U.S. Department of Commerce

Information & Communication Technology Survey

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


1. Am I required to complete this survey?

Title 13 of the United States Code requires you to answer this survey, and it also requires us to keep your responses confidential. The data you supply are used solely for developing summary statistics. Further, copies retained in your files are immune from legal process.


2. Why did I receive this survey?

This survey is sent to a sample of non-farm companies, organizations, and associations operating within the United States. Normally, large companies will be selected in the sample every year. In order to develop statistically reliable estimates representing the U.S. economy, it is important that you respond to this survey.


3. When is this survey due?

The ICT survey is mailed out each year during the month of March, and responses are due within 30 days. If you cannot complete the survey by the due date, you may request an extension of time using the Self-Service option on the Business Help Site or by contacting the Department of Commerce at 1-800-528-3049.


4. Where can I get additional information, or if I have questions, who do I call?

If you are having problems completing this survey please refer to the instructions for assistance. If the instructions do not resolve your problem, please contact the Department of Commerce at 1-800-227-1735.


5. Why is this information collected?

The data collected in the expensed Information and Communication Technology supplement to the Annual Capital Expenditures Survey is designed to capture investment figures related to technology that fall below a company’s capitalization threshold. The data will be used to assess future productivity and economic growth prospects as well as provide data to improve capital stock estimates, capital flow tables, and permit the reconciliation of important differences between reported production and consumption of technology.


6. Are these FAQs a substitution for the instructions?

No. The instructions contain many points to assist in correctly completing the ICT survey. This FAQ section is to be used as a reference to assist you in completing the survey.


7. I am a non-profit (501 C-3) firm, do I have to complete this survey?

Yes. In order to produce investment statistics representative of the entire economy, we sample all non-farm businesses, organizations, and associations across all sectors of the US economy regardless of their tax status. Reasonable estimates are acceptable.


8. What is the difference between an expensed item and a capitalized item?

Capital items include all expenditures during the year for both new and used structures and equipment chargeable to asset accounts for which depreciation or amortization accounts are ordinarily maintained. Expensed items are immediately written off and charged to expense accounts as incurred. No depreciation or amortization accounts are maintained for expensed item.


9. What should I report?

This survey collects expensed figures related to information and communication technology. Please report the expensed ICT items for the four categories. Include assets with short useful lives, assets that fall below a firm’s capitalization threshold, and expenses that are directly associated with software development.

  • Capital Expenditures by Type of Equipment reported in Item 2, Column 810: rows 311, 313, 316 and 318 on the ICTS form should be included as Capital Expenditures for Equipment in Item 2 on the ACES form.
  • Capitalized Purchases and Payroll for Developing Software (Item 3, Column 810, Row 318) – the total reported for all industries in which your company operates should equal the total reported in Capitalized Computer Software (Item 5, Row 50) of the ACES form.

10. Should I include inventories?

No. Purchases made specifically for re-sale should be excluded from this survey.


11. My company does not track ICT expenses by the categories requested; how do I complete the survey?

Not all companies will use the exact breakdowns that appear on the ICT survey to classify expenses. To generate accurate estimates of the expensed figures for this survey it may be necessary to gather data from detailed expense accounts or vendor invoices. Reasonable estimates are permissible and should be utilized when exact figures are not available.


12. I am not able to split my expenses between Computer Equipment (311) and Information and Communication Equipment (313). How should I complete this survey?

If your records are not kept in a way that allows you to break out these categories in a precise manner, reasonable estimates are permissible.


13. Not all expense categories apply to my company, why are they included?

The ICT survey collects information from companies across all non-farm sectors of the economy. Some of the categories in the ICT survey may not be relevant to your business. Do not hesitate to place a zero in the appropriate box and continue with the survey.


14. Should expenditures for foreign locations be included on this survey?

No. This survey only tracks the spending of companies operating in the U.S.


15. Where are copy machines included on this survey?

Copy machines with multiple capabilities (i.e. copy, print, fax etc.) should be reported as ICT equipment (depending on the function it performs). If the copy machine only makes copies, please omit it from your figures.


16. Are the lists of equipment and software intended to be all-inclusive?

No. The list of items to include on the ICT survey is not all-inclusive and should be viewed as examples. If you have an asset you believe should be included, please report it in your figures.


17. Should any asset be reported twice on the ICT survey?

No. All items should only be reported once on the ICT survey.


18. Where do maintenance/service contracts go on this survey?

Exclude all maintenance/service contracts except software maintenance fees. Maintenance/service contracts should only be included on the ICT survey if they pertain to the maintenance of software. In such cases, maintenance/service contracts should be reported in the Licensing and Software Service/Maintenance column.


19. What if maintenance contracts are included in the asset’s purchase price?

If a maintenance contract is included in the asset purchase price and cannot be excluded, please try to subtract the value of the maintenance contract from your reported figure. (**Please refer to the previous question for software maintenance contracts**)


20. What is the difference between a capital lease and an operating lease?

An operating lease is an agreement to use an asset without the implied transfer of ownership or the ability to depreciate the asset. By definition most rental agreements are operating leases. Include all operating lease and rental payments relating to equipment. Capital leases presume a sale and purchase of an asset, and are defined by the criteria in the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) Number 13. Do not include capital leases on the ICT survey.


21. How should a multi-year operating lease be reported on the survey?

For multi-year operating leases, report only the amount paid during the survey year.


22. What does “loaded” payroll for software development mean?

Loaded payroll for software development consists of the value paid to programmers in salary, wages, benefits, and bonuses. The term payroll has nothing to do with “firm payroll,” “office payroll,” or “payroll software.” Here, payroll refers only to compensation paid to those employees responsible for creating software.


23. What should be included in the software section?

  • A) Any retail software purchased as a finished product;
  • B) Any software that is purchased and then altered to conform to a company’s needs by a vendor, someone within your company, or a third-party;
  • C) Any software created from scratch in your company for internal use;
  • D) Any software that is custom made for your firm by someone outside your company;
  • E) Any license fee that is paid to use an individual piece of software or a multiple- seat license;
  • F) Any maintenance contract that pertains directly to the maintenance of any of the above software examples;
  • G) All Server software.

24. My company had software development expenses; however, a final product was never used internally or marketed. Should software expenses be reported if no final product is created?

Yes. All software expenses should be included, even if the final product is never used or marketed.


25. How should I report expenses for an computer operating system?

The initial price paid for the operating system should be included in the non-capitalized purchase and payroll for developing software section if it was not capitalized at the time of purchase (only report if purchase was made in the survey year). Any additional licensing fees (whether annual or on a “per seat” basis) should be included in the licensing and software service/maintenance agreements section.


26. I have a program that is updated annually (example: Turbo Tax TM) how should I account for this software?

If the original purchase of the software was not capitalized it should be reported on the non-capitalized purchase and payroll for developing software section. Each annual upgrade or payment should be reported in the licensing and software service/maintenance agreements section. If you pay a subscription fee to an online software service, but never pay an actual initial payment, report all payments made during the period covered by this report in the licensing and software service/maintenance agreements section.


27. How should I report server software (could also be considered “back office” software)?

Server software should be reported like any other software. If the server is used for multiple industries, please report the software in the industry that uses it a majority of the time (estimates are acceptable).


28. Besides reporting on the Internet, are there any other ways to report?

Yes, you also have the option of completing a printed form. If you want a paper copy of your survey, please log in with the User ID and Password printed on the letter you received and click view/print form as PDF.

Please Note: The easiest method is to report using the Internet.


Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Information and Communication Technology | (301) 763-3324 |  Last Revised: March 26, 2014