U.S. Business Census Goes Online

By Roy Mark

The U.S. Census Bureau will for the first time offer businesses the option of completing their reporting requirements online effective Dec. 31. The Bureau’s economic census is taken every five years and businesses will be required to submit answers via mail or Internet by Feb. 12.

Firms in more than 1,000 industries will be asked to report information that will be kept confidential about their operations, including the number of employees, the annual payroll and the value of goods and services provided during calendar year 2002.

Federal law requires you to complete your Economic Census form and return it to the Census Bureau. The United States Code, Title 13, Chapter 7, establishes these requirements, applies them to business owners and employees, and authorizes penalties for those who do not cooperate. High quality census statistics, including useful profiles of each U.S. industry and locality, depend on information from each business that receives a 2002 Economic Census form.

Because most businesses close their books at the end of the calendar year, the U.S. Census Bureau’s electronic reporting system launches on December 31, 2002. System requirements are relatively simple, businesses must be using Microsoft Windows 95 or higher and Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above wtih 128-bit encryption. After the books are closed for 2002, business operators simply download (save) the survey software to a folder on a PC and then open the executing files with a browser. Businesses wishing to submit their information over the Internet may connect with the Census Bureau at www.census.gov/econhelp for assistance.

Data covering calendar year 2002 will be collected and processed during 2003, and the first data will be released in early 2004. Ultimately, the economic census will yield more than 1,600 reports and data products for states, counties, places and some ZIP code areas.

The Census Bureau also announced that another first in the survey will include e-commerce for all industries. In the past, the Bureau has only estimated e-commerce retail and business-to-business numbers.

“The economic census is more important than ever,” said Commerce Secretary Don Evans. “The participation of business is an act of corporate good citizenship and is critical to understanding the factors that underpin our ongoing economic recovery.”

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan called the 2002 Economic Census “indispensable to understanding America’s economy.”

In addition to the Federal Reserve and other federal agencies, state and local officials use economic census data to design programs that promote business development. The private sector uses the data for activities such as developing business plans, calculating market share and evaluating new business opportunities.

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