BEA data are collected in two types of surveys: 

  • Benchmark surveys (or censuses), which are currently conducted every 5 years, are the most comprehensive surveys in two respects: (a) They cover the entire survey universe, and (b) they include more data items than are collected in the other surveys.
  • In addition to the benchmark surveys, BEA conducts quarterly and annual sample surveys.  In the sample surveys, reports are not required for small affiliates to reduce the reporting burden on the U.S. companies that must file. Instead, BEA estimates the data for these affiliates by extrapolating forward their data from the most recent benchmark survey based on the movement of the sample data. Thus, coverage of the U.S.-MNE universe is complete in non-benchmark, as well as benchmark, periods.

In benchmark survey years, survey questions may be added or dropped to better meet customer needs or to reduce the burden on survey respondents.  Input from the academic community is solicited in the benchmark survey planning process.