After Six Years, Legal Obstacles Continue To Restrict Government Use of the Standard Statistical Establishment List

GGD-79-17: Published: May 25, 1979. Publicly Released: May 25, 1979.

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The Standard Statistical Establishment List (SSEL) maintained by the Bureau of the Census is a computerized file of information on 5.5 million U.S. corporations, partnerships, sole proprietorships, and other businesses which have employees.

The need for a centralized sampling list of businesses has been recognized since 1937. Three attempts to establish such a list have been made, and the third, in 1968, has been successful to the extent that the SSEL is being used within the Census Bureau. By using the SSEL for economic surveys, the Bureau has lowered costs and improved the quality of collected data. Although the SSEL would greatly benefit the data collection by other agencies and increase the efficiency of federal statistical information collection, Census Bureau and Income Tax confidentiality laws prevent its use by other agencies. Since 1972, efforts have been underway to draft and submit legislation to Congress to amend the Census law and permit other agencies access to the SSEL. However, after 6 years, no proposals have been forwarded to Congress.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Administration has not submitted a legislative proposal to amend the Internal Revenue Code and title 13. The Department of Treasury is opposed to sharing tax data, which is the major source of data for the SSEL, beyond its current level. The appropriate congressional committees have also not taken action because of Treasury's opposition.

    Matter: Congress should consider legislation to amend section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, as amended, and title 13 of the United States Code to allow the Census Bureau to provide SSEL information to federal and state cooperative agencies for statistical purposes.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should direct the Census Bureau and the Office of Federal Statistical Policy and Standards to improve SSEL implementation planning by preparing cost estimates, holding technical meetings with future user agencies, exploring monitoring options to ensure SSEL confidentiality, and collaborating with the Department of Agriculture to develop plans for the farm portion of the SSEL.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should direct the Office of Federal Statistical Policy and Standards to establish a priority date for submitting to Congress the proposed legislative changes and should add a provision to this legislation requiring consent of a company or establishment if information gathered in surveys or other statistical undertakings which draw samples from the SSEL is to be used in a manner other than specified in the legislative draft.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

 

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