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VERIFY: Yes, it's illegal if you don't respond to the 2020 Census. Here are the penalties you can face

There are a lot of questions about the upcoming 2020 Census. Like, what happens if you don't respond to the survey? The Verify team got answers.


Is it against the law to not respond the Census Bureau surveys?




  • U.S. Census Bureau Public Information Officer 
  • 2020census.gov
  • U.S. Code 224


A viewer said he got some letters from the Census Bureau addressed to "resident." The letter wants a lot of information from him and warns if he doesn't respond, he'll be breaking the law.

So the viewer asked, is it really against the law to ignore Census Bureau questionnaires?

For this answer we turned to the Census Bureau, and to the agency's website, 2020census.gov.

By law, all Americans must answer U.S. Census Bureau surveys. Answering the surveys is important because the data is used to determine how many seats each state has in the House of Representatives, and how much federal money will be distributed to local communities.

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If you don't respond, you can expect the Census Bureau to follow up in person to collect the information they need. 

You can also face penalties of up to $5,000 for not reporting or answering the questionnaire according to census law under U.S. Code section 224. You can also be hit with penalty of $10,000 for purposefully providing false information.

So we verified, yes, if you receive a Census Bureau questionnaire and refuse to answer it, yo're breaking the law and can face hefty penalties.

RELATED: VERIFY: Is this $5-filled survey from the U.S. Census Bureau legit?

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