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Dilemma that's Not Really a Dilemma

When businesses get US Census surveys, they are not the happy smiling documents one gets as an individual.  Stamped all over it is "Your Response Is Required By Law" and when filling it out, one has the suspicion that he is facilitating his own doom by providing government weenies the data ammunition they need to tax or regulate us more. 

The survey asks for total revenues and costs and payrolls cut a bunch of different ways, and takes about 1-2 hours to fill out if one is trying to be accurate.  However, I looked at the survey closer this year and  I noticed that this seven-page survey is for an individual business location

I have nearly 200 campgrounds and other recreational sites.  One of the tricks of our business is we have learned to operate a lot of small dispersed sites in a cost-effective manner.  But now it turns out that to be strictly compliant with the census process, I need to fill out all of this information for each of these sites.  In other words, rather than spend 1-2 hours (the feds say it should take an hour) on one summary report, in fact what I am technically legally supposed to do is fill out two hundred such reports, at a cost of at least 200 hours of my time.  That is 10% of a standard man-year.

So -- do I do it the "right" at the cost of 200 hours of my time or do I do it the way I did it last year?  I won't give my actual answer, which I think the post title telegraphs fairly well, but you can think about yours  (yes, Travis, I know, more rope).

Posted on January 23, 2008 at 11:04 AM | Permalink


I got surveys from the Feds and the state this year.
A response to Utah isn't required by law, so I put it
off until the third one came in the mail.
Luckily, I have only one employee and one location.
It still felt like a big waste of time.

Posted by: steep | Jan 23, 2008 11:54:11 AM

Well your going to have a hard time claiming ignorance now.

Posted by: DJB | Jan 23, 2008 1:00:08 PM

The last time I was in your position, I remember the response was required by law but the penalty for not responding was like $25 or so. Unless that penalty has changed, there's no point.

Posted by: Tom Kelly | Jan 23, 2008 4:00:58 PM

I filled mine out the day it came in the mail. As I was sealing the envelope, I noticed it required 2007 financial data. I continued to seal the envelope and then let it sit on my desk until after the new year. Off it went with my best estimates, 10 minutes tops.

Posted by: Mike | Jan 23, 2008 9:45:39 PM

I will tell you the same thing I said last year. When ever I got those requests from the feds I used to write back a little nasty-gram for the schlep that openened the envelopes, I never answered a single question. I never heard back different. But I suggest that if you are worried about it, do what the government does. Make sure your response is laughably incompentent, that should take all of five minutes...

Posted by: tim allen | Jan 23, 2008 10:38:57 PM

I believe that at even at an individual level, the only thing required is a count (not the vast array of personal data they ask for) of the people in the house (and that only on the actual 10-year census, not the every 5-year thing they try to do). They will try to harass you (that is certainly one thing government does do well) but basically they are banking on most people getting scared.

Posted by: CRC | Jan 26, 2008 9:57:01 PM

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