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What Are National Accounts?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2016
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Sometimes known as macroeconomic accounts or national account systems, national accounts are systems that employ various accounting strategies for the purpose of assessing the nature and range of economic activity associated with a country or nation. The general idea of national accounts is to maintain an accurate perception of what is happening with the economy within that nation, which circumstances led to the current situation, and using that data to also project where the economy will move next. All the while, many of the same accounting principles used in standard business accounting strategies are also employed to create a national account system (NAS) that is representative of the true nature of that current economy.

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In order to create national accounts that are accurate and actually helpful in assessing the condition of a nation’s economy, there is a need to include most of the data that would be relevant to a business accounting process. This means that the amount of production that takes place within the nation will be identified and recorded in the accounting records. Both income and expenses that are generated within the country will also be taken into account. This includes all income and expenses related to various businesses in operation throughout the country, all expenditures and income associated with the operation of each entity that makes up the government, and also the income and expenses generated by individual households within the country. Even the movement of investments, such as the issue, purchase, and sale of shares of stock are accounted for in this type of accounting process. Under the best of circumstances, the national accounts address each and every facet of economic activity that takes place in the nation during the time frame under consideration.

One of the benefits of national accounts is the ability to properly evaluate a wide range of factors that influence the direction of the nation’s economy. When the information that is gathered into the accounts is timely and accurate, it is much easier to utilize the data to better understand why the current gross domestic product (GDP) is at the current level. Governments can use the data to make places for implementing new economic policies designed to meet an upcoming shift in the economy, while businesses can use the data to plan future production and distribution activities.

National accounts not only provide an informed perception of how the economy stands today, but also provide the foundation for making plans for the future. Even as government entities and businesses can use the data for making future plans, households can do likewise. By understanding where the economy stands today and what is most likely to happen with the economy in the future, individuals can make decisions about buying and selling assets, saving money, or making lifestyle changes that will allow them to maintain the current standard of living, or possibly even take advantage of upturns in the economy that increase that standard significantly.

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