You’ve likely gotten your Census forms from the federal government, and maybe they’re already under a pile of other stuff (or worse). Ignore filling them out at your own peril, Ted Rose writes for Slate—though it’s an extremely limited peril. The feds can fine you $5,000 for shirking the responsibility, but by its own admission, “the Census Bureau is not a prosecuting agency. Failure to provide information is not likely to result in a fine.”
And Census workers could pay you a visit, or six, if you don’t return the form, and could sic the Justice Department on you. But Justice’s record of prosecutions has been mixed, Rose notes—one New Yorker got stuck with a $100 fine in 1960, while a Hawaiian has his $50 levy struck down on appeal.