April 7, 2010 | Time Out Chicago | Original Article

What’s the punishment for not responding to Census 2010?

Q On the envelope of the 2010 Census form, it says, “Your response is required by law.” What’s the worst that could happen if I don’t respond?

A If you missed the April Fool’s Day census deadline, you could face a minimum fine of $100; the maximum punishment is $5,000. (Providing false info could land you a $500 fine.) “[Fines are] an absolute last resort,” says Jim Accurso, spokesman for the Chicago Regional Census Center. The threat of punishment is more of a scare tactic. “We want people to participate,” Accurso stresses. “We don’t want to prosecute them for noncompliance.” No one was fined in 2000, Accurso says, and perhaps the only man ever forced to pay up was William Rickenbacker, a New York privacy advocate who was ordered to cough up $100 and serve a day of community service for ignoring the form in 1960. In the last census, because of a higher-than-expected rate of mail return (the cheapest data-collecting method at 42 cents per form, the cost of a postage-paid envelope), fewer hired hands hit the streets on Uncle Sam’s dime and the Census Bureau was able to return $305 million to the federal Treasury. “We’re going to go out numerous times to get face-to-face interviews, but you’re talking about $57 every time we send an enumerator out,” Accurso says. “It greatly increases the cost of the census and the burden on taxpayers.”