2021 tables relate to current money values, and therefore, the year-to-year changes include an element due to monetary inflation. Certain tables are shown in chain linked values and these indicate the real (or volume or quantum) changes in the various entities from year to year.

The tables have all been generated from approximately 500 base headings. As a result, in the tables, the totals may differ from the sum of components due to rounding.

Chain Linking

The volume measures are produced using annual chain linked indices. On the output side, for each pair of successive years, the volume growth measures at a detailed level are weighted together using value added weights of the first year. Similarly, on the expenditure side, annual growth estimates are weighted by previous year expenditure weights. The average of the two measures is the official level of GDP to base the previous year. The change over a period of years is then calculated by linking together the annual volume changes. The estimates in this report are referenced to 2020 values.

It should be noted that under the system of chain linking individual components are chain linked independently of their aggregates. Thus, the expenditure estimate of GDP, in constant prices on a chain linked basis, is not derived by adding the chain linked values of personal consumption, government expenditure, capital expenditure, stock changes and exports minus imports. Rather it is estimated by linking the year-to-year volume changes in GDP (which have been calculated to base the previous year) to the GDP value in 2020. This results in the loss of additivity for years prior to the chain linked reference year (i.e. for years prior to 2020 for ANA 2021) by which is meant that the sum of the chain linked components do not add to the chain linked aggregate.

In addition, there is the extra complication that the official volume estimate of GDP is the average of the expenditure estimates of GDP (to base the previous year) and the output estimate of GDP (to base the previous year). Thus, before the chain linking process even begins, the GDP volume estimate cannot be derived as the sum of its components.

ESA 2010 terminology

The terminology used is in line with the conventions of the ESA 2010.

National accounts are compiled in the EU according to the European System of National and Regional Accounts (ESA) framework. In 2014, the ESA 2010 framework replaced the ESA 95 version, and all EU member states are required to adopt ESA 2010.

The term GDP is reserved for valuation at market prices while Value Added is used for other valuations of the aggregate previously known as GDP. There are now three valuations being shown i.e. Market Prices, Factor Cost and Basic Prices. The first two were always provided in the publications which preceded the adoption of the ESA 2010 methodology. The third one (GVA at basic prices) equals GDP (at market prices) minus product taxes plus product subsidies. This is also equal to GVA at factor cost plus other (non-product) taxes minus other (non-product) subsidies see items 29 to 32 in Table 3.3 and items 51 and onwards in Table 3.4. The terms Gross National Product (GNP), Gross National Income (GNI) and Net National Income (NNI) are also being used. GNP is the equivalent to GDP plus or minus Net Factor Income (NFI) from the Rest of the World (while NFI can take either a positive or negative value, it has been negative for the years 1995 to 2021 that are covered in ANA 2021, both at Current Prices and Chain Linked). GNI is equivalent to GNP plus EU subsidies minus EU taxes. Alternatively, it may be described as GDP minus primary income payable by resident units to non-resident units plus primary income receivable by resident units from the rest of the world. NNI is equal to GNI minus depreciation.


The National Accounts form a comprehensive framework within which economic data can be presented in a coherent, consistent manner. There are three approaches to measuring National Income, each of which theoretically gives the same answer, i.e.

  • output (value added by each producer);
  • income (all income generated);
  • expenditure (all spending on final demand)

In Ireland, the income and expenditure approaches are used. An output estimate is also available on Tables 6.1 and 6.2. For the income estimate, the main components are:

  • profits of companies and of the self-employed
  • remuneration of employees (wages, salaries and employers’ contributions to social insurance and pension funds including imputed contributions in respect of public service employees)
  • rent of dwellings (imputed in the case of owner-occupied)

Adjustments are made in respect of stock appreciation i.e. to eliminate the effect of price changes on the level of stocks. Another feature of the national accounts is that interest is not regarded as part of income or expenditure in calculating GDP, but a hidden margin is attributed to banks on interest accrued in the course of lending and borrowing and this hidden margin is charged or apportioned to customers. (See the section on 'profits of businesses' in Definitions and Concepts).

On the expenditure side, estimates are made of:

  • personal expenditure on consumers’ goods and services
  • expenditure by central and local government on current goods and services
  • gross domestic fixed capital formation
  • value of physical changes in stocks.

The value of exports is then added, and imports are deducted. The two approaches (income and expenditure) should theoretically give the same answer. However, they will always diverge to some extent as they are derived from different data sources. The components of the two original estimates are shown unadjusted. The official level of GDP is taken to be an average of the expenditure and income estimates and a balancing item (statistical discrepancy) is displayed, which is half of the difference between the two estimates. This is the amount by which both estimates have to be adjusted to agree with the official level of GDP.

Volumes or Constant price estimates

Two measures of GDP (output and expenditure) are compiled annually at previous year’s prices and chain linked to a reference year. The output measure is obtained by using various output indicators to project forward the previous year’s value added. On the expenditure side, the current price estimates are deflated to the previous year’s prices using appropriate price indices. The average of the two provides the official GDP to base the previous year and is used to produce the annual volume change in GDP. The annual volume changes are then chain linked. The chain linked values for the components of both methods are shown in Tables 3.6 and 8.3.


Chapter 2 (Tables Explained) and Chapter 3 (Definitions and Concepts) contain detailed definitions and explanatory notes relating to all the variables contained in the various tables in this report. The following are the main features of the principal economic aggregates.

Gross Value Added at factor cost is equal to the sum of the values of the goods and services (or part thereof) produced in the country without deducting an amount in respect of capital consumption (i.e. depreciation). It excludes taxes on production and includes subsidies on production.

Net Value Added at factor cost is equal to Gross Value Added at factor cost minus depreciation.

Gross Value Added at basic prices is equal to Gross Value Added at factor cost plus other (i.e. non-product) taxes on production minus other (i.e. non-product) subsidies on production.

Gross Domestic Product at market prices is equal to Gross Value Added at basic prices plus taxes on products less subsidies on products. It represents total expenditure on the output of final goods and services produced in the country (‘final’ means not for further processing within the country) and valued at the prices at which the expenditure is incurred.

Gross National Income at market prices is equal to Gross Domestic Product minus primary income payable by resident institutional units to non-resident units plus primary income receivable by resident units from the rest of the world. It therefore represents total primary income available to resident institutional units of the country.

Retrospective historical series; availability of data in spreadsheet format

A historical series of data along the lines of the main tables in NIE 2020 covering the period from 1970 to 1995 is available in Excel format on the CSO website and in the CSO’s online database PxStat (CSO main data dissemination service). There is however a discontinuity in this series compared to the series post 1995 due to (a) the introduction of ESA 2010 in the post 1995 data and (b) the introduction of FISIM which is incorporated in the accounts from 1995 onwards but not for earlier years. Two sets of figures are available for the year 1995 i.e. the historical series on an ESA95 basis without FISIM and the ESA 2010 1995 to 2020 series with FISIM included. The latter series contains some revisions to the accounts stretching back to 1995.

The detailed tables are available in online publication and spreadsheet format on the CSO website They are also available in the CSO’s database PxStat (CSO Main data dissemination Service).

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