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The glossary below may define terms not included in the main Glossary on

The main Glossary on provides official definitions covering all topics, censuses, surveys and programs.

In this Section:

  1. Agents and Brokers
  2. All Other Operating Expenses
  3. Annual Payroll
  4. Annual Wholesale Trade Survey (AWTS)
  5. Auxiliary Facilities
  6. Bonded Warehouses
  7. Business Master File (BMF)
  8. Calendar Month Reporter
  9. Capitalized Expenses
  10. Commissions
  11. Confidentiality
  12. Contract Temporary Staff and Leased Employee Expense
  13. Cost of Goods Sold
  14. Data Month
  15. Data Processing and Other Purchased Computer Services
  16. Depreciation and Amortization Charges
  17. Disclosure Avoidance
  18. Distributor
  19. Drop Ship
  20. E-Commerce
  21. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
  22. Employer's Cost for Fringe Benefits
  23. Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  24. Establishment
  25. Expensed Equipment
  26. Expensed Purchases of Software
  27. Expenses
  28. Firm
  29. Foreign Trade Zones
  30. Governmental Taxes and License Fees
  31. Gross Margin
  32. Imports
  33. Imputation
  34. Interest Expense
  35. Inventories
  36. Inventories to Sales Ratios
  37. Kind of Business (KB)
  38. Lease and Rental Payments for Land, Buildings, Structures, Store Space and Offices
  39. Lease and Rental Payments for Machinery, Equipment, and Other Tangible Items
  40. Manufacturers
  41. Manufacturers' Sales Branches and Offices
  42. Merchant Wholesalers
  43. Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey (MWTS)
  44. Multi-Unit Firms
  45. Noncertainty Firms
  46. Non-Merchant Wholesalers
  47. Operating Expenses
  48. Previous Month
  49. Privacy Act
  50. Purchased Advertising and Promotional Services
  51. Purchased Communication Services
  52. Purchased Electricity
  53. Purchased Fuels (Except Motor Fuels)
  54. Purchased Packaging and Containers
  55. Purchased Professional and Technical Services
  56. Purchased Repairs and Maintenance to Buildings, Structures, and Offices
  57. Purchased Repairs and Maintenance to Machinery and Equipment
  58. Purchased Transportation, Shipping, and Warehousing Services
  59. Purchases of Other Materials, Parts, and Supplies (Not for Resale)
  60. Reactivation
  61. Reporting Unit
  62. Sales Tax
  63. Sample
  64. Sampling Unit
  65. Sampling Weight
  66. Title 13
  67. Title 26
  68. Total Operating Expenses
  69. Trade Area
  70. Water, Sewer, Refuse Removal and Other Utility Payments
  71. Weight
  72. Wholesaler

Agents and Brokers

Persons or organizations that act as a representative for others in negotiating contracts, purchases, or sales. Agents and brokers typically earn a commission or fee for their services and do not take possession of, or title to, any goods.

All Other Operating Expenses

Operating expenses not reported elsewhere, such as bank card charges, motor fuel, and travel expense. Excluded are purchase of products for resale (cost of goods sold); bad debt; transfers made within the company; capitalized expenses; interest; impairment; income, sales, and excise taxes; and other non-operating expenses.

Annual Payroll

The gross earnings of all employees paid during the calendar year (cash basis). It includes all forms of compensation, such as salaries, wages, commissions, dismissal pay, bonuses, vacation and sick leave pay, and compensation in kind, prior to such deductions as employees' social security contributions, withholding taxes, group insurance, union dues, and savings bonds. The total includes salaries of officers of corporations; it excludes payments to proprietors or partners of unincorporated concerns. The Census definition of payroll is identical to that recommended to all Federal statistical agencies by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, in particular, the definition used on the Employer's Quarterly Federal Tax Return, Treasury Form 941. This definition does not include employers' social security contributions or other nonpayroll labor costs, such as employees' pension plans, group insurance premiums, and workers' compensation. Data presented on annual payroll are sample-based and include payroll of enterprise support locations, such as retail warehouses and central administrative offices, and thus may not match payroll data compiled in the 2012 Economic Census.

Annual Wholesale Trade Survey (AWTS)

A mandatory annual survey which collects sales and inventory data from the major components of wholesale trade: Agents and Brokers, Distributors, Manufacturers’ Sales Branches and Offices, Importers and Exporters.

Auxiliary Facilities

Also known as enterprise support units of a reporting company, these are primarily engaged in furnishing supporting services to the company's operating units, such as warehouses, central administrative offices, garages, and repair services.

Bonded Warehouses

Warehouses that are authorized by the United States Customs for storage or manufacturing of goods on which payment of duties is deferred until the goods are removed into Customs Territory. These goods are not subject to duties if reshipped to foreign points.

Business Master File (BMF)

The Business Master file is a database of information maintained on businesses operating in the United States and filing taxes. The IRS updates the BMF on a regular basis so that it reflects current records of each business that pays taxes. The BMF is used to supplement the Census Bureau's business register.

Calendar Month Reporter

A firm that closes their books on the last day of each month, or on the same date each month (e.g., the 28th).

Capitalized Expenses

Also known as capital expenditures, this includes 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. Also included are capitalized leasehold improvements and capitalized interest charges on loans used to finance capital projects.


Commissions paid to other firms or independent contractors, including payments by wholesalers to other firms for commissioned sale of merchandise. This item excludes commissions paid to the firm's own employees (included in payroll) and commissions paid by wholesale agents and brokers.


Title 13 of the United States Code authorizes the Census Bureau to conduct censuses and surveys. Section 9 of the same Title requires that any information collected from the public under the authority of Title 13 be maintained as confidential. Section 214 of Title 13 and Sections 3559 and 3571 of Title 18 of the United States Code provide for the imposition of penalties of up to 5 years in prison and/or up to $250,000 in fines for wrongful disclosure of confidential census information. In accordance with Title 13, no estimates are published that would disclose the operations of an individual firm.

The Census Bureau's Internal Disclosure Review board sets the confidentiality rules for all data releases. A checklist approach is used to ensure that all potential risks to the confidentiality of the data are considered and addressed.

Contract Temporary Staff and Leased Employee Expense

Payments to other firms for the contractual use of their employees. These employees are supplied by other firms to perform specific jobs, and include temporary help and leased employees. Day-to-day supervision is provided by the purchasing firm. For example, contractual costs for security and janitorial personnel are excluded if supervised by the supplying firms, but are included in data compiled on other operating expenses.

Cost of Goods Sold

Beginning inventory plus purchases of goods for resale minus ending inventory.

Data Month

The month for which data are being requested.

Data Processing and Other Purchased Computer Services

Computer facilities management services, computer input preparation, data storage, computer time rental, optical scanning services, and other computer-related advice and services, including training

Depreciation and Amortization Charges

Depreciation charged against tangible assets owned and used by a firm, tangible assets and improvements owned by a firm within leaseholds, and tangible assets obtained through capital lease agreements. This item also includes amortization charges against intangible assets (i.e., goodwill, patents, copyrights, etc.). Excluded from this item is accumulated depreciation.

Disclosure Avoidance

The process by which the Census Bureau protects individual establishments or business organizations' information from being published in a report or being determined based on a publication. This is done in accordance with federal law.


A wholesaler that buys and owns (takes title to) products prior to reselling them to its customers.

Drop Ship

When a manufacturer drops a shipment off at a customer's site, although a retailer makes the sale.


The sale of goods and services where the buyer places an order, or the price and terms of the sale are negotiated over an Electronic Data Interchange, the Internet, or any other online system (extranet, e-mail, instant messaging). Payment may or may not be made online.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)

This is the structured transmission of data between organizations by electronic means. It is used to transfer electronic documents or business data from one computer system to another computer system, i.e. from one trading partner to another trading partner without human intervention.

Employer's Cost for Fringe Benefits

Expenditures made by the employer for legally required and voluntary fringe benefit programs for employees. Legally required fringe benefits includes all programs required under Federal and State legislation such as FICA, unemployment tax, workers' compensation, and state disability payments. Voluntary fringe benefits include programs not specifically required by Federal or State legislation, such as life and health insurance premiums for employees; costs incurred under defined contribution plans such as profit sharing; and costs incurred for both qualified and unqualified defined pension plans.

Employer Identification Number (EIN)

A nine-digit number used to report payroll information to the Internal Revenue Service on Employer's Quarterly Tax Return, Treasury Form 941, and the Annual Tax Return, Treasury Form 944. The law requires firms with paid employees to make contributions to the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA). Employer identification numbers are grouped as follows: 00-0000000 with the first two digits identifying the state in which the firm is located. Employer identification numbers should not be confused with Social Security Numbers assigned to individual employees or self-employed persons. The latter are grouped as follows: 000-00-0000.


A single physical location where business is conducted, or where services are performed.

Expensed Purchases of Software

Purchases of prepackaged, custom coded, or vendor customized software including software developed or customized by others, web design services and purchases, licensing agreements, upgrades of software; and maintenance fees related to software upgrades and alterations.

Expensed Equipment

Expensed computer hardware and other equipment (e.g., copiers, fax machines, telephones, shop and lab equipment, CPU's, and monitors). Excluded are expenditures for capitalized equipment; for software expenses; for leased and rented equipment; and depreciation for capitalized equipment.



A business organization or entity consisting of one or more domestic establishment locations under common ownership or control.

Foreign Trade Zones

Enclosed areas, operated as public utilities, under control of United States Customs with facilities for handling, storing, manipulating, manufacturing, and exhibiting goods. The merchandise may be exported, destroyed, or sent into Customs Territory from the zone in the original package or otherwise. It is subject to Customs duties if sent into Customs Territory, but not if reshipped to foreign points.

Governmental Taxes and License Fees

Payments to governmental agencies for taxes and licenses, business and property taxes and excludes income taxes, and sales and excise taxes collected from customers.

Gross Margin

The measure of gross margin represents total sales less cost of goods sold.


Commodities of foreign origin or domestically produced goods that are returned to the United States with no change in condition or after having been processed and/or assembled in other countries.


The process used to resolve problems of missing, invalid, or inconsistent responses identified during editing. Responses or missing values on the edited record are changed to ensure that a plausible, internally coherent record is created.

Interest Expense

Interest expense incurred in the financing of operations and long lived assets used in continuing operations, and excludes transfers made within the company and capitalized interest. For kinds of business covered in this survey, interest is not considered a type of operating expense.


The value, at cost, of merchandise on hand and available for sale at the end of the reference month. All goods owned by a firm, regardless of location, except goods outside the United States are included. Items not held for resale, such as fixtures, equipment, and supplies are excluded. Also excluded is the value of goods on a firm's premises but not owned by the firm.

Inventories to Sales Ratios (I/S Ratios)

A ratio derived from dividing the dollar value of inventories by the dollar value of sales. No adjustment is made in these ratios for the markup in sales, which may vary from trade to trade.

Kind of Business (KB)

The principal kind of business being conducted at an establishment.

Lease and Rental Payments for Land, Buildings, Structures, Store Space and Offices

Payments made to other companies for the rental or leasing of land, buildings, offices and related structures and includes penalties incurred for broken leases.

Lease and Rental Payments for Machinery, Equipment, and Other Tangible Items

Payments made to other companies for the rental or leasing of machinery and equipment. Costs for the rental and leasing of computer software are excluded.


Establishments in the manufacturing sector are often described as plants, factories, or mills, and characteristically use power-driven machines and material-handling equipment. Manufacturing establishments may process materials, or may contract with other establishments to process their materials for them. Both types of establishments are included in manufacturing.

Manufacturers' Sales Branches and Offices (MSBOs)

Establishments maintained by manufacturing, refining, or mining enterprises apart from their plants or mines for the purpose of marketing their products. Sales branches will typically carry inventories, while sales offices typically do not.

Merchant Wholesalers

Wholesalers who sell goods on their own account such as distributors, jobbers, drop shippers, import/export merchants, and manufacturers’ sales branches and offices (MSBOs).

Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey (MWTS)

Provides month-to-month trends for sales and inventories of U.S. merchant wholesalers, excluding manufacturers' sales branches and offices (MSBOs). MWTS is one of the Principal Economic Indicators defined by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The U.S. Census Bureau releases 13 Principal Economic Indicators on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Multi-Unit Firms

Firms with two or more establishments.

Noncertainty Firms

Small or medium-sized EIN firms (in terms of sales, receipts, or inventories) selected for the current business sample.

Non-Merchant Wholesalers

Wholesalers that are defined as Agents and Brokers.

Previous Month

The month that precedes the data month.

Privacy Act

A 1974 act that places restrictions on the collection, use, maintenance, and release of information about individuals. It gives individuals the right to see records about themselves, to obtain copies of their records, to have records corrected or amended with Census Bureau approval, and to have a statement of disagreement filed in their records if the Census Bureau does not approve the correction or amendment.

Purchased Advertising and Promotional Services

Cost of purchases of advertising, marketing and public relations services.

Purchased Communication Services

Cost of purchased telephone, cellular, and fax services; computer-related communications (e.g., Internet, connectivity, online); and other wired and wireless communication services.

Purchased Electricity

Cost of electricity paid directly to the utility company and excludes the cost of electricity within lease or rental payments.

Purchased Fuels (Except Motor Fuels)

Cost of fuels for heating, power, or generation of electricity. It does not include fuel for motor vehicles. It excludes the cost of fuel within lease or rental payments.

Purchased Packaging and Containers

Purchases of containers, wrapping, packing and selling supplies used in packaging, processing, shipping, and selling of goods.

Purchased Professional and Technical Services

Management consulting, accounting, auditing, bookkeeping, legal, actuarial, payroll processing, architectural, engineering, and other professional services. This excludes salaries paid to a firm's own employees for these services.

Purchased Repairs and Maintenance to Buildings, Structures, and Offices

Noncapitalized repairs of and maintenance to buildings, structures, storefronts, and offices. Extensive repairs or reconstruction that were capitalized are considered capital expenditures and are, therefore, excluded from this item. Costs for repair and maintenance provided by an owner as part of a rental contract or incurred directly by an establishment in using its own work force are also excluded.

Purchased Repairs and Maintenance to Machinery and Equipment

Cost of all non-capitalized repairs and maintenance to machinery and equipment.

Purchased Transportation, Shipping, and Warehousing Services

Cost of purchased postage, shipping or delivery services, or warehousing storage. Also included is the cost of purchased transportation services.

Purchases of Other Materials, Parts, and Supplies (Not for Resale)

Cost of other supplies, materials and parts purchased for a firm's own use. This item excludes computer supplies (and packaging supplies purchased by wholesalers and retailers), and the cost of goods purchased for resale.


A selected EIN, which has been previously identified as Business Master File (BMF) inactive and dropped from a current business survey, and is now active based on BMF records. In most cases, reactivations occur when a firm resumes business under an EIN, which was previously identified as BMF inactive.

Reporting Unit

Subsidiaries, divisions or other operating units of the EIN or company sampling unit separately identified on the database for purposes of collecting data from each individual part. If all data for a sampling unit are obtained from one location, the sampling and reporting unit records are equivalent.

Sales Tax

A tax collected directly from customers by wholesalers when they make taxable wholesale sales. Sales taxes could include state, county and local taxes. Sales taxes exclude excise taxes.


All firms selected for a specific survey.

Sampling Unit

A business or entity that was selected to participate in the survey.

Sampling Weight

The reciprocal of the probability of selection of a sampling unit into its respective sample. The weight indicates the approximate number of firms in the business universe represented by the selected firms. Reporting units and tabulation units assume the weight of their sampling units. For example, an EIN number selected with a weight of 21, represents itself and 20 similar businesses (in terms of industry and size) in the survey's universe.

Title 13

Title 13 is the legal authority for the Census Bureau's programs. The Census Bureau's authority is founded on the United States Constitution and Title 13. The data collected by the Census Bureau, the leading source of quality data about the nation's economy and people, provide for the foundation on which our democratic system of government is based. To fulfill its mission, the Census Bureau must collect quality data and distribute it in a way that preserves usefulness while protecting privacy and confidentiality.

Title 26

Title 26 Internal Revenue Code provides for the conditions under which the Internal Revenue Service may disclose Federal Tax Returns and Return Information (FTI) to other agencies. Specifically, 26, U.S.C. 6103 (j) (1) provides for the disclosure of FTI to the Census Bureau for statistical purposes in the structuring of censuses and national economic accounts, as well as for conducting related statistical activities authorized by law.

Total Operating Expenses

Trade Area

The broad band of business groupings - retail trade, wholesale trade, and service industries.

Water, Sewer, Refuse Removal and Other Utility Payments

Cost of purchased services for water, sewage, trash, and utilities not included elsewhere. It excludes costs covered within lease and rental payments.


The weight indicates the approximate number of firms in the survey's universe represented by the selected firm. For example, an EIN selected with a weight of 21.000 represents itself and 20 similar businesses (in terms of kind of business (KB) and size) in the survey's universe.


A business that sells to retailers, contractors, or other types of businesses (including farms), but not to the general public (or at least not in any significant amount).

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