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Every five years the government does an economic census to gauge the American economy and measure businesses.
Yes, it's that time again. The next economic census year is 2012 which means business owners, including those who run franchises, could receive a census form sometime before the end of the year. That paperwork is due in February 2013
The census asks business owners to provide a range of data for their companies. Unlike the population census, replies are not optional.
Population census data is collected every 10 years and participation is strongly encouraged but not mandatory. The economic census is a much more important indicator of how the economy is doing so participation is required by law.
Businesses that fail to return the required information can be fined up to $500.
Lest you think you can trade the fine for filing, paying the fine doesn't excuse you from returning the form. Also keep in mind that purposely giving wrong answers will cost you. The punishment can be up to $10,000.
Since there's no getting around the census, you may as well take the time to do it well.
Not only is the information used for business and economic decisions on a local and federal level, it's also useful for you.
The economic census asks for certain operational and performance data from the past five years. You should have the information already from filing taxes and your own evaluations of your business.
If you're very diligent you might have compared one year to the next but it's unlikely you've found time to sit down and compare five years of data, especially if you run a small business.
Now is your chance to go over the data from the last five years and look for patterns or trends. Call in your accountant and your attorney so you can strategize about moving forward.
Don't worry about turning over the information. While the Census Bureau uses it to gauge the national economy, the specifics are confidential.