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The distribution of UK businesses is analysed by size, location, industry and legal status. The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) produces data on small and medium enterprises. Office for National Statistics (ONS) data provide estimates of small unregistered traders.


Business Demography
Department: Office for National Statistics
Births, deaths and survivals of UK enterprises. The active stock of businesses is also shown, so that birth and death rates can be calculated.
Business Population Estimates for the UK and Regions
Department: Business, Innovation and Skills
This publication provides the only official government statistics that attempt to the estimate the total number of UK private sector businesses in the UK and their contribution to employment and turnover. Also provided is an estimate of the total number of businesses in the UK whole economy. The publication supercedes the BIS 'Small and Medium-sized Enterprise Statistics for the UK and Regions'.
Businesses in Scotland
Department: Scottish Government
Estimate of the number of businesses operating in Scotland by industry, sizeband, ownership and local authority area.
Foreign ownership of businesses in the UK
Department: Office for National Statistics
This note and the associated tables have been produced on the request of Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) for use by interested parties to assist in analysing and understanding foreign ownership of businesses in the UK and sub-nationally. The information will assist those developing inward investment strategic policies, giving an overview of subnational and regional differences. The tables provide a high level summary of foreign ownership activity in English regions and constituent countries of the UK – equivalent to NUTS 1 areas.
Higher Education - Business and Community Interaction Survey
Department: Scottish Government
Statistics for Scotland from the UK-wide HE-BCI survey
Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR) Facts and Figures (Northern Ireland)
Department: Enterprise, Trade and Investment (Northern Ireland)
Numbers of VAT and PAYE registered businesses in Northern Ireland, by region, size and industry.
Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR) Facts and Figures (Northern Ireland)
Department: Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency
Numbers of VAT and PAYE registered businesses in Northern Ireland, by region, size and industry.
Mergers and Acquisitions involving UK companies
Department: Office for National Statistics
Latest data on domestic and overseas acquisitions, disposals and mergers.
Regional competitiveness and State of the Regions
Department: Business, Innovation and Skills
Presents statistical information that illustrated the factors that contributed to regional competitiveness.
Size Analysis of Welsh Businesses
Department: Welsh Government
This release gives estimates of the size structure of all enterprises that are active in Wales, including estimates for the very smallest businesses that operate below the VAT threshold.
Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Statistics for the Regions
Department: Business, Innovation and Skills
Presents the number of enterprises (businesses) in the UK along with the turnover and employment in these enterprises.
Small and medium sized enterprise statistics (SME) for the UK and regions
Department: Business, Innovation and Skills
Presents the number of enterprises (businesses) in the UK along with the turnover and employment in these enterprises.
UK Business: Activity, Size and Location
Department: Office for National Statistics
Tables on local units and enterprises by geography, industry, legal status and employment size band. Additional tables at enterprise level by age of business and turnover size band.
VAT registrations, de-registrations and survival rates for businesses
Department: Welsh Government
Contains VAT registrations and de-registrations for each of the UK countries and English regions.

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UK Business: Activity, Size and Location

Data are available in the above publication for enterprise or local unit and tables, including industry data (using the Standard Industrial Classifcation) and geographical data down to parliamentary constituency. Only counts of businesses are included, but data are available by employment size band and turnover size band. Additionally, there are analyses by legal status and age of business.

Small and Medium Enterprise Statistics     

The above publication provides details on the size distribution of all businesses in the UK, from those with no employees to those with 500 or more employees. Data are available by legal status, private/public/non-profit sectors, regions, and industries. For each size band, detail on the number of businesses, their total employment and total turnover is also shown.

Regional Competitiveness and State of the Regions

The above publication presents statistical information illustrating the factors that contribute to regional competitiveness. It also measures progress towards sustainable economic development, skills and social regeneration. It is a compendium publication, bringing together data, mostly published, from many other themes. More up-to-date information is often available on the Regional Economic Performance Public Service Agreement (REP PSA) website.

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Technical Data

UK Business: Activity Size and Location 

The data contained in this publication are produced from a snapshot of the Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR) taken in March of each year. Introduced in 1994, the IDBR provides the basis for the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to conduct surveys of businesses.

The main administrative sources for the IDBR are VAT trader and PAYE employer information. These are supplied to ONS by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) under the Value Added Tax Act 1994 for VAT traders and the Finance Act 1969 for PAYE employers. Details of incorporated businesses are also passed to ONS by Companies House. 

Additional information comes from:

  • ONS survey data 

  • the Department of Enterprise, Trade and

  • Rural Affairs farms register

  • statistics formerly produced by BIS are now produced by ONS

The IDBR combines the information from the three administrative sources with this survey data in a statistical register comprising over two million enterprises. These comprehensive administrative sources combined with the survey data contribute to the coverage on the IDBR, which is one of its main strengths.

The publication was enhanced in 2008 to include enterprises based on PAYE employers that are not also registered for VAT. This was a major improvement to the scope of the publication. If you compare 2007 VAT-based enterprises with 2007 VAT and/or PAYE based enterprises, you will see approximately 425,000 enterprises have been added to the tables. The increase in units is most noticeable in the VAT-exempt industries of finance, education, health and public administration.

Regional analyses are provided for VAT and/or PAYE based enterprises and local units. Where an enterprise has several local units, the location of the enterprise is generally the main operating site or the head office. UK Business Tables B1.1, B1.2, B1.3, B1.4, B2.1 and B2.2 provide summaries of the location of enterprises, and tables A1.1, A1.2 and A2.1 provide similar data for local units. For Tables A6.1, A6.2, B6.1, B6.2 and B6.3, the data are presented by Parliamentary Constituency boundaries.

Small and Medium Enterprise Statistics      

This publication is based on a snapshot of data from the IDBR taken in March of each year, to obtain the number of enterprises live at the start of the year (for example, the March 2008 extract was used to obtain businesses live at the start of 2007). However, only enterprises registered for VAT and/or PAYE appear on the IDBR, so this publication estimates the number of small unregistered enterprises using other sources (namely the ONS Labour Force Survey and the HMRC Survey of Personal Incomes). Details of the methodology can be found on the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills website.

Estimates for UK countries and regions are only produced in alternate years.

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  • Companies House

    The company registration office of the UK.

  • Employment size band

    Employment band size is used to present the distribution of businesses by employment.

  • Enterprise

    An enterprise is the smallest grouping of legal units (VAT or PAYE records) that have a degree of autonomy. In some cases, an enterprise may be part of an enterprise group.

  • Incorporated business

    These are companies registered at Companies House.

  • Local units

    Local units are individual sites belonging to an enterprise. For example, offices, factories or shops operated by the enterprise. 

  • Parliamentary constituency

    Westminster parliamentary constituencies are the areas used to elect Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons. At the May 2005 election, there were 646 constituencies.

  • PAYE employer

    A business that is registered with HMRC to make Pay As You Earn tax contributions. These are required for any business employing people earning over the National Insurance threshold. 

  • Registered for VAT

    A business that has registered with HMRC for VAT. Businesses with turnover over the VAT threshold are required to register. Some businesses beneath this threshold may voluntarily register.

  • Standard Industrial Classification (SIC)

    An industrial classification system used to classify businesses to the economic activity in which they are engaged. The UK SIC is based on the European classification entitled: Nomenclature generale des activities economique dans les Communates (NACE). This is in turn based on a United Nations system of classification.

  • Turnover size band

    Used to present the distribution of businesses by turnover. 

  • VAT and or PAYE-based enterprise

    This is a broader way of defining businesses in scope of the publication. These include the VAT-based enterprise above, but additionally include businesses without a VAT registration, which only have a PAYE registration.

  • VAT-based enterprises

    An enterprise that has a VAT registration.

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Contact Details

For statistical enquiries about this topic, please contact:

Andrew Allen

Email: IDBRDAS@ons.gov.uk

Telephone: +44 (0) 1633 456902

IDBR Analysis Room 1.01 Office for National Statistics Newport NP10 8XG

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