Doing Business Overseas? You Need To Know About BE-120

Doing Business Overseas? You Need To Know About BE-120

U.S. companies that do business abroad likely will have to respond periodically to the BE-120, a survey of transactions between U.S. companies and foreign entities that is designed to provide statistical insight into the state of international trade.

The BE-120 economics survey is conducted by the statistical division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The data collected is used in the production of various economic statistics, including the U.S. trade balance and gross domestic product.

The BEA generally issues the BE-120 survey every five years. Reporting is mandatory under the International Investment and Trade in Services Survey Act for all U.S. individuals and companies that had foreign sales or purchases of certain services and intellectual property. Failure to file can result is civil and criminal penalties, including a fine up to $25,000.

The range of services and IP covered by the report are broad and include:

  • IP rights related to the use of a patent, process or trade secret, rights to reproduce or distribute books and music, rights to use trademarks, and rights to use recorded performances and events, and

  • Services related to accounting, auditing and bookkeeping, advertising, education, engineering, cloud computing, legal services, legal, health, agricultural and market research.

The amount of information that needs to be included in the survey depends on whether the amount of business meets certain dollar thresholds. Companies with more than $2 million in combined sales to foreign persons of covered intellectual property or services during 2017, and those with more than $1 million in combined purchases from foreign persons of covered intellectual property or services, are required to provide full survey responses. Companies that do not meet those thresholds are able to file abbreviated responses. The reported information is confidential and can only be used for statistical purposes.

Responses to the most recent survey, the 2017 BE-120, were due in July 2018, with an extended deadline in late September. The next survey is likely to be completed in 2023.

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