The Hungarian Central Statistical Office uses online cash register data for the measurement of retail trade and food services. The data source allows the statistical office to considerably cut administrative burden of data providers without quality loss in retail trade statistics. Online cash register data is widely used in tracking the latest developments in retail trade during the coronavirus pandemic as well.
Online cash registers (online pénztárgép – OPG) were introduced in Hungary in 2013. The goal of the measure was to give the Tax Authority a real-time distant insight into the turnover of a retail traders and food service providers. By the introduction of the online cash registers a substantial whitening was expected in the sense of lessening the extent of non-accounted sales. According to a study1 published a few years ago examining the effect of the introduction of online cash registers, 68% of the online cash register users were involved in retail trade and food services and they represented 83% of the total turnover observed by online cash registers in 2015. The authors concluded that online cash registers resulted in bigger rise in turnover in comparison to enterprises not using such a tool. The median increase was 15 percent in the case of retail trade turnover and 20 in food services, respectively. The whitening of the turnover, however, started even before the deployment of the online cash registers, especially in food services sector and among smaller enterprises.
The Hungarian Central Statistical Office (hereinafter: HCSO) uses online cash register data for the calculation of retail trade and food services. The methodology is widely-used for the measurement of turnover and the production of indices by measuring retail trade and food services turnover based on online cash register data. Simplified questionnaire for data collection is still used in the case of fully observed data providers. In the simplified questionnaire HCSO asks for unbroken turnover data of statistical units. This questionnaire serves as correction for eventually missing online cash register data and measurement of online trade. A full questionnaire is sent to designated companies whose activities are not covered by the online cash register system or do not use a cash register. The full questionnaire also provides the correction of low-level data quality. This twofold approach, in fact, makes online cash register data a supplementary data source, opens the floor for the cut of data providers’ administrative burdens and ensures a firm ground for calculable production of retail trade statistics (i.e. to mitigate risk of loss of administrative data). Due to the introduction of the new method almost an 80% cut could be achieved in the number of the data providers, observed units and questionnaire cells.
The newly applied method proved to be reliable. Examining the testing period, the monthly retail trade turnover data on current prices and prepared on the basis of the online cash register data was 0.9-4.4% lower than those measured using the traditional method (i.e. questionnaire). This implied that the old method might trustworthily be replaced by the new method, no information setback and quality loss was expected.
Retail trade turnover according to the questionnaire based method and the method based on online cash register data
Time series show that the difference slightly varied by product groups but neither considerable shift was observed, nor divergence in long term trends. As shown on the graph below, turnover indices totally overlap in the case of food and fuel retail trade, while in the case of non-food products the difference is also negligible.
Retail trade turnover calculated by the questionnaire based method and the method based on online cash register data
Similarly to the turnover data the new method has neither resulted in deviation of volume indices. The below graph shows that no considerable difference was measured between the questionnaire based method and online cash register data.
Volume indices of retail trade based on the questionnaire based method and the method based on online cash register data, seasonally and calendar adjusted
Based on the above outcomes HCSO considered the new method applicable for the measurement of retail trade turnover. The transition, on the other hand, has taken more years during which period parallel use of the two methods was applied.
It is also worth to be mentioned that HCSO utilises online cash register data for the monitoring of retail trade trends during the coronavirus pandemic. For these purposes daily data are used and the latest developments of turnover changes in retail trade might be tracked thereby. The main advantage of the usage of online cash register data compared to VAT data is obviously that cash register data are available on a daily basis and might indicate changes in the composition of trade faster. The next graph shows the periodical change of several products expressed in the value of retail trade turnover, based on online cash register data.
Lovics Gábor – Szőke Katalin – Tóth G. Csaba – Ván Bálint: Megugrott a kis cégek bejelentett forgalma az online pénztárgépektől. Online: https://www.mnb.hu/letoltes/megugrott-a-kis-cegek-bejelentett-forgalma-az-online-penztargepektol.pdf ↩︎