The Central balance sheet was created by the Banque de France in 1968 and was discontinued in 2009 (the last year of reports was 2008).
In accordance with the protocol signed in 1969 between the Banque de France and the INSEE, the mission of the Central balance sheet was to use sample extracts from all the participating enterprises in order to provide an elaborate presentation of all the information that might possibly be drawn from accounting documents (balance sheets, income statements, annex statements, etc.).
The enterprises adhering to the Central balance sheet did so on a voluntary basis and, once a year, sent detailed information providing a clear picture of their financial behaviour, namely:
- a photocopy of the tables drawn up for their tax declaration (printouts 2050 to 2058C) ;
- further sheets bearing the details of certain items in the balance sheet, debt and inter-year flows, and in certain cases a sheet specific to their activity: construction, civil engineering, temporary work, road haulage of goods.
The Central balance sheet sample aimed to reflect the existing structure of the national production fabric, with representativeness calculated by the ratio of the workforce employed by the participating firms to the global workforce of each sector as calculated by the INSEE. The coverage for industrial firms was in the order of 33% in terms of headcount (exhaustive for firms with 500 employees or more, 50% coverage for those with 20 to 50, 10% for those with under 20 employees).
The results were adjusted (sector, size) in relation to the INSEE's exhaustive data.
There were several reasons for discontinuing the Balance Sheet Centre:
- Its cost;
- A fast-decreasing response rate;
- Mediocre coverage of the non-industrial sectors, resulting in great difficulty building the full perimeter of the groups;
- An increasingly mediocre quality of responses to the complementary variables (and these were the very variables that justified the existence of the Central balance sheet).
The Central balance sheet therefore gave way to the FIBEN database, fed by data from tax forms only.