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Many small businesses have called the NFIB Legal Hotline lately with this question: "Do I really have to fill out the 2012 Economic Census?" In short, the answer is Yes.

Why? Well, it's the law. (United States Code Title 13.) And Congress has attached penalties -- up to $ 10,000 -- to help ensure that businesses complete the forms. Forms are due February 12, 2013.

But in addition, businesses who received the census should know that the government and other organizations put the information to good use. The federal government uses the data to compile the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Trade associations, business organizations (including NFIB), and individual businesses also use the data (see examples) to assess and improve business performance.

Here's some more information about the Economic Census, including forms and where to go for help.

To submit your report online:

  • Visit census.gov/econhelp/classforms
  • Click on the REPORT ONLINE button
  • Enter your unique User ID and Password (printed to the left of the address label on the report form)
  • ANC-99023 - General Classification Reports (PDFs)

    • General Classification Report Form
    • Initial Letter
    • First Follow-up Letter
    • Second Follow-up Letter
    • Online Reporting Instructions

    NC-99026 - Classification Report (PDFs)

    • NC-99026 Classification Report Form
    • Online Reporting Instructions

    Need Help?

    The Census Bureau staff can answer questions:
    Phone Number: 1-800-233-6136
    Hours of Operation: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.

    Or you can visit the United States Census Bureau’s FAQ page.

    What is the Economic Census?

    The Economic Census is the U.S. Government's official five-year measure of American business and the economy. It is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, and response is required by law.

    Forms go out to nearly 4 million businesses, including large, medium and small companies representing all U.S. locations and industries. (See the nearby graphic for the totals broken down by state.) Respondents are asked to provide a range of operational and performance data for their companies. Your census report is kept confidential and is immune from legal action.

    What is the penalty for not responding?

    The census law (Title 13, United States Code, Section 224) along with federal criminal law provides for penalties of up to $ 5,000 for failure to report, and $ 10,000 for intentionally providing false information.

    When will people see the results of the 2012 Economic Census?

    The first census results will be available in December 2013 when the "Advance Report" provides preliminary totals for all economic sectors. Additional results will be published over the next few years.

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