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An Informative Overview of National Income Accounting

Posted by Early Growth

November 23, 2021    |     4-minute read (796 words)

Just as businesses create annual accounts, governments do the same. National income accounting is a set of methods used to gather economic data. Understanding what is national income is not only important for governments but also for businesses looking to expand into other countries.

By studying the national accounts of foreign markets, companies can decide whether it makes sense to invest in them.

Here’s what you need to know about the national income definition and how the national income formula works.

What is National Income Accounting? 

National income accounting is defined as the bookkeeping system that governments use to assess and analyze the economic activity of a country over a specific period.

This vast task takes into account everything from wages paid to workers to revenues reported by corporations. It also includes tax revenue and the amount spent on government programs.

The national income accounting definition doesn’t pertain to a specific accounting system per se but a set of methods used to gather data.

The primary outcome of national income accounting is the GDP figure, which is used as a broad figure to reveal whether an economy is growing or shrinking.

What is a National Income Analysis in Economics? 

A national income analysis in economics has a considerable influence on the policies of a country. Lawmakers and economists will assess the performance of the economy over a set period to determine what changes need to be made.

For example, a poor set of economic statistics could lead to tax increases. The national income effect on company setups could influence changes to reporting standards or a campaign for additional auditing.

In an economic sense, an analysis of the national income offers insights into every aspect of society. Without teams of economists gathering and analyzing the national data, it would be impossible to know the status of the national accounts and their impacts on future government policy.

National Income Formula Explained

The basic accounting identity for measuring the GDP of a country is calculated using the below formula:

GDP = Consumption + Investment + Government Spending + (Exports – Imports)

It is important to mention that the formula does not include black market activity or unpaid home labor, such as childcare. Furthermore, government spending is estimated at cost rather than at the market value.

This can lead to underestimating the true level of government spending, which is only revealed in other figures at a later date.

For larger businesses, they will typically use GDP as a starting point before digging into other figures when assessing the viability of entering a new market.

National Income Accounting Methods 

There are no strict rules when it comes to making up the national accounts. Instead, there are three primary accounting methods governments may choose to use when calculating their public figures.

However, each method has its benefits and drawbacks. The economic makeup of a country will often define which method governments choose to use.

Product Method 

Economies using the product method will measure the national income through the flows of goods/services.

To use this method involves calculating the value of all goods and services produced by the country over a set period. These only include directly consumed goods rather than goods used in other production processes.

The big challenge with the product method involves double counting. Instead, governments use the value-addition method to calculate the value of goods at each stage of production.

GDP using the product method will use the market valuation rather than the at-cost figure.

Income Method 

Rather than the product method, a government may use the income method. By measuring factor income flow instead, economists will take into account four types of factor incomes, which are:

  • Labor
  • Capital
  • Land
  • Entrepreneurship
Labor looks at salaries, capital looks at interest, land looks at rent, and entrepreneurship looks at profit. The self-employed are the producers of their income; therefore, they are categorized as “mixed-income.”

The figures from each of the four forms of factor income will be added together.

Expenditure Method 

Some countries choose to measure their national accounts via the expenditure method. GDP will be measured by adding together the following figures:

  • Private consumption expenditure
  • Gross capital formation
  • Net exports
  • Government consumption expenditure
  • This method is simple to understand, relatively easy to measure, and can be reliably compared with other nations.


At first glance, national income accounting may seem unimportant to the average person. But these GDP figures give businesses valuable insights into the performance of national and international markets. The way they are interpreted could lead to brand-new business opportunities.

For help in analyzing these accounts and managing your own, get your accounting done with Early Growth.

Contact Early Growth now to learn more about how we have helped thousands of businesses with their accounting needs, including accounting for startups

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