Annual Retail Trade Report

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

This section answers the most frequently asked questions about the Annual Retail Trade Report. If you don't find an answer to your particular question, please contact staff.

Questions and Answers - by Category


1.  Is this report mandatory?

Yes, your response is required by law. Title 13 of the U.S. Code requires businesses and other organizations that receive this report to answer the questions and return it to the Census Bureau. The law also provides that copies retained in your files are confidential and immune from legal process. In addition, reported data are exempt from requests made under the Freedom of Information Act.

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2.  Who uses the data?

  • The Bureau of Economic Analysis uses the data for the nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) estimates and in developing the national accounts' input-output tables.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics uses the data as input to its Producer Price Indices and in developing productivity measurements.
  • Trade and professional organizations use the data to analyze industry trends and benchmark their own statistical programs, develop forecasts, and evaluate regulatory requirements.
  • The media use the data for news reports and background information.
  • Private businesses use the data to measure market share, analyze business potential, and plan investments.

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3.  My firm is no longer in business. What should I do?

Complete the report with data for any period of time during the 2015 calendar year that the firm was in operation. We also need the date that the firm went out of business. If you sold your firm, record the following in the Remarks section in the electronic reporting instrument:
  • The name, address and telephone number of the firm that purchased it
  • The purchaser's kind of business
  • The date of sale

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4.  Why don't you get the information you need from the IRS?

The Census Bureau uses IRS administrative data whenever possible. However, the IRS data does not provide the level of detail needed in most Census Bureau surveys, or does not have certain items available (e.g., merchandise/receipts lines, e-commerce).

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5.  Can I report on a fiscal year basis?

Calendar year data are preferred. If it is not available, please report for the fiscal year that includes at least six months of data for the calendar year being requested.

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6.  How can I obtain a copy of the data my company submitted last year?

To ensure privacy, requests must be submitted online via our
Once registered and logged in, select the "Request Previously Submitted Data" menu option for the survey.

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7.  I report monthly, why can't you just sum my monthly data?

There are several reasons that monthly reporters are required to respond to the annual report:

  • The annual report collects additional data not included on the monthly report.
  • Final adjustments to monthly data may have been made after the month closed.
  • Firms not reporting monthly inventories can often provide an end of year inventory.
  • Many firms reporting on a LIFO basis only calculate their LIFO reserve data annually.

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Completing the Survey

8.  How can I compile my data before reporting online?

You can get a worksheet to compile your data before reporting online by clicking on Survey Log in, entering your user ID and password, and selecting the link under the "Worksheet" column on the main menu.

Note: If you have more than one report listed on your main menu, the worksheet may differ for each individual report.

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9.  How long will it take to complete this report?

Public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average 17-43 minutes per response, including the time for assembling data from existing records and completing the report. The burden estimate for each specific report is identified in the electronic reporting instrument.

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10.  I need more time. Can I obtain an extension?

Yes. Go to

, enter your unique user ID and password, select the 'Time Extension' button, and follow the instructions to select a new due date.

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11.  Are estimates acceptable?

Yes, carefully prepared estimates are acceptable if book figures are not readily available.

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12.  Why do you need to know if I own other firms, or if another firm owns mine?

We do not want to duplicate data if you are affiliated with other firms that may already be providing data on this report, or in one of our other Census Bureau surveys.

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13.  Can I report cost of goods sold instead of purchases?

We prefer that you provide purchases, but if you cannot, cost of goods sold is acceptable. If you use cost of goods sold, indicate this in the Remarks section in the electronic reporting instrument.

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14.  Can I be paid for completing this report?

No. The law authorizing this report (Title 13, U.S. Code) does not authorize funds for payment.

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Sample Selection

15.  How was I selected for this report?

Your firm or EIN was chosen from a scientifically selected sample of businesses. Taking a sample is less costly than contacting every business in the country. Firms or EINs selected for the sample represent other similar businesses.

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16.  I'm a very small business. Why do you want information from me?

Taken together, small businesses have a real impact on the economy. Your firm or EIN was chosen from a scientifically selected sample of businesses and represents many other small businesses like yours.

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | BHS Team |   Last Revised: April 11, 2016 08:20:31