Annual Capital Expenditures Survey

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The Annual Capital Expenditures Survey (ACES) is part of a comprehensive program designed to provide more detailed and timely information on capital investment in structures and equipment by nonfarm businesses. The data are used to improve the quality of current economic indicators of business investments, as well as the quarterly estimates of gross domestic product. The data also provide facts about trends in capital expenditures useful for identifying business opportunities, product development, and business planning.


Funding for the survey was first provided by Congress in fiscal year 1991. At that time, the U.S. Census Bureau developed and conducted a feasibility survey to collect 1991 data from a sample of approximately 4,400 nonfarm companies. The purpose was to test the clarity of questions and instructions, and to determine the ability of companies to report the requested data. The results of that survey were incorporated into a small test survey to collect 1992 data from a sample of 11,200 nonfarm companies. The purpose here was to further evaluate the survey content, refine the survey forms and instructions, and test the sufficiency of the sample. Selected results of this survey were published in May 1994.

After evaluating the 1992 survey results, it was determined that the annual collection of detailed expenditures on the types of structures and equipment purchased was overly burdensome for respondents. Consequently, a 5-year survey plan was developed beginning with the data collection for the 1993 ACES. The 5-year cycle included conducting annually a basic survey that collects total capital expenditures for new and used structures and equipment from companies with five employees or more and biannually a survey of businesses with fewer than five employees, including those with no employees. Detailed information on types of structures and equipment would be collected once during the 5-year cycle with structures information collected in 1994 and equipment in 1996.

A proposal to further revise this plan was approved by the Office of Management and Budget beginning with the 1996 survey. The new plan included a mail sample of all small businesses annually to provide an improved time series estimate of total and new capital expenditures by all companies. Additionally, detailed information on types of structures and equipment would be collected in the 1998 survey from companies with employees and every 5 years thereafter or as determined by the 1998 survey results.

The 2011 estimates are calculated using data collected from a sample of 46,408 companies with employees and 30,000 businesses without employees. The sample frame for companies with employees was about than 5.7 million, and 29.0 million for companies without employees. For those companies with employees, capital expenditures data are published for 132 industries. In addition, total capital expenditures, with no industry detail, are shown for the businesses without employees.


Beginning with the 2004 ACES, industry categories used in the survey were comprised primarily of three-digit and selected four-digit industries from the 2002 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Industry combinations were developed through consultation with data users. In addition, a category was provided for structures and equipment expenditures serving multiple industries; for example, headquarters, regional offices, and central research laboratories.

In 2007, an updated edition of the NAICS was released. 2009 was the first year that industries were sampled and asked to report using this modified system.


Four survey forms (ACE-1(S), ACE-1(M), ACE-1(L), and ACE-2) were used for the 2011 ACES. The ACE-1(S), ACE- 1(M), and ACE-1(L) survey forms were mailed to a sample of 46,408 companies with employees. Recipients of these survey forms were requested to provide capital expenditures data for each industry in which they had activity and to classify these expenditures as new and used structures and equipment.

New structures and equipment include expenditures for new buildings and other structures, structures that have been previously owned but neither used nor occupied, new machinery and equipment, and other new depreciable assets. Used structures and equipment include expenditures for buildings and other structures which have been previously owned and occupied, secondhand machinery and equipment, and other used depreciable assets. In addition, these companies were asked to report new structures and equipment acquired under capital lease arrangements entered into during the survey year.

The ACE-2 survey form was mailed to a sample of 30,000 businesses without employees. Capital expenditures data were requested separately for new and used structures and equipment. (Examples of ACE-1(S), ACE-1(M), ACE-1(L), and ACE-2 survey forms are in Survey Forms and Instructions.)


In accordance with federal law governing Census Bureau reports (Title 13 of the United States Code), no data are published that would disclose the identity or operations of companies providing information. When the estimate for a specific data item cannot be shown without disclosing information for individual companies, the publication of that data item is suppressed. The process of suppression does not change the overall totals, so the integrity of the data is not adversely affected.


The following abbreviations and symbols are used in this publication:

– Represents zero.
D Withheld to avoid disclosing data for individual companies, data are included in higher level totals.
NA Not available.
NS Not statistically significant.
X Not applicable.
Z Less than half of unit shown.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Annual Capital Expenditures | (301) 763-3324 |  Last Revised: February 12, 2013