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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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1. What is the Annual Capital Expenditures Survey and why is it conducted?

The Annual Capital Expenditures Survey (ACES) provides data on the amount of business expenditures for new plant and equipment and measures of the stock of existing facilities. The data are critical to evaluate productivity growth, the ability of U.S. business to compete with foreign business, changes in industrial capacity, and measures of overall economic performance.

The government collects comprehensive and timely information about the nature and level of capital expenditures in the U.S. This information is an important component in the overall assessment of our Nation’s productivity.


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2. Is this mandatory?

Yes, your response is required by law. Title 13, U.S.C., Sections 131 and 182, authorizes this collection. Title 13 of the U.S.C. Sections 224 and 225, requires your response.

Even if the letter was mailed to your home and the business is not located at this address, the survey is applicable and must be completed.

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3. Who uses the data?

  • Industry analysts use the data for market analysis, economic forecasting, identifying business opportunities, and developing new and strategic plans. 
  • The Bureau of Economic Analysis uses the data to refine annual estimates of investment in structures and equipment in the national income and product accounts, and to improve estimates of capital stocks. 
  • The Federal Reserve Board uses the data to improve estimates of investment indicators for monetary policy. 
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics uses the data to improve estimates of capital stocks for productivity analysis. 
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services use the data for monitoring and evaluating healthcare industries. 
  • The Department of the Treasury uses the data to analyze of depreciation. 
  • Private companies, organizations, educators and students, and economic researchers use the survey results for analyzing and conducting impact evaluations on past and current economic performance, short-term economic forecasts, productivity, long-term economic growth, tax policy, capacity utilization, business fixed capital stocks and capital formation, domestic and international competitiveness trade policy, market research, and financial analysis.

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Completing the Survey

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4. What is the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)?

The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is the standard used by the federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. business economy. For additional information, please see the Census Bureau’s NAICS page.

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5. What NAICS sectors are covered in the Annual Capital Expenditures Survey?


  • Forestry, fishing, and agricultural services, (Sectors 113 – 115)
  • Mining (Sector 21)
  • Utilities (Sector 22)
  • Construction (Sector 23)
  • Manufacturing (Sectors 31 – 33)
  • Wholesale trade (Sector 42)
  • Retail trade (Sectors 44 and 45)
  • Transportation & warehousing (Sectors 48 and 49)
  • Information (Sector 51)
  • Finance and insurance (Sector 52)
  • Real estate and rental and leasing (Sector 54)
  • Professional, scientific, and technical services (Sector 54)
  • Management of companies and enterprises (Sector 55)
  • Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services (Sector 56)
  • Educational services (Sector 61)
  • Health care and social assistance (Sector 62)
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation (Sector 71)
  • Accommodation and food services (Sector 72)
  • Other services (except public administration) (Sector 81)

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

To help you prepare for online reporting, a copy of the worksheet and instructions are provided in the electronic instrument. Select the link under the “Worksheet” column and the “Instructions” column on the main menu.

(The worksheet is in Adobe PDF file format and is for informational purposes only)

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7. How long will it take to complete this survey?

Public reporting burden for the collection of information for the 2018 ACES for the ACE-1 for employer businesses is estimated to range from 2 to 16.5 hours, averaging 2.79 hours. This includes time for reviewing instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the collection of information. Collection of information for the ACE-2 for nonemployer businesses was suspended for the 2018 ACES and will resume for the 2019 ACES.

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8. When is this survey due?

The 2018 Annual Capital Expenditures Survey was mailed on April 22, 2019 and is due May 28, 2019.

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9. What if I need more time?

If you cannot complete the survey by the due date, you may obtain a time extension by signing into your Census Bureau account (or refer to your letter for instructions on how to create an account), clicking on "Options" and then "Request Extension." You may choose any date allowed in the calendar drop down.

You may also call 1-800-528-3049 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday, except holidays, and a service representative will assist you.

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10. What steps does the Census Bureau take to ensure the confidentiality of a respondent’s data?

The Census Bureau takes its commitment to confidentiality very seriously. The U.S. Census Bureau constantly pursues new procedures, technologies, and methodologies to safeguard individual data. The Census Bureau is not permitted to publicly release a respondent’s information in a way that could identify a business, organization, or institution. Per the Federal Cybersecurity Act of 2015, submitted data are protected from cybersecurity risks through screening of the systems that transmit the data.

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11. What are capital expenditures?

Capital expenditures include all expenditures during the year for both new and used structures (excluding land) and equipment chargeable to asset accounts for which depreciation amortization accounts are ordinarily maintained.

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12. What is classified as a structure?

Examples of structures include new and/or used offices, buildings, and residential real estate purchased or built for business use. Include major additions and improvements to such business structures as new structures.

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13. What is classified as equipment?

Examples of equipment include new and/or used computer hardware, software, furniture, fixtures, computers, desks, chairs, automobiles, machinery, robotic equipment, and specialized equipment for business use.

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14. How are capital leases treated in this survey?

If your company leased new structures and/or equipment and the lease is capitalized by your company, report the cost or present value of the structures and equipment acquired in the survey year. 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.

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15. How do I report capitalized computer software?

Report capital expenditures for computer software developed or acquired for internal use during the year. Capitalized computer software expenditures should consist of the cost of materials and services directly related to the development or acquisition of software; payroll and payroll related costs for employees directly associated with software development; and interest costs incurred while developing the software. Capitalized computer software is defined by the criteria in Statement of Position 98-1, Accounting for the Costs of Computer Software Developed or Obtained for Internal Use, issued by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

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16. What is classified as robotic equipment?

Robotic equipment (or robots) are automatically controlled and reprogrammable machines capable of performing a series of complex tasks autonomously or semi-autonomously.

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17. What if I am unable to provide the amount of capital investment for robotic equipment in 2018?

Estimates are acceptable. However, if you are unable to report the capital expenditures for some or all of the robotic equipment the company purchased in 2018, please explain in the remarks section of the question.

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18. How should I treat inventory for the purposes of this survey?

Purchases made exclusively for re-sale should be excluded from the survey.

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19. What should I report if the company's accounting system does not provide the data that you are requesting?

The data requested in this survey may not correspond to your company’s accounting records. If you cannot answer a question from your company records, please provide carefully prepared estimates.

If you cannot answer a question from your company records, and cannot provide carefully prepared estimates, please contact our staff at 1-800-528-3049, Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Eastern time, except holidays, and a service representative will assist you.

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20. Can I report on a fiscal year basis?

Calendar year data are preferred. If it is not available except at considerable cost, reasonable estimates are acceptable. If you cannot provide reasonable estimates on a calendar year basis, fiscal year data will be accepted. In the REPORTING PERIOD item of the survey, indicate the exact dates the data represent if they are not for the calendar year.

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21. What if a question does not apply to my business?

Enter “0” for the specific question (i.e. total capital expenditures or expenditures for new or used structures).

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22. What if I have no capital expenditures to report for the respective survey year?

Complete the survey inserting “0” in the items requesting capital expenditure information. In the Remarks section, provide a brief explanation of why you are reporting zero for capital expenditures.

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23. If my company is no longer in business, do I still have to complete this survey?

Yes, complete the survey for the period of time during the survey year that your company was in operation and provide the date that your company ceased operations. If your company was not in business at any time during the survey year, complete the ownership section of the survey and provide the date the company ceased operations. If you sold your business, you need to complete the change of ownership section of the survey and provide the new operator/company name, address and telephone number of the company that purchased it and the date of sale. Include any additional information in the Remarks section of the survey.

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24. Should capital expenditures for foreign locations be included in the survey?

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

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25. How do I report mergers and acquisitions?

Such events occurring during the period covered by this report require special attention. If your enterprise merged with or acquired another domestic enterprise during this period, include the domestic capital expenditures made by the merged or acquired enterprise since the date of acquisition; the cost to your enterprise for structures and equipment previously owned by the acquired enterprise at the time of the merger or acquisition should be reported as expenditures, only if treated as capital expenditures by your enterprise. Please furnish the date of the acquisition or merger and the name of the acquired enterprise in the Remarks section. If your enterprise was acquired by another enterprise during the period covered by this report, please furnish the acquisition date and the name and address of the acquiring enterprise in the Ownership Information section, and complete the survey for the period of time during the survey year the enterprise was in operation prior to the acquisition.

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26. If I have questions or need assistance completing the survey, who can I call?

Please refer to the instructions for possible answers to your questions that may also assist you in completing the survey. If you don't find an answer to your particular question or require further assistance, please call 1-800-528-3049 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday, except holidays, and a service representative will assist you.

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27. Can I be paid for completing this report

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

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28. When are the results of the Annual Capital Expenditures Survey published?

The Annual Capital Expenditure Survey estimates are published no later than 14 months after the reference year has concluded. Estimates for the 2017 reference year provide additional information for companies with employees by type of structure and type of equipment (i.e., machinery, furniture, and computers). Results were released in April 2019. The results are available on the Annual Capital Expenditures Survey page.

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29. What existing data can I get from the Annual Capital Expenditures Survey?

Historical data are available beginning with 1994. The data include estimates at the national level on capitalized expenditures for new and used structures and equipment by U.S. nonfarm businesses with and without employees. Data are also published by industry for companies with employees for North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) 3-digit and selected 4-digit industries. Supplemental data by types of structures and types of equipment are available for companies with employees beginning in 1998 and every five years thereafter, for years ending in "3" and "8". In 2010, it was decided that this detailed data should be collected for years ending in “2” and “7” beginning in 2013, to align with the years in which the Economic Census is conducted. All of the results are available on the Annual Capital Expenditures Survey page.

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Sample Selection

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30. What kinds of businesses were eligible to be selected for this survey?

All domestic, private, non-farm businesses, including agricultural non-farm and nonemployer businesses are eligible for selection for the survey, including but not limited to:

  • Self-employed persons (e.g., doctors, lawyers, investors, accountants)
  • Small employer companies
  • Independent contractors (truckers, private duty nurses, construction contractors
  • Independent salespersons (e.g., cosmetic representatives)
  • Independent commission workers (e.g., real estate and life insurance salespersons)
  • Normally, large companies will be selected in the sample every year, and smaller companies will be selected less frequently. In order to develop statististically reliable estimates representing the U.S. economy, it is important that you respond to this survey.

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31. What is the size of the Annual Capital Expenditures Survey sample?

The size of the Annual Capital Expenditures Survey sample is approximately 50,000 businesses with 1 or more paid employees and 20,000 businesses with no paid employees. Collection of information for the nonemployer businesses was suspended for the 2018 ACES and will resume for the 2019 ACES.

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32. 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.

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33. I am a very small business. Why am I being asked to complete this survey?

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. Reasonable estimates are acceptable.

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Electronic Reporting

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34. Besides reporting on the internet, are there other ways to report?

The U.S. Census Bureau is streamlining operations to conserve taxpayer time and money. This includes moving from paper-based data collection operations to online-based data collection operations.

To help you prepare for online reporting, a copy of the worksheet and instructions are provided in the electronic instrument. Select the link under the “Worksheet” column and the “Instructions” column on the main menu.

(The worksheet is in Adobe PDF file format and is for informational purposes only)

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35. How do I navigate between items?

You can use the "Next” or the "Previous" buttons to navigate to items immediately following and preceding the current item you are viewing.  You can also navigate to other items by selecting the Review Your Responses page and select the section to return to that page.

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36. Are all TOTAL fields automatically calculated?

Most totals are automatically calculated, but you should always check automatically calculated totals to ensure the accuracy of data. Some totals are not automatically calculated, and the totals for those fields should also be completed along with the details.

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37. Why did my TOTALS stop automatically calculating?

If total fields on an item previously automatically calculated, and the totals have stopped calculating, the online survey's built-in calculation has stopped working because of navigation between pages. Please continue to report the required data by manually calculating the total fields.

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38. How do I submit my survey?

Once the survey is completed without errors, you can submit your responses.

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39. How can I get a copy of my responses once I have completed the survey online?

Once you have submitted your responses, the electronic instrument prompts you to a screen where you can print a copy of your responses for your records.

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40. Can I make a correction after I have already completed the survey online?

Yes. Log in as you did the first time and make changes, once completed and submitted, your new changes will override the prior one.

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41. How do I know you received my data?

The Census Bureau updates your filing status 24 hours after you submit your data.  You may check your filing status by signing into your Census Bureau account, clicking on "Options" and then "Filing Status" or by calling 1-800-528-3049 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday, except holidays, and a service representative will assist you.

Information for Respondents

If we are asking you to respond to a survey, here you will find helpful links to letters, materials, FAQs, and contact information.


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42. Why does the website not display correctly?

Some pages of the survey might not display correctly in some browsers. It is recommended that the online survey be completed in Mozilla Firefox 1.5.0.7 (or above) or Microsoft Internet Explorer 8.0 (or above). Display issues may occur in other browsers.

It is also recommended that Compatibility View is not selected in Microsoft Internet Explorer while completing the online survey. To turn off Compatibility View, select Tools from your browser's menu bar and uncheck Compatibility View.

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