U.S. Department of Commerce
Office of the Chief Information Officer
The Paperwork Reduction Act and
Information Collections Policy
What is the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA)?
What other federal laws, regulations, and guidance relate to paperwork reduction?
What is the definition of information collection?
What information collections require OMB clearance?
What is not considered “information” for the purposes of the PRA?
What is the Commerce PRA program in brief?
Who are the key PRA contacts in Commerce?
What are the PRA responsibilities of the Commerce Chief Information Officer (CIO)?
What are the responsibilities of the Commerce PRA Officer?
What are the responsibilities of the operating unit PRA Liaisons?
Who is the sponsor of the collection and what are the sponsor’s responsibilities?
What are the responsibilities of the Office of the General Counsel?
What is required to submit an information collection request?
What is the clearance process?
What is the effect of a proposed rule on the clearance process?
What is the process for obtaining emergency clearance for a new information collection?
How is the information collection related to the Exhibit 300 and the Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA)?
What is the information collection budget (ICB)?
Who can provide additional information?
The PRA (44 USC 3501-3520) establishes a process for the review and approval of information collections from the public to:
• Minimize the paperwork burden for individuals, small businesses, educational and nonprofit institutions, federal contractors, state, local and tribal governments, and other persons resulting from the collection of information by or for the federal government;
• Ensure the greatest possible public benefit from and maximize the utility of information created, collected, maintained, used, shared and disseminated by or for the federal government;
• Improve the quality and use of federal information to strengthen decision making, accountability, and openness in government and society;
• Minimize the cost to the federal government of the creation, collection, maintenance, use, dissemination, and disposition of information; and
• Ensure the integrity, quality, and utility of the federal statistical system.
In addition to the purposes above, the PRA identifies several other purposes relating to the management of federal information resources, which is the other primary focus of the PRA. These include coordinating information resources management policies and practices to improve the productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness of Government programs, and improve service delivery to the public, and providing for the dissemination of public information on a timely basis.
The PRA established the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and assigned it the authority, as delegated by the Director, OMB, to administer all functions of the PRA.
Pursuant to the PRA, all new information collections subject to the PRA must be submitted to OMB. Additionally, revision to previously approved information collections subject to the PRA must also be submitted to OMB. OMB, which reviews and clears the information collection before it is collected from the public. Clearance must be obtained regardless of whether responding to the collection is voluntary or mandatory.
• The OMB regulation that implements the PRA is at 5 CFR 1320.
• The Privacy Act of 1974 (5 USC 552a) regulates the federal government’s collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of information about individuals.
• The E-Government Act of 2002 (44 USC Chapter 36) establishes procedures to ensure the privacy of personal information in electronic records.
• The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (15 USC 6501-06) regulates the online collection and use of personal information provided by and relating to children under the age of 13.
• The Government Paperwork Elimination Act (P.L. 105-277, Title XVII) requires federal agencies to provide for the electronic submission of forms and information from the public whenever practicable, including accepting electronic signatures or alternatives and ensuring proper security.
• The Federal Information Quality Act (P.L. 106-554, Section 515) requires that federal agencies develop information quality standards to ensure and maximize the quality of the information disseminated to the public, and allows affected persons to seek correction of information that does not meet these standards.
• The Small Business Paperwork Reduction Act (SBPRA) (44 USC 3520, P.L. 107-198) requires that agencies provide assistance to help small businesses comply with paperwork requirements.
Information collection can occur in any form or format, including the use of report forms; application forms; schedules; questionnaires; surveys; reporting or recordkeeping requirements; contracts; agreements; policy statements; plans; rules or regulations; planning requirements; circulars; directives; instructions; bulletins; requests for proposal or other procurement requirements; interview guides; oral communications; posting, notification, labeling, or similar disclosure requirements; telegraphic or telephonic requests; automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques; standard questionnaires used to monitor compliance with agency requirements; or any other techniques or technological methods used to monitor compliance with agency requirements. 5 C.F.R. 1320.3(c)(1).
An information collection must be cleared by OMB if an agency collects information from ten or more people, regardless of whether the collection is mandatory, voluntary or required to obtain or retain a benefit, during the following circumstance:
• when an agency obtains, causes to be obtained, solicits, or requires the disclosure
• to an agency, third parties or the public of information
• by means of identical questions or identical reporting, recordkeeping, or disclosure requirements. 5 CFR 1320.3(h)
Information is required to be submitted in response to a rule that is applicable to the general public rather than any specific entities. In this case, OMB clearance is required regardless of the anticipated number of respondents.
Generally, any information that the public is asked to provide should be presumed to require OMB clearance unless OMB makes a determination to the contrary.
Under the PRA, “persons” includes individuals, partnerships, corporations, universities, nonprofit organizations, state, local, and tribal governments and agencies, and other associations and organizations, whether foreign or domestic. Federal agencies are not included. OMB clearance is not required to collect information from other federal agencies unless the information will be used for general statistical purposes. Under the PRA, OMB is responsible for identifying and managing the collection and use of statistical data throughout the federal government.
In a few instances, OMB has approved “generic” clearances for pretests, cognitive tests, and similar categories of information under which agencies are granted a continuing authorization to modify the instruments and information collected within the limits approved by OMB. Generic clearances require OMB approval and are processed in the same way as other clearances but provide greater flexibility for subsequent modification and notification to OMB of changes.
OMB implementing guidance (5 CFR 1320.3(h)) excludes from the definition of information those disclosures that require persons to provide only those facts that “entail no burden other than that necessary to identify the respondent, the date, the respondent’s address, and the nature of the instrument.”
• Affidavits, oaths, affirmations, certifications, receipts, changes of address, and consents or acknowledgements.
• Samples of products.
• Facts or opinions obtained through direct observation by an employee or agent of the sponsoring agency.
• Facts or opinions submitted in response to general solicitations of comments from the general public.
• Information from individuals under treatment or clinical examination in connection with research to prevent a clinical disorder.
• Facts or opinions requested from a single person.
• Examinations designed to test the aptitude, abilities or knowledge of the person tested for a collection.
• Facts or opinions solicited in connection with public hearings or meetings.
• Information solicited through non-standardized follow-up questions designed to clarify responses to approved collections of information.
• Similar items as designated by OMB.
Additionally, the PRA (44 USC 3518) exempts from its provisions the collection of information during the conduct of a federal criminal investigation or prosecution, or during the disposition of other litigation or investigative activities; or during the conduct of intelligence activities and cryptologic activities that are communications security activities.
The Commerce PRA program in brief is a monitoring, reviewing, and reporting system that is designed to effectively implement the PRA in Commerce and to reduce the burden of collecting information from the public. The most resource intensive part of the program is the development, justification, submission, review, and approval of information collection requests. This consists of three main processes:
• Preparing and publishing an initial Federal Register notice (“60-day notice”) notifying the public of the proposed information collection and soliciting comment.
• Developing and submitting Form OMB 83-I, Paperwork Reduction Act Submission, to request OMB approval of the collection.
• Preparing and publishing a subsequent Federal Register notice (“30-day notice”) notifying the public that the clearance request has been submitted to OMB and that there is an additional 30-day public comment period.
Other elements of the PRA program are:
• Developing the annual Commerce Information Collection Budget (ICB). The ICB is a mechanism for measuring and managing the burdens information collections impose on individuals, businesses, and state, local, and tribal governments. OMB uses the ICBs from federal agencies and submits a consolidated ICB report to Congress.
• Ensuring that the publication of a proposed rule and the submission of the information collection to which it relates are properly coordinated and synchronized.
The key PRA contacts in Commerce are the:
• Commerce Chief Information Officer (CIO);
• Commerce PRA Officer;
• PRA Liaisons in the operating units;
• Sponsor of the collection; and
• Office of the General Counsel (OGC).
The CIO ensures that the PRA is implemented throughout the Department. Specific responsibilities include:
• Developing PRA policy and guidance and ensuring their dissemination and implementation throughout the Department. This includes policy and guidance for operating units on obtaining OMB clearance for information collections, responding to OMB’s call for input to the Information Collection Budget (ICB), and coordinating the request for an information collection with related processes, such as rulemaking, developing the business case (Exhibit 300) for an information technology (IT) system, and conducting a privacy impact assessment (PIA).
• Ensuring that all operating unit information collections are submitted and reviewed by the Commerce PRA Officer before they are sent to OMB for clearance. Under no circumstances may information be collected from the public without prior approval by OMB.
• Ensuring that all information collection requests are submitted in a sufficiently timely manner to avoid requests for emergency action by OMB. Central to the CIO’s responsibility is ensuring that the operating units are not in violation of the PRA.
• Encouraging operating units to make their information collection processing activities electronic, including, wherever possible, all transactions with the public.
The Commerce PRA Officer and staff are responsible for:
• Processing 60-day and 30-day Federal Register Notices (FRNs) within 5 business days of receipt.
• Reviewing within 15 business days of receipt all information collections before they are sent to OMB for clearance, and for providing guidance and advice to operating unit PRA Liaisons on the preparation and processing of information collections for their operating unit.
• Serving as the sole point of contact with OMB on information collections and other PRA matters. Encouraging operating units and program offices to make their information collection processing activities electronic, including, wherever possible, all transactions with the public.
• Advising operating unit PRA Liaisons about their responsibility to monitor the progress of information collection requests submitted to OMB. Upon receiving notification from an operating unit PRA Liaison that a request has not been posted as a pending request on the OMB Web site, the Commerce PRA Officer is responsible for notifying OMB immediately of the omission and ensuring that it is corrected.
• Verifying that any information collection requests and related documentation submitted for processing by the operating unit PRA Liaison have been received by OMB and are being processed.
• Sending all OMB inventories, notices of action, and follow-up correspondence to operating unit PRA Liaisons.
• Preparing the annual information collection budget (ICB) based on input from the operating units and submitting it to OMB. The ICB is a mechanism for measuring and managing the burdens information collections impose on individuals, businesses, and state, local, and tribal governments. OMB uses the ICBs from federal agencies to develop and submit a consolidated ICB report to Congress.
Operating unit PRA Liaisons are responsible for:
• Ensuring the submission of the 60-day FRN four months before the proposed information collection or the extension of an approved collection.
• Ensuring that the information collections for their operating unit and program offices are prepared correctly and submitted in a timely manner to the Commerce PRA Officer, who must be provided 15 business days after receipt to review the information collection. Emergency requests and emergency extension requests (Form OMB 83-E) are strongly discouraged and, if they occur, must be fully justified.
• Encouraging their program offices to make their information collection processing activities electronic, including, wherever possible, all transactions with the public.
• Monitoring the Federal Register Web site to ensure that 60-day FRNs and 30-day FRNs are published (usually 3-4 business days after submission by Commerce).
• Monitoring the OMB Web site to ensure that requests that were submitted to OMB are recorded in a timely manner (2-3 business days after submission by Commerce), and notifying the Commerce PRA Officer of any omissions. Regardless of the reason for the omission, subsequent failure to obtain OMB approval for the request will be considered by OMB as a violation of the PRA.
• Reviewing and sending program offices all OMB inventories, notices, and other follow-up correspondence to ensure that they take timely action to renew OMB approval or discontinue the collection, and tracking program office activities to ensure that the appropriate action is taken in a timely manner to avoid violations.
• Providing advice and guidance to their operating unit program offices to ensure that they understand their responsibilities under the PRA.
• Serving as the operating unit point of contact with the Commerce PRA Officer and staff.
• Providing to the Commerce PRA Officer the information required for the annual Commerce information collection budget (ICB).
The sponsor is the office:
• For which the information is being gathered, regardless of whether it is being collected by a contractor or another federal or state agency;
• Which is funding the collection; or
• Which is requiring that information be submitted or provided to anyone else.
The sponsor is responsible for
• Ensuring that the information collected is of sufficient value to warrant the burden on the public;
• Developing the information collection request package, including all supporting documents and Federal Register Notices;
• Submitting the package through the operating unit PRA Liaison to the Commerce PRA staff;
• Ensuring that the OMB approval number and expiration date are on the collection form or instrument along with the operating unit calculation of the estimated time it will take the respondent to prepare and provide the information.
• Notifying the PRA Liaison if the collection ceases to be necessary or used prior to the expiration date.
Two offices within the Office of General Counsel provide legal advice related to the Paperwork Reduction Act: the Assistant General Counsel for Legislation and Regulation (AGC L&R) and Assistant General Counsel for Administration (AGC Administration). The AGC L&R provides legal advice on the PRA as it relates to rulemakings. The AGC L&R coordinates with the Commerce PRA officer to ensure that all information collections implemented and/or modified by a rule are properly identified and/or authorized by OMB before publication of the rule in the Federal Register. AGC Administration provides legal advice on the PRA as it relates to all other non-rulemaking based collections of information.
Form OMB 83-I, Paperwork Reduction Act Submission, is used to request OMB clearance for an information collection from the public. The package, including the collection instrument, instructions, and all attachments, is prepared by the operating unit. The operating unit PRA Liaison is responsible for submitting to the Commerce PRA staff OMB 83-I and all supporting documentation. The package must be submitted electronically as well as in paper (one copy) to the Commerce PRA staff, who must review it before submission to OMB.
The submission package must include:
• Form OMB 83-I signed by the program official designated by the operating unit head and by the operating unit PRA Liaison.
• A Supporting Statement that includes narrative information explaining the purpose, scope, and benefits(s) of the collection.
• The Supporting Statement must include an explicit reference to the operating unit’s information quality guidelines, as required by the Data Quality Act (addressed in question 2 of Supporting Statement).
• The form, questionnaire, survey, interview guide, or other instrument that will be used for the collection.
• The pertinent regulation if the collection is being carried out pursuant to a proposed rulemaking.
• The initial Federal Register notice (“60-day notice”) notifying the public of the proposed information collection and soliciting comment. (This is not required with submissions that involve a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.) Any comments to the 60-day FRN are summarized in question 8 of the Supporting Statement.
• The subsequent Federal Register notice (“30-day notice”) notifying the public that the clearance request has been submitted to OMB and that there is an additional 30-day public comment period. The notice must be on a diskette, which the Commerce PRA staff will deliver to the Federal Register along with three paper copies signed by the Commerce PRA Officer.
• The law or Executive Order that authorizes the collection or the program the collection will support.
Additional forms that are used for specific clearance actions include:
• Form OMB 83-C, Change Worksheet, is used to notify OMB of a change in the burden for a previously approved collection.
• Form OMB 83-D, Collection Discontinuation, is used to notify OMB that an approved collection is being discontinued. Failure to notify OMB before its expiration date that a collection is no longer needed and that re-approval will not be requested, will be considered by OMB as a violation of the PRA. This will apply regardless of whether the information continues to be collected after expiration.
• Form OMB 83-E, Emergency Extension, is used to request OMB approval to continue an approved collection for no longer than three months beyond the current expiration date. Subsequent requests for emergency extensions will not be approved. Emergency extension requests are strongly discouraged and, if they occur, must be fully justified.
The PRA establishes specific timeframes and responsibilities for the submission, review, and approval of information collections. This process requires a minimum of 145 days to complete. It applies to new collections and to renewals of existing collections. The operating unit PRA Liaison is responsible for notifying the program office when to begin the renewal process for an existing collection. In brief, the process is:
• The operating unit PRA Liaison arranges for publication of a notice in the Federal Register informing the public of the intention to request clearance for an information collection (new or renewal) and soliciting comments for 60 days. The information that must be included in the notice is described in the Federal Register Document Drafting Handbook chapter on Notices. The PRA Liaison notifies the sponsoring office of the publication date and the date when a clearance request may be submitted to the PRA Liaison.
• Regardless of when the request is submitted to the PRA Liaison, it cannot be submitted to OMB (through the Commerce PRA Officer) until the 60-day public comment period has ended. However, the operating unit PRA Liaison may accept the request for internal processing before the end of the 60-day period.
• The PRA Liaison sends the request, including the 30-day Federal Register notice, to the Commerce PRA Officer. The Commerce PRA Officer sends the 30-day notice to the Federal Register for publication and the request, including a copy of the notice, to OMB. After receiving the request, OMB is required by law to allow 30 days for additional public comment. However, OMB requires a total of at least 60 days (including the 30 days required by law) to review the package. OMB will inform the Commerce PRA Officer when action on the request is completed, and the PRA Liaison and sponsoring office will be notified in turn.
• As the approval authority for all information collection requests, OMB may request amendments to proposed collections or disapprove them altogether. The standard period of approval for requests is three years from the date of approval, and the expiration date must be included on the form or collection instrument along with the OMB control number.
After OMB approves the information collection, the operating unit must provide the public with certain information about the clearance request, e.g., purpose, legal authority, how the information will be used, the consequences of not providing the information, and whether responding is mandatory under the law, required to obtain a benefit, or voluntary. This information, which was included on the draft form or other information collection instrument that was submitted as part of the submission to OMB, must be on the form, instrument, or supporting materials that are provided to the public. Additionally, the OMB approval number and expiration date must be on the form or instrument along with the operating unit calculation of the estimated time it will take the respondent to prepare and provide the information. A list of all approved information collections is at the OMB Web site.
In those cases where the information collection is required by a proposed rule, the clearance process is basically the same as for any other new collection except that it is essential that publication of the proposed rule and the clearance request be coordinated. If they are properly coordinated, OMB action on a rulemaking related information collection will be more rapid than for other collection requests.
A 60-day Federal Register Notice is not required for information collection requests that involve a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
If a proposed rule contains an information collection requirement that requires PRA clearance, it must address the PRA in the classification/rulemaking requirements section of the preamble and indicate the status of the clearance request for the related information collection. The clearance request must be submitted to OMB no later than the date the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register. Publication of the proposed rule may be delayed if the associated PRA clearance request has not been prepared and submitted to OMB in a timely manner.
The PRA includes a provision for an “emergency submission” of a new information collection request in those circumstances where it is essential to the mission of the agency and the agency cannot reasonably comply with the submission time periods. For example, a program official may request an emergency clearance during the promulgation of a rule where the notice and comment rulemaking requirements have been waived. It removes the requirement for a public comment period and provides that OMB should approve the request in the time period requested by the agency. However, approval of an emergency submission is valid for only 90 days (5 CFR 1320.13(f)). If the information collection will continue to be needed after 90 days, the normal request process must be initiated immediately upon approval of the emergency request. Normal requests that are approved by OMB are valid for three years from the date of approval. Emergency requests should be limited to the occurrence of unanticipated events and/or situations where the delays in obtaining normal clearance would likely result in public harm or cause a statutory or court ordered deadline to be missed.
To request an emergency clearance, the responsible program official must submit a cover memorandum through the operating unit PRA Liaison to the Commerce CIO requesting the emergency clearance and explaining the circumstances that necessitate the request. The justification must explain the reason for the proposed collection, whether it is required by statute, and the reason the request was not submitted in sufficient time to avoid the emergency clearance.
An emergency request for a new collection is different from a request for OMB approval of an emergency extension of a previously approved information collection. Form OMB 83-E, Emergency Extension, is used to continue an approved collection for no longer than three months beyond the current expiration date. The requirement to renew a collection should be determined sufficiently far in advance so that it should never be necessary for an operating unit to request an emergency extension.
Operating units undertaking a new information collection using electronic or othermeans must conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) if the information collected is organized and searchable using personally identifiable information, and submit it along with the information collection request (ICR) unless it was previously submitted to OMB as part of an existing or new Exhibit 300 Capital Asset Plan and Business Case. The Exhibit 300 must state whether the investment project collects, uses, processes, transmits, or stores personal information. If so, it must indicate the reason and describe the policies and procedures in place to ensure the proper handling of personal information. Operating units must demonstrate that they have fully considered privacy in the context of the investment and develop a PIA that evaluates the privacy risks, alternatives, and appropriate measures that have been implemented at each stage of the information life cycle.
In those instances where there is an information collection associated with an Exhibit 300, the OMB approval number or status of the request should be indicated on the Exhibit 300.
The ICB represents an effort by OMB to account for and control the total paperwork and information collection burden that the federal government and individual agencies are placing on the public. The burden for an individual collection is calculated by multiplying the estimated time required to respond times the number of respondents.
OMB issues a call for the ICB each year. Operating units will be asked to submit through the Commerce PRA Officer a listing of changes in burden hours and costs for the previous fiscal year, and any new information collections for the upcoming fiscal year. Sometimes existing collections and their burden will also need to be listed. The annual OMB data call provides specific instructions on the information to be included about new collections and any other information OMB wants highlighted.
For information on the provisions of this policy or the PRA, contact Jennifer Jessup (JJessup@doc.gov) in the Office of the CIO.
For information regarding procedures for PRA submissions, contact Gwellnar Banks (email@example.com) in the Office of the CIO.
For information regarding PRA legal issues, contact Judith Means (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the Office of the Assistant General Counsel for Administration.
For information regarding rulemaking contact Tricia Choe (email@example.com)in the Office of the General Counsel.
Policy superseded: DAO 216-8, Approval of Collections of Information and Recordkeeping Requirements, 10/12/1989
Revision status: None
Origination date: 12/27/2005
Approved by Karen Hogan, 12/27/2005
 These are information collections if used to monitor regulatory compliance
- Questions regarding this section may be directed to the Paperwork Reduction & Information Collection Administrator