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Example sentences file a report

If they do file the report , they have the option of doing so anonymously.
Criminal penalties for failing to file a report vary, but they typically involve short prison sentences and small fines.
Charges: racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, income tax evasion and failure to file a report of foreign bank accounts.
They are here illegally, so they don't want to talk to the police or file a report .
They took photographs and said that they would file a report .

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What is Report Writing: Format, Examples, Types & Process

  • Table of Contents

Many professionals struggle to create effective reports due to a lack of understanding of the essential elements and organization required. This can lead to frustration and a failure to communicate key information to the intended audience.

In this blog, we’ll explore what is report writing, the types of reports, essential elements, and tips for creating effective reports to help you communicate your message and achieve your goals.

Definition of report writing? 

According to Mary Munter and Lynn Hamilton, authors of “Guide to Managerial Communication,” report writing is “the process of selecting, organizing, interpreting, and communicating information to meet a specific objective.”

What is report writing? 

Report writing refers to the process of creating a document that represents information in a clear and concise manner. Reports can be written for various purposes, such as providing updates on a project, analyzing data or presenting findings, or making recommendations.

Effective report writing requires careful planning, research, analysis, and organization of information. A well-structured report should be accurate, and objective, and contain a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. It should also be written in a professional and accessible style, with appropriate use of headings, subheadings, tables, graphs, and other visual aids.

Overall, report writing is an important skill for professionals in many fields, as it helps to communicate information and insights in a clear and concise manner.

What is a report? 

A report is a formal document that is structured and presented in an organized manner, with the aim of conveying information, analyzing data, and providing recommendations. It is often used to communicate findings and outcomes to a specific audience, such as stakeholders, or managers. Reports can vary in length and format, but they usually contain a clear introduction, body, and conclusion.

Types of report writing

By understanding the different types of report writing, individuals can select the appropriate format and structure to effectively communicate information and achieve their objectives. However, the kind of report used will depend on the purpose, audience, and context of the report.

1/ Informational reports: These reports provide information about a topic, such as a product, service, or process.

Further Reading : What is an information report

2/ Analytical reports: These reports present data or information in a structured and organized manner, often with charts, graphs, or tables, to help the reader understand trends, patterns, or relationships.

3/ Formal Reports: These are detailed and structured reports written for a specific audience, often with a specific objective. In comparison with informal reports , formal reports are typically longer and more complex than other types of reports. 

4/ Progress reports: These reports provide updates on a project or initiative, detailing the progress made and any challenges or obstacles encountered. 

5/ Technical reports: These reports provide technical information, such as specifications, designs, or performance data, often aimed at a technical audience.

6/ Research reports: These reports present the findings of research conducted on a particular topic or issue, often including a literature review, data analysis, and conclusions.

7/ Feasibility Report: A feasibility report assesses the likelihood of achieving success for a suggested project or initiative.

8/ Business Reports: These reports are used in a business setting to communicate information about a company’s performance, operations, or strategies. Different types of business reports include financial statements, marketing reports, and annual reports.

Structure of report writing 

The structure of a report refers to the overall organization and layout of the report, including the sections and subsections that make up the report, their order, and their relationships to each other. A report can we divided into three parts. 

Preliminary Parts:

  • Acknowledgments (Preface or Foreword)
  • List of Tables and Illustrations
  • Introduction (clear statement of research objectives, background information, hypotheses, methodology, statistical analysis, scope of study, limitations)
  • Statement of findings and recommendations (summarized findings, non-technical language)
  • Results (detailed presentation of findings with supporting data in the form of tables and charts, statistical summaries, and reductions of data, presented in a logical sequence)
  • Implications of the results (clearly stated implications that flow from the results of the study)
  • Summary (brief summary of the research problem, methodology, major findings, and major conclusions)

End Matter:

  • Appendices (technical data such as questionnaires, sample information, and mathematical derivations)
  • Bibliography of sources consulted.

This structure provides a clear and organized framework for presenting a research report, ensuring that all important information is included and presented in a logical and easy-to-follow manner.

Extra Learnings Role of a report structure in report writing  The report structure plays a crucial role in report writing as it provides a clear and organized framework for presenting information in an effective and logical manner. It ensures that the reader can easily understand the purpose and scope of the report, locate and access the relevant information.  The preliminary parts of the report, provide an overview of the report and aid navigation. The main text makes it easier for the reader to comprehend and analyze the information. And The end matter provides additional details and sources for reference. An organized report structure also helps the author to communicate their research and ideas effectively to the intended audience.

What is the report writing format? 

The format of report writing refers to the structure of a formal document that provides information on a particular topic or issue. The report writing format typically includes the following key components: 

8 Essential elements of report writing are: 

1/ Title: The title is the first thing that readers will see, and it should be clear and concise. The title should include the report’s subject or topic and the author’s name, date of writing, or who the report is for. Remember to keep the title brief and informative, avoiding vague or ambiguous language.

Example of Business Report Title Page:   “Market Analysis and Growth Strategies for XYZ Corporation” Author: Mary Johnson Date: January 2, 2022 Company: Earthcon Corporation Department: Strategy and Planning

In this example, the title page includes the name of the report, ‘Market Analysis 2022,’ the author’s name, ‘John Doe,’ the submission date, ‘January 1, 2024,’ and other details such as the name of the organization, ‘Earthcon Corporation.’

2/ Table of Contents : The table of contents provides an overview of the report’s contents. It should list all sections and subsections with clear headings. It is essential to make the table of contents organized and easy to read, allowing readers to locate specific information quickly.

Example of  Table of Contents I. Introduction…… 1 Purpose of the Report…… 2 Methodology Used…… 2 II. Executive Summary…… 3 III. Background and Context…… 3 IV. Analysis and Findings…… 4 Market Trends and Data…… 5 Competitor Analysis…… 6 SWOT Analysis…… 7 V. Recommendations and Conclusion…… 8 VI. References…… 9

3/ Summary : Also known as the executive summary, the summary provides a brief overview of the entire report. It should summarize the report’s main points, including findings, objectives, and recommendations. The summary should be written after the entire report is completed, and it should be concise and summarized in less than one page.

Example of executive summary: The Annual Sales Report for Earthcon Company shows a 10% increase in overall sales compared to the previous year. The report also reveals that the majority of sales came from the Midwest region and the target demographic is primarily males aged 25-40. Based on these findings, recommendations have been made to focus marketing efforts towards this demographic in the upcoming year.

4/ Introduction : The introduction introduces the report’s topic and informs readers what they can expect to find in the report. The introduction should capture readers’ attention and provide relevant background information. It should be clear and concise, including why the report was written and its objectives.

Example of Introduction:  This comprehensive report aims to analyze and evaluate the sales performance of EarthCon Corporation throughout 2024. It will look into detailed sales trends observed throughout the year, carefully examining the various factors that have influenced these trends. Additionally, the report will identify and highlight potential areas for growth, offering valuable insights and recommendations to drive future success.

5/ Body: The body is the longest section and includes all the information, data, and analysis. It should present information in an organized manner, often using subheadings and bullet points. The body should include all relevant research findings and data, often accompanied by visuals such as graphs and tables. It is essential to cite all sources correctly and remain objective, avoiding personal opinions or biases.

Example of Background and Context: This report seeks to analyze the influence of technological advancements on business productivity. Previous research has indicated a correlation between the adoption of innovative technologies and increased operational efficiency for Earthcon. The report will examine further into this topic and offer suggestions for maximizing the benefits of these advancements. Example of Analysis and Findings: The market trends and data show a steady increase in demand for innovative products, with a significant rise in sales in the past five years. In comparison, competitor analysis reveals that Earthcon Corporation is well-positioned to take advantage of this trend due to its strong brand reputation and product portfolio. A SWOT analysis also highlights potential areas for improvement and growth.

6/ Conclusion: The conclusion summarizes the findings and conclusions of the report. It should wrap up all the essential information presented in the body and make recommendations based on the report’s findings. The conclusion must be brief and clear, avoiding the introduction of any new information not previously presented in the body.

7/ Recommendations: The recommendation section should provide suggested goals or steps based on the report’s information. It should be realistic and achievable, providing well-crafted solutions. It is often included in the conclusion section.

Example of Recommendations and Conclusion: Based on the analysis, it is recommended that EarthCon Corporation invest in research and development to continue producing innovative products. Additionally, efforts should be made to expand into emerging markets to increase global reach. In conclusion, the Annual Sales Report shows positive outcomes and recommends strategic actions for future growth.

8/ Appendices: The appendices section includes additional technical information or supporting materials, such as research questionnaires or survey data. It should provide supplementary information to the report without disrupting the report’s main content. 

It is important to use clear headings and subheadings and to label tables and figures. Also, proofreading and fact-checking are critical before submitting the report. A well-crafted report is concise, informative and free of personal bias or opinions.

What are the features of report writing

There are several key features of effective report writing that can help ensure that the information presented is clear, concise, and useful. Some of these features include:

1/ Clarity: Reports should be written in clear and concise language, avoiding jargon or technical terms that may be confusing to the reader. 

2/ Objectivity: A report should be objective, meaning that it should be free from bias or personal opinions. This is particularly important when presenting data or analysis.

3/ Accuracy: Reports should be based on reliable sources and accurate data. Information should be verified and cross-checked to ensure that it is correct and up-to-date.

4/ Structure: A report should be structured in a logical and organized manner, with clear headings, subheadings, and sections. 

5/ Visual aids: A report may include visual aids such as charts, tables, and graphs, which can help to illustrate the key points and make the information easier to understand.

6/ Evidence: Reports should include evidence to support any claims or findings, such as statistics, quotes, or references to relevant literature.

7/ Recommendations: Many reports include recommendations or suggestions for future action based on the findings or analysis presented.

Significance of report writing

Report writing is a critical skill that can have a significant impact on individuals, and organizations. In fact, a report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that the ability to communicate effectively, including report writing, was the most important skill sought by employers.

  • Reports provide decision-makers with the information they need to make informed decisions.
  • Effective report writing demonstrates professionalism and attention to detail, which can help to build trust and credibility with clients.
  • Reports can inform planning processes by providing data and insights that can be used to develop strategies and allocate resources.
  • Reports often include recommendations or suggestions for future action, which can help to improve processes, procedures, or outcomes.
Further Reading: What is the significance of report writing

Report writing examples and samples

Annual-Business-Report-of-Reliance-industries

Example of Progress Report

Sample-of-progress-report

The essential process of report writing

Report writing requires careful planning, organization, and analysis to ensure that the report effectively communicates the intended message to the audience. Here are the general steps involved in the process of report writing:

Plan and prepare:

  • Identify the purpose of the report, the target audience, and the scope of the report.
  • Collect and examine data from different sources, including research studies, surveys, or interviews.
  • Create an outline of the report, including headings and subheadings.

Write the introduction:

  • Start with a brief summary of the report and its purpose.
  • Provide background information and context for the report.
  • Explain the research methodology and approach used.

Write the main body:

  • Divide the report into logical sections, each with a clear heading.
  • Present the findings and analysis of the research in a clear and organized manner.
  • Use appropriate visual aids, such as tables, graphs, or charts to present data and information.
  • Utilize a language that is both clear and Brief, and avoid using unnecessary jargon or technical terminology.
  • Cite all sources used in the report according to a specified citation style.

Write the conclusion:

  • Summarize the main findings and conclusions of the report.
  • Restate the purpose of the report and how it was achieved.
  • Provide recommendations or suggestions for further action, if applicable.

Edit and revise:

  • Review the report for errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
  • Check that all information is accurate and up-to-date.
  • Revise and improve the report as necessary.

Format and present:

  • Use a professional and appropriate format for the report.
  • Include a title page, table of contents, and list of references or citations.
  • Incorporate headings, subheadings, and bullet points to enhance the report’s readability and facilitate navigation.
  • Use appropriate fonts and sizes, and ensure that the report is well-structured and visually appealing.

Important Principles of report writing

To write an effective report, it is important to follow some basic principles. These principles ensure that your report is clear, concise, accurate, and informative. In this regard, here are some of the key principles that you should keep in mind when writing a report:

1/ Clarity: The report should be clear and easy to understand. 

2/ Completeness: The report should cover all the relevant information needed to understand the topic

3/ Conciseness: A report should be concise, presenting only the information that is relevant and necessary to the topic. 

4/ Formatting: The report should be properly formatted, with consistent fonts, spacing, and margins

5/ Relevance: The information presented in the report should be relevant to the purpose of the report.

6/ Timeliness: The report should be completed and delivered in a timely manner.

7/ Presentation: The report should be visually appealing and well-presented.

Extra Learnings Styles of report writing When it comes to the style of report writing, it’s important to use hard facts and figures, evidence, and justification. Using efficient language is crucial since lengthy reports with too many words are difficult to read. The most effective reports are easy and quick to read since the writer has comprehended the data and formulated practical recommendations. To achieve this, it’s important to write as you speak, avoid empty words, use descending order of importance, use an active voice, and keep sentences short. The goal should be to write to express and not to impress the reader.  It’s also important to get facts 100% right and to be unbiased and open. By following these tips, one can create a well-written report that is easy to understand and provides valuable insights.

Differences between a report and other forms of writing

Reports are a specific form of writing that serves a distinct purpose and have unique characteristics. Unlike other forms of writing, such as essays or fiction, reports are typically focused on presenting factual information and making recommendations based on that information. Below we have differentiated report writing with various other forms of writing.

Essay vs report writing

Project writing vs report writing, research methodology vs report writing, article writing vs report writing, content writing vs report writing, business plan vs report writing, latest topics for report writing in 2024.

The possibilities for report topics may depend on the goals and scope of the report. The key is to choose a topic that is relevant and interesting to your audience, and that you can conduct thorough research on in order to provide meaningful insights and recommendations.  

  • A market analysis for a new product or service. 
  • An evaluation of employee satisfaction in a company. 
  • A review of the state of cybersecurity in a particular industry. 
  • A study of the prevalence and consequences of workplace discrimination. 
  • Analysis of the environmental impact of a particular industry or company. 
  • An assessment of the impact of new technology or innovations on a particular industry or sector. 

Report writing skills and techniques 

Effective report writing requires a combination of skills and techniques to communicate information and recommendations in a clear, and engaging manner.

From organizing information to tailoring the report to the intended audience, there are many factors to consider when writing a report. By mastering these skills and techniques, you can ensure that your report is well-written, informative, and engaging for your audience. Some of the primary ones are: 

1/ Organization and structure: Structure your report in a logical and organized manner with headings and subheadings.

2/ Use of data and evidence: Present objective data and evidence to support your findings and recommendations.

3/ Audience awareness: Tailor your report to the needs and interests of your intended audience.

4/ Effective visuals: Use graphs, charts, or other visuals to communicate complex information in a clear and engaging way.

5/ Editing and proofreading: Carefully edit and proofread your report to ensure it is error-free and professional.

6/ Tone: Use a professional and objective tone to communicate your findings and recommendations.

7/ Time management: Manage your time effectively to ensure you have enough time to research, write, and revise your report.

Tips for effective report writing

  • Understand your audience before you start writing. 
  • Start with an outline and cover all the important points. 
  • Employ clear and concise language.
  • Utilize headings and subheadings to organize your report.
  • Incorporate evidence and examples to support your points.
  • Thoroughly edit and proofread your report before submission.
  • Follow formatting guidelines If your report has specific formatting requirements.
  • Use visuals to enhance understanding.

What is the ethical consideration involved in report writing 

Ethical considerations play a crucial role in report writing. The accuracy of the information presented in the report is of utmost importance, as it forms the basis for any conclusions or recommendations that may be made. In addition, it is essential to avoid plagiarism by giving credit to the original sources of information and ideas. 

Another crucial ethical consideration is confidentiality, particularly when the report contains sensitive or confidential information. It is important to safeguard this information and prevent its disclosure to unauthorized individuals.

Avoiding bias in report writing is also crucial, as it is essential to present information in an objective and unbiased manner. In cases where research or data collection is involved, obtaining informed consent from human subjects is a necessary ethical requirement.

By taking these ethical considerations into account, report writers can ensure that their work is fair, accurate, and respectful to all parties involved.

Common mistakes in report writing 

There are several common mistakes that students and report writers make in report writing. By avoiding these common mistakes, students as well as report writers can create effective and impactful reports that are clear, accurate, and objective.

1/ Writing in the first person: Often, students and report writers commit an error by writing in the first person and utilizing words such as “I” or “me. In reports, it is recommended to write impersonally, using the passive voice instead.

2/ Using the wrong format: Reports should use numbered headings and subheadings to structure the content, while essays should have a clear line of argument in their content.

3/ Failing to introduce the content: The introduction of the report should introduce the content of the report, not the subject for discussion. It is important to explain the scope of the report and what is to follow, rather than explaining what a certain concept is.

4/ Missing relevant sections: Students and report writers, often miss out on including relevant sections that were specified in the assignment instructions, such as a bibliography or certain types of information. This can result in poor interpretation.

5/ Poor proofreading: Finally, not spending enough time proofreading the reported work can create unwanted mistakes. Therefore, It is important to proofread and correct errors multiple times before submitting the final report to avoid any mistakes that could have been easily corrected.

By avoiding these common mistakes, students and report writers can improve the quality of their reports. 

What are some challenges of report writing and how to overcome them

Report writing can be a challenging task for many reasons. Here are some common challenges of report writing and how to overcome them:

1/ Lack of clarity on the purpose of the report: To overcome this challenge, it is important to clearly define the purpose of the report before starting. This can help to focus the content of the report and ensure that it meets the needs of the intended audience.

2/ Difficulty in organizing ideas: Reports often require a significant amount of information to be organized in a logical and coherent manner. To overcome this challenge, it can be helpful to create an outline or flowchart to organize ideas before beginning to write.

3/ Time management: Writing a report can be time-consuming, and it is important to allow sufficient time to complete the task. To overcome this challenge, it can be helpful to create a timeline or schedule for the various stages of the report-writing process.

4/ Writer’s block: Sometimes writers may experience writer’s block, making it difficult to start or continue writing the report. To overcome this challenge, it can be helpful to take a break, engage in other activities or brainstorming sessions to generate new ideas.

5/ Difficulty in citing sources: It is important to properly cite sources used in the report to avoid plagiarism and maintain credibility. To overcome this challenge, it can be helpful to use citation management tools, such as EndNote or Mendeley, to keep track of sources and ensure accurate referencing.

6/ Review and editing: Reviewing and editing a report can be a challenging task, especially when it is one’s own work. To overcome this challenge, it can be helpful to take a break before reviewing the report and seek feedback from others to gain a fresh perspective.

By being aware of these challenges and taking proactive steps to overcome them, report writers can create effective and impactful reports that meet the needs of their intended audience.

Best Software for writing reports 

Report writing software has made it easier for writers to produce professional-looking reports with ease. These software tools offer a range of features and functionalities, including data visualization, collaboration, and customization options. In this section, we will explore some of the best report-writing software available:

1/ Tableau : This tool is great for creating interactive and visually appealing reports, as it allows users to easily create charts, graphs, and other data visualizations. It also supports data blending, which means that you can combine data from multiple sources to create more comprehensive reports.

2/ Zoho reporting : This tool is designed to help users create and share professional-looking reports quickly and easily. It offers a variety of customizable templates, as well as a drag-and-drop interface that makes it easy to add data and create charts and graphs.

3/ Bold Reports by Syncfusion : This tool is designed specifically for creating reports in .NET applications. It offers a wide range of features, including interactive dashboards, real-time data connectivity, and customizable themes and templates.

4/  Fast Reports : This tool is a reporting solution for businesses of all sizes. It allows users to create reports quickly and easily using a drag-and-drop interface and offers a variety of templates and customization options. It also supports a wide range of data sources, including databases, spreadsheets, and web services.

Further Reading : 10+ Best Report Writing Software and Tools in 2024

What is the conclusion of report writing

The conclusion of report writing is the final section of the report that summarizes the main findings, conclusions, and recommendations. It should tie together all the different sections of the report and present a clear and concise summary of the key points. 

THE UNIVERSITY OF NEWCASTLE has given an inverted introduction framework that can use used for writing effective conclusions for reports. 

inverted-introduction-pyramid-framework

Example of conclusion in report writing:

The implication of the above diagram can be explained with the following example:  

1. RETURN TO TOPIC:

Social media has revolutionized the marketing landscape, providing new opportunities for brands to connect with their target audience.

2. RESTATE THESIS:

However, the complexities and limitations of social media mean that it is unlikely to completely replace traditional marketing methods. The role of the marketing professional remains crucial in ensuring that social media strategies align with the company’s overall goals and effectively reach the desired audience.

3. SUMMARY OF IDEAS DISCUSSED:

Automated tools cannot fully account for the nuances of human communication or provide the level of personalization that consumers crave. Therefore, the most effective marketing strategies will likely blend social media tactics with traditional marketing channels.

4. CONCLUDING STATEMENT [restating thesis]:

In conclusion, while social media presents significant opportunities for brands, the expertise of marketing professionals is still essential to creating successful campaigns that achieve desired outcomes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1) what is report writing and example.

Ans: Report writing involves preparing a structured document that delivers information to a particular audience in a clear and systematic manner. An example of a report could be a business report analyzing the financial performance of a company and making recommendations for improvement.

Q2) What is report writing and types of reports?

Ans: The act of presenting information in an orderly and structured format is known as report writing. Reports come in different types, such as analytical reports, research reports, financial reports, progress reports, incident reports, feasibility reports, and recommendation reports.

Q3) What are the 5 steps of report writing

The five steps of report writing, are as follows:

  • Planning: This involves defining the purpose of the report, determining the audience, and conducting research to gather the necessary information.
  • Structuring: This step involves deciding on the structure of the report, such as the sections and subsections, and creating an outline.
  • Writing: This is the stage where the actual writing of the report takes place, including drafting and revising the content.
  • Reviewing: In this step, the report is reviewed for accuracy, coherence, and effectiveness, and any necessary changes are made.
  • Presenting: This final step involves presenting the report in a clear and professional manner, such as through the use of headings, visuals, and a table of contents.

Q4) What is a report in short answer? 

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Definition of filing

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Examples of filing in a Sentence

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'filing.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

1712, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Phrases Containing filing

filing cabinet

Dictionary Entries Near filing

Cite this entry.

“Filing.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/filing. Accessed 21 Feb. 2024.

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  • Suspicious Activity Report (SAR)
  • How It Works

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  • Patterns of Suspicious Activity

Example of a SAR

  • Financial Crime & Fraud
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What Is a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR)? Triggers and Filing

meaning of file a report

What Is a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR)?

A suspicious activity report (SAR) is a tool provided under the  Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) of 1970 for monitoring suspicious activities that would not ordinarily be flagged under other reports (such as the currency transaction report). The SAR became the standard form to report suspicious activity in 1996.

SARs can cover almost any activity that is out of the ordinary. An activity may be included in the SAR if the activity gives rise to a suspicion that the account holder is attempting to hide something or make an illegal transaction.

Key Takeaways

  • A suspicious activity report (SAR) is a tool provided under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) of 1970 for monitoring suspicious activities that would not ordinarily be flagged under other reports (such as the currency transaction report).
  • The SAR became the standard form to report suspicious activity in 1996.
  • Activity may be included in the SAR if the activity gives rise to a suspicion that the account holder is attempting to hide something or make an illegal transaction.

Understanding a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR)

The SAR is filed by the financial institution that observes suspicious activity in an account. The report is filed with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, who will then investigate the incident. FinCEN is a division of the U.S. Treasury.

The financial institution has the responsibility to file a report within 30 days regarding any account activity they deem to be suspicious or out of the ordinary. An extension of no more than 60 days may be obtained, if necessary to collect more evidence. The institution does not need proof that a crime has occurred. The client is not notified that a SAR has been filed regarding their account.

FinCen requires the SAR forms filed by financial institutions to identify the five essential elements of the suspicious activity being reported:

  • Who is conducting the suspicious activity?
  • What instruments or mechanisms are being used?
  • When did the suspicious activity take place?
  • Where did it take place?
  • Why does the filer think the activity is suspicious?

In addition, the method of operation (or, how is the activity being carried out?) is also required to be included in the report.

SARs are part of the United State's anti-money laundering statutes and regulations, which have become much stricter since 2001. The Patriot Act significantly expanded SAR requirements as part of an effort to combat global and domestic terrorism. The goal of the SAR and the resulting investigation is to identify customers who are involved in money laundering, fraud, or terrorist funding.

Disclosure to the customer, or failure to file a SAR, can result in very severe penalties for both individuals and institutions. SARs allow law enforcement to detect patterns and trends in organized and personal financial crimes. This way they can anticipate criminal and fraudulent behavior and counteract it before it escalates. The requirements under the anti-money laundering statutes were significantly expanded again, as of January 1, 2021, with the enactment of the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020.

In the United States, financial institutions must file a SAR if they suspect that an employee or customer has engaged in insider trading activity. A SAR is also required if a financial institution detects evidence of computer hacking or of a consumer operating an unlicensed money services business. SAR filings must be kept for five years from the date of the filing.

In numerous instances, SARs have enabled law enforcement authorities to initiate or pursue major investigations in money laundering or terrorist financing, and other criminal cases.

Common Patterns of Suspicious Activity

Some of the common patterns of suspicious activity identified by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network are as follows:

  • A lack of evidence of legitimate business activity (or any business operations at all) undertaken by many of the parties to the transactions(s)
  • Unusual financial nexuses and transactions occurring among certain business types (for example, a food importer dealing with an auto parts exporter)
  • Transactions not commensurate with the stated business type or that are unusual compared with volumes of similar businesses operating locally
  • Unusually large numbers and/or volumes of wire transfers, repetitive wire transfer patterns
  • Unusually complex series of transactions involving multiple accounts, banks, and parties
  • Bulk cash and monetary instrument transactions
  • Unusual mixed deposits into a business account
  • Bursts of transactions within short periods, especially in dormant accounts
  • Transactions or volumes of activity inconsistent with the expected purpose of the account or activity level as mentioned by the account holder when opening the account
  • Transactions attempting to avoid reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

For example, Albert is an account holder at XYZ Financial Institution. Albert has been a client for nearly five years and has an established account history and very predictable transactions. Every month, he deposits $5,000 into the account and buys an index fund . One day, he starts to receive weekly transfers of $9,000 into the account. Almost as quickly as the money hits the account, it leaves again. This is out of the ordinary for Albert's account and usual activity. The financial institution may consider this to be suspicious activity and might file a Suspicious Activity Report.

Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. " Guidance on Preparing a Complete & Sufficient Suspicious Activity Report Narrative ," Page 7. Accessed May 31, 2021

meaning of file a report

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File a report meaning in English

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meaning of file a report

What is an annual report?

Annual reports inform all interested parties about the financial success (or failure) of a public entity, private corporation, non-profit organization, or other business formation.

Ready to start your business? Plans start at $0 + filing fees.

meaning of file a report

by   Jonathan Layton, J.D.

Jonathan Layton is a graduate of The College of  William and Mary, where he majored in English literature. While...

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Updated on: February 1, 2024 · 4min read

What is the purpose of an annual report?

What is included in an annual report, who files the annual report, when should annual reports be filed, do small businesses or llcs need to file an annual report, what is the annual report requirement for large corporations.

An annual report is a document that contains comprehensive financial information about public companies, small and large corporations, non-profit organizations, partnerships, and other businesses. It includes their financial performance and activities over the prior fiscal year.

Some types of businesses must prepare and file an annual report by law with the Secretary of State where the company operates. Other companies prepare annual reports to keep shareholders, employees, and the community informed regarding the company's financial health.

checking-numbers-in-book

In general, most states require corporations and other businesses with shareholders to file annual reports. If they fail to do so, they may lose their corporate designation and the tax advantages that go with that designation.

Annual reports can also be known as "business annual reports," "statements of information," or "yearly statements."

Beyond the legal requirements, they also:

  • Help to attract new investors
  • Retain the confidence of current stakeholders
  • Provide business analysts and creditors with insight into the company's financial status

Depending on the size of the corporation (500 or more shareholders) and amount of annual profit (at least $10 million or more in assets), and whether it is publicly traded, in addition to filing an annual report, a separate filing with the  U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission  may also be required.

The requirements for filing an annual report vary in each state. In the states that require annual reports to be filed, the Secretary of State (or similar governmental entity) will normally prescribe the filing requirements.

In many instances, for ease of operation, the Secretary of State will forward—via electronic mail or United States mail—the annual report forms to the companies (or to their registered agent) that are expected to file them. The forms are relatively easy to complete and contain the requisite information to be included.

Alternatively, the forms can be located online, downloaded, completed, and filed electronically.

The annual report forms generally require the following information to be included:

  • Information regarding the name of the company, business type, and registered agent
  • Information concerning corporate officers and directors and the corporation's physical location
  • A report from the CEO to update current and potential investors on the company's economic status, key events, activities and achievements, yearly highlights, details regarding new products or services, and future needs, wants, and goals, as well as the desired direction of the company
  • The company's financial breakdown (including balance sheet summaries, a cash flow statement, capital investment data, an auditor's report, anticipated revenues, and expenses, changes in equity report, income statement, and other profit and loss details)
  • A restatement of the company's core values, mission statement, and future objectives

There are normally annual report fees involved when you file the annual report, including, but not limited to, franchise taxes.

A business entity's size will typically determine whether an in-house staff member will prepare an annual report or if an outside firm will be retained.

Larger organizations often have employees within the company who are designated to complete this essential undertaking.

To the extent your state requires an annual report to be filed, it's always best to timely file required annual reports and financial statements with the Secretary of State, and pay any requisite fees.

A review of a  state-by-state list of the annual report filing deadlines  reveals that the filing date, the type of filing required, and the fees involved vary greatly depending upon the state in which your business was formed or is currently operating.

Be aware that the failure to promptly file the annual report and remit any fees due and owing could result in severe penalties or the complete dissolution of the business.

The annual reporting requirements for a small business or limited liability company (LLC) tend to be less rigorous   than they are for larger corporations. Nevertheless, the majority of states require  small businesses and LLCs  to file some form of report to comply with state regulations and to maintain their  good standing .

Although less comprehensive in size and scope, annual reports for  small businesses and LLCs  serve to generally inform the employees or members about how the company is performing and to share the management's vision for the future.

Depending upon the state in which the LLC is formed and operated, the yearly report may be called an "annual report," a "statement of information," an "annual statement," or something very similar.

Annual reports prepared by larger corporations normally have the most onerous filing requirements. The reports usually begin with a letter from the CEO or the president regaling the history of the company, recapping the previous year's activities, revealing the company's profit and loss outlook, discussing the short- and long-term objectives of the company, and touting the prognosis for future growth and prosperity.

The report may also include a mission statement, the names of the executive officers or board members, and a listing of the services and/or products the company offers .

Although designed to disclose the important aspects of a company's current financial position, an annual report often includes some "style point" elements as well, such as visually appealing graphics, photos and brand storytelling to enhance the company's corporate identity.

If you need assistance completing and filing an annual report, you can seek help from attorneys in your state.

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Meaning of filing in English

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filing noun ( PUTTING IN A CONTAINER )

Filing noun ( record ).

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filing noun ( METAL PIECES )

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Definition of filing noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary

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  • 3 filings [ plural ] very small pieces of metal, made when a larger piece of metal is filed iron filings

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Do I need to file a BOI report? Here’s what you should know

January 18, 2024

Carl Breedlove

Are you a small business owner looking to ensure you’re compliant with all your federal reporting requirements? If so, you must familiarize yourself with beneficial ownership information (BOI) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

New in 2024, businesses nationwide will be asked to file a BOI report to avoid heavy fines and legal penalties. But is your business one of them?

BOI report key takeaways

  • Starting January 1, 2024, certain U.S. businesses will be required to submit a Beneficial Ownership Information (BOI) report.
  • Failure to properly file a BOI report may incur severe civil and criminal penalties, including fines of up to $100,000 and up to two years of prison time.
  • The deadline for filing a BOI report depends on when a company was created or registered. Companies created before January 1, 2024, have until January 1, 2025, and companies created or registered after January 1, 2024, and before January 1, 2025, have 90 days from their date of creation or registration.

Are you in compliance with the Corporate Transparency Act?

Beneficial ownership information: definition.

In late 2022, FinCEN issued new guidance implementing beneficial ownership information (BOI) reporting requirements as detailed in the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA). With an effective date of January 1, 2024, the clock is ticking for business owners everywhere to familiarize themselves with this reporting rule.

A small business owner wondering "Do I have to file a BOI report?" while looking at a computer

In simple terms, according to FinCEN , beneficial ownership information is any identifying information related to individuals who directly or indirectly control a company. The BOI report, therefore, refers to a specific report some business owners must file that details this information. The requirement doesn’t discriminate by size, so qualifying small businesses have just as much of a duty to follow the reporting rule as large ones.

The BOI report is part of a broader effort by FinCEN and the U.S. government to crack down on financial crimes. Specifically, the final rule aims to bolster corporate transparency. It will help law enforcement stop fraud, corruption, money laundering, terrorist financing, and similar activities.

For small business owners, this means that you have another compliance requirement to track. Keep reading to learn if you may need to share beneficial ownership information with FinCEN through a BOI report.

Do I need to file a BOI report?

Per the final rule set forth by the Treasury Department, any entity under the umbrella term “reporting company” must follow the beneficial ownership information reporting requirements and file a BOI report.

“Reporting company,” in this case, refers to corporations , limited liability companies (LLCs), limited liability partnerships, and others. Any entity created by filing business formation documents with a secretary of state or a similar office will likely be impacted. FinCEN further breaks this down into two subcategories: domestic reporting company and foreign reporting company.

The difference between a domestic and foreign reporting company is self-explanatory. A domestic reporting company is any company created in the U.S. A foreign reporting company is created outside the U.S. but registered to do business in the U.S. through a filing with a secretary of state or similar office.

Exempt companies

Although the BOI reporting rule reaches far and wide across the business world, there are certain exemptions. Companies in certain industries that are already heavily regulated by the federal government are likely to be exempt from filing a BOI report.

Some key types of businesses that could be exempt are banks, credit unions, tax-exempt entities, investment companies, and accounting firms. FinCEN provides a list of the 23 potential reporting company exemptions.

BOI reporting requirements

If you’re a small business owner who needs to file a BOI report with FinCEN, you might be wondering how and exactly what kind of information you need on hand. Luckily, the information required for companies and beneficial owners isn’t too different from many others. However, there are some terms that you’ll want to be aware of. These include “Reporting Company,” “Beneficial Owners,” “Company Applicant,” and others. Learn more about BOI Reporting Requirements .

1. Reporting company information

As a reminder, a reporting company is any entity created or registered in the U.S. by filing a document with a secretary of state or similar office. When filing an initial BOI report, a reporting company must provide the following information:

  • Full legal name
  • Any trade name or “doing business as” (DBA) name
  • Current U.S. street address
  • State, Tribal, or foreign jurisdiction of formation
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) (including an Employer Identification Number (EIN))
  • State or Tribal jurisdiction of first registration, if a foreign reporting company

2. Beneficial owners

Remember that a beneficial owner is an individual who directly or indirectly owns or controls 25% or more of the ownership interest of a reporting company. They might also directly or indirectly exercise substantial control over it.

Ownership interest refers to equity, stock, voting rights, capital or profit interest, or other instruments, contracts, or mechanisms that establish ownership. An individual has substantial control of a reporting company if they’re a senior officer, can appoint or remove officers or directors, is an important decision maker, or has any other form of substantial control.

It’s important to remember that there are some exemptions to the definition of beneficial owner. Special reporting considerations apply in situations involving:

  • A minor child
  • A nominee, intermediary, custodian, or agent
  • An employee
  • An inheritor

Once you’ve identified your company’s beneficial owners, you’ll need to provide the following information about them in your BOI report :

  • Date of birth
  • Current street address
  • A unique identifying number from an acceptable document, such as a passport or driver’s license, or a FinCEN identifier
  • An image of the document with the identifying number

A FinCEN identifier is a unique number issued by FinCEN to individuals who’ve filed a BOI report or requested one. You can use it instead of providing an identification document number. You can request a FinCEN identifier through an online portal starting January 1, 2024.

3. Company applicant

A company applicant is an individual who files or manages the filing of the document that creates or registers the reporting company. This could be an owner, manager, or agent of the reporting company or a third-party service provider, such as a lawyer, accountant, or incorporation service , who files on behalf of the reporting company.

Not every reporting company needs to report company applicants to FinCEN. You’re only required to report company applicants if you’re a domestic reporting company created on or after January 1, 2024, or a foreign reporting company first registered to do business in the United States on or after January 1, 2024.

Company applicants must provide the same information as beneficial owners:

BOI report deadline

The BOI reporting rule went into effect on January 1, 2024, but the deadline for filing your BOI initial report depends on when your reporting company was created or registered.

If your reporting company was created or registered before January 1, 2024 , you’ll have until January 1, 2025 , to file your initial BOI report.

If your reporting company was created or registered on or after January 1, 2024, but before January 1, 2025 , you’ll have 90 days to file your initial report. Note that this 90-day period starts when your reporting company receives actual notice of its creation or registration or when a secretary of state or similar office first provides public notice of your reporting company’s creation or registration, whichever is earlier.

It’s also important to know that this 90-day window is only for 2024. From 2025 onwards, you’ll have 30 days to file your initial report.

Besides filing your initial BOI report, you must file an updated report within 30 calendar days of any change to the information you previously reported. Some examples of changes that would trigger an updated report are:

  • Change in name, address, or identification document number of a beneficial owner or company applicant
  • Change in ownership interest or control of a beneficial owner
  • Change in the status of a reporting company, such as dissolution, merger, or conversion

File a BOI report with Block Advisors

Stay compliant – file your boi report with block advisors.

By filing your BOI report on time and keeping it updated, you help FinCEN combat money laundering, terrorist financing, and other illicit activities. More importantly, you avoid potential civil and criminal penalties for non-compliance. Consider seeking the advice of an attorney who can review your specific circumstances and guide your decisions to confirm that you are doing what’s right for you.

Failure to file a BOI report can result in a $500-per-day fine, up to $10,000 total, and up to two years in prison. Disclosing beneficial ownership information without proper authorization carries a $500-per-day fine, up to $250,000, and up to five years’ imprisonment.

This is a serious compliance requirement. If you’re having a hard time understanding the requirements, don’t panic. Block Advisors can help you through every step of the process, ensuring your report is filed on time and correctly.

What is a BOI report?

A BOI report is a form that identifies a reporting company, its beneficial owners, and its company applicants.

Who needs to report beneficial ownership information?

Under the CTA , all reporting companies need to report BOI to FinCEN. Reporting companies are entities created or registered in the U.S. by filing a document with a secretary of state or similar office unless it qualifies for one of 23 exemptions.

What is the deadline for filing the BOI report?

If a reporting company was created or registered before January 1, 2024, the deadline for filing a BOI report is January 1, 2025. Reporting companies created or registered on or after January 1, 2024, but before January 1, 2025, must file their BOI report 90 days after their creation or registration. Additionally, reporting companies must file an updated BOI report within 30 calendar days of any change in beneficial ownership information.

What is the penalty if you don’t file a BOI report?

Failure to file a BOI report can result in severe civil and criminal penalties. If you don’t file a BOI report, you could face a $500-per-day fine, up to $10,000, and up to two years in prison. If you disclose BOI without authorization, you could face a $500-per-day fine, up to $250,000, and up to five years’ imprisonment.

What is the difference between a BOI report and a BOI for taxes?

A BOI report identifies the reporting company, its beneficial owners, and its company applicants to FinCEN under the CTA and underlying regulations. A BOI for taxes refers to the beneficial ownership information that the IRS may require. Its definition of beneficial owner, threshold of ownership or control, type of information required, and reporting frequency may differ.

What is the BOI rule?

The BOI rule is the final rule issued by FinCEN that implements the CTA’s BOI reporting requirements . It aims to enhance FinCEN’s ability to protect U.S. national security and its financial system from illicit use.

Does a sole proprietorship need a beneficial ownership report?

No, a sole proprietorship doesn’t need a BOI report. A sole proprietorship is not considered a reporting company by the CTA because it’s not an entity created or registered in the U.S. by filing with a secretary of state or similar office.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. You may want to seek the advice of an attorney to evaluate all relevant considerations. 

meaning of file a report

Carl is a lead tax research analyst in the Tax Institute. He specializes in the areas of business, rental property and state taxation. Carl is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law with a JD and an LLM in tax.

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Beneficial Ownership Information Reporting Rule Fact Sheet

September 29, 2022

Today, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a final rule implementing the bipartisan Corporate Transparency Act’s (CTA) beneficial ownership information (BOI) reporting provisions. The rule will enhance the ability of FinCEN and other agencies to protect U.S. national security and the U.S. financial system from illicit use and provide essential information to national security, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies; state, local, and Tribal officials; and financial institutions to help prevent drug traffickers, fraudsters, corrupt actors such as oligarchs, and proliferators from laundering or hiding money and other assets in the United States.

Illicit actors frequently use corporate structures such as shell and front companies to obfuscate their identities and launder their ill-gotten gains through the United States. Not only do such acts undermine U.S. national security, they also threaten U.S. economic prosperity: shell and front companies can shield beneficial owners’ identities and allow criminals to illegally access and transact in the U.S. economy, while disadvantaging small U.S. businesses who are playing by the rules. This rule will strengthen the integrity of the U.S. financial system by making it harder for illicit actors to use shell companies to launder their money or hide assets.

Recent geopolitical events have reinforced the point that abuse of corporate entities, including shell or front companies, by illicit actors and corrupt officials presents a direct threat to the U.S. national security and the U.S. and international financial systems. For example, Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 further underscored that Russian elites, state-owned enterprises, and organized crime, as well as Russian government proxies have attempted to use U.S. and non-U.S. shell companies to evade sanctions imposed on Russia. This rule will enhance U.S national security by making it more difficult for criminals to exploit opaque legal structures to launder money, traffic humans and drugs, and commit serious tax fraud and other crimes that harm the American taxpayer.

At the same time, the rule aims to minimize burdens on small businesses and other reporting companies. Millions of businesses are formed in the United States each year. These businesses play an essential and important economic role. In particular, small businesses are a backbone of the U.S. economy, accounting for a large share of U.S. economic activity and driving U.S. innovation and competitiveness. U.S. small businesses also generate millions of jobs, and in 2021, created jobs at the highest rate on record. It is anticipated that it will cost reporting companies with simple management and ownership structures—which FinCEN expects to be the majority of reporting companies—approximately $85 apiece to prepare and submit an initial BOI report. In comparison, the state formation fee for creating a limited liability company (LLC) can cost between $40 and $500, depending on the state.

Beyond the direct benefits to law enforcement and other authorized users, the collection of BOI will help to shed light on criminals who evade taxes, hide their illicit wealth, and defraud employees and customers and hurt honest U.S. businesses through their misuse of shell companies.

The rule describes who must file a BOI report, what information must be reported, and when a report is due. Specifically, the rule requires reporting companies to file reports with FinCEN that identify two categories of individuals: (1) the beneficial owners of the entity; and (2) the company applicants of the entity.

The final rule reflects FinCEN’s careful consideration of detailed public comments received in response to its December 8, 2021 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the same topic, and extensive interagency consultations. FinCEN received comments from a broad array of individuals and organizations, including Members of Congress, government officials, groups representing small business interests, corporate transparency advocacy groups, the financial industry and trade associations representing its members, law enforcement representatives, and other interested groups and individuals.

Balancing both benefits and burden, the following are the key elements of the BOI reporting rule:

Reporting Companies

  • The rule identifies two types of reporting companies: domestic and foreign. A domestic reporting company is a corporation, limited liability company (LLC), or any entity created by the filing of a document with a secretary of state or any similar office under the law of a state or Indian tribe. A foreign reporting company is a corporation, LLC, or other entity formed under the law of a foreign country that is registered to do business in any state or tribal jurisdiction by the filing of a document with a secretary of state or any similar office. Under the rule, and in keeping with the CTA, twenty-three types of entities are exempt from the definition of “reporting company.”
  • FinCEN expects that these definitions mean that reporting companies will include (subject to the applicability of specific exemptions) limited liability partnerships, limited liability limited partnerships, business trusts, and most limited partnerships, in addition to corporations and LLCs, because such entities are generally created by a filing with a secretary of state or similar office.
  • Other types of legal entities, including certain trusts, are excluded from the definitions to the extent that they are not created by the filing of a document with a secretary of state or similar office. FinCEN recognizes that in many states the creation of most trusts typically does not involve the filing of such a formation document.

Beneficial Owners

  • Under the rule, a beneficial owner includes any individual who, directly or indirectly, either (1) exercises substantial control over a reporting company, or (2) owns or controls at least 25 percent of the ownership interests of a reporting company. The rule defines the terms “substantial control” and “ownership interest.” In keeping with the CTA, the rule exempts five types of individuals from the definition of “beneficial owner.”
  • In defining the contours of who has substantial control , the rule sets forth a range of activities that could constitute substantial control of a reporting company. This list captures anyone who is able to make important decisions on behalf of the entity. FinCEN’s approach is designed to close loopholes that allow corporate structuring that obscures owners or decision-makers. This is crucial to unmasking anonymous shell companies.
  • The rule provides standards and mechanisms for determining whether an individual owns or controls 25 percent of the ownership interests of a reporting company. Among other things, these standards and mechanisms address how a reporting company should handle a situation in which ownership interests are held in trust.
  • These definitions have been drafted to account for the various ownership or control structures reporting companies may adopt. However, for reporting companies that have simple organizational structures it should be a straightforward process to identify and report their beneficial owners. FinCEN expects the majority of reporting companies will have simple ownership structures.

Company Applicants

  • the individual who directly files the document that creates the entity, or in the case of a foreign reporting company, the document that first registers the entity to do business in the United States.
  • the individual who is primarily responsible for directing or controlling the filing of the relevant document by another.
  • The rule, however, does not require reporting companies existing or registered at the time of the effective date of the rule to identify and report on their company applicants. In addition, reporting companies formed or registered after the effective date of the rule also do not need to update company applicant information.

Beneficial Ownership Information Reports

  • When filing BOI reports with FinCEN, the rule requires a reporting company to identify itself and report four pieces of information about each of its beneficial owners: name, birthdate, address, and a unique identifying number and issuing jurisdiction from an acceptable identification document (and the image of such document). Additionally, the rule requires that reporting companies created after January 1, 2024, provide the four pieces of information and document image for company applicants.
  • If an individual provides their four pieces of information to FinCEN directly, the individual may obtain a “FinCEN identifier,” which can then be provided to FinCEN on a BOI report in lieu of the required information about the individual.
  • The effective date for the rule is January 1, 2024.
  • Reporting companies created or registered before January 1, 2024 will have one year (until January 1, 2025) to file their initial reports, while reporting companies created or registered after January 1, 2024, will have 30 days after receiving notice of their creation or registration to file their initial reports.
  • Reporting companies have 30 days to report changes to the information in their previously filed reports and must correct inaccurate information in previously filed reports within 30 days of when the reporting company becomes aware or has reason to know of the inaccuracy of information in earlier reports.
  • The BOI reporting rule is one of three rulemakings planned to implement the CTA. FinCEN will engage in additional rulemakings to (1) establish rules for who may access BOI, for what purposes, and what safeguards will be required to ensure that the information is secured and protected; and (2) revise FinCEN’s customer due diligence rule following the promulgation of the BOI reporting final rule.
  • In addition, FinCEN continues to develop the infrastructure to administer these requirements in accordance with the strict security and confidentiality requirements of the CTA, including the information technology system that will be used to store beneficial ownership information: the Beneficial Ownership Secure System (BOSS).
  • Consistent with its obligations under the Paperwork Reduction Act, FinCEN will publish in the Federal Register for public comment the reporting forms that persons will use to comply with their obligations under the BOI reporting rule. FinCEN will publish these forms well in advance of the effective date of the BOI reporting rule.
  • FinCEN will develop compliance and guidance documents to assist reporting companies in complying with this rule. Some of these materials will be aimed directly at, and made available to, reporting companies themselves. FinCEN will issue a Small Entity Compliance Guide, pursuant to section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996, in order to inform small entities about their responsibilities under the rule. Other materials will be aimed at a wide range of stakeholders that are likely to receive questions about the rule, such as secretaries of state and similar offices. FinCEN also intends to conduct extensive outreach to all stakeholders, including industry associations as well as secretaries of state and similar offices to ensure the effective implementation of the rule.

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  • Dealing with Nervousness
  • Using Visual Aids
  • Grading Someone Else's Paper
  • Types of Structured Group Activities
  • Group Project Survival Skills
  • Leading a Class Discussion
  • Multiple Book Review Essay
  • Reviewing Collected Works
  • Writing a Case Analysis Paper
  • Writing a Case Study
  • About Informed Consent
  • Writing Field Notes
  • Writing a Policy Memo
  • Writing a Reflective Paper
  • Writing a Research Proposal
  • Generative AI and Writing
  • Acknowledgments

The purpose of a field report in the social sciences is to describe the deliberate observation of people, places, and/or events and to analyze what has been observed in order to identify and categorize common themes in relation to the research problem underpinning the study. The content represents the researcher's interpretation of meaning found in data that has been gathered during one or more observational events.

Flick, Uwe. The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Data Collection . London: SAGE Publications, 2018; Lofland, John, David Snow, Leon Anderson, and Lyn H. Lofland. Analyzing Social Settings: A Guide to Qualitative Observation and Analysis. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, 2022; Baker, Lynda. "Observation: A Complex Research Method." Library Trends 55 (Summer 2006): 171-189.; Kellehear, Allan. The Unobtrusive Researcher: A Guide to Methods . New York: Routledge, 2020.

How to Approach Writing a Field Report

How to Begin

Field reports are most often assigned in disciplines of the applied social sciences [e.g., social work, anthropology, gerontology, criminal justice, education, law, the health care services] where it is important to build a bridge of relevancy between the theoretical concepts learned in the classroom and the practice of actually doing the work you are being taught to do. Field reports are also common in certain science disciplines [e.g., geology] but these reports are organized differently and serve a different purpose than what is described below.

Professors will assign a field report with the intention of improving your understanding of key theoretical concepts by applying methods of careful and structured observation of, and reflection about, people, places, or phenomena existing in their natural settings. Field reports facilitate the development of data collection techniques and observation skills and they help you to understand how theory applies to real world situations. Field reports are also an opportunity to obtain evidence through methods of observing professional practice that contribute to or challenge existing theories.

We are all observers of people, their interactions, places, and events; however, your responsibility when writing a field report is to conduct research based on data generated by the act of designing a specific study, deliberate observation, synthesis of key findings, and interpretation of their meaning.

When writing a field report you need to:

  • Systematically observe and accurately record the varying aspects of a situation . Always approach your field study with a detailed protocol about what you will observe, where you should conduct your observations, and the method by which you will collect and record your data.
  • Continuously analyze your observations . Always look for the meaning underlying the actions you observe. Ask yourself: What's going on here? What does this observed activity mean? What else does this relate to? Note that this is an on-going process of reflection and analysis taking place for the duration of your field research.
  • Keep the report’s aims in mind while you are observing . Recording what you observe should not be done randomly or haphazardly; you must be focused and pay attention to details. Enter the observation site [i.e., "field"] with a clear plan about what you are intending to observe and record in relation to the research problem while, at the same time, being prepared to adapt to changing circumstances as they may arise.
  • Consciously observe, record, and analyze what you hear and see in the context of a theoretical framework . This is what separates data gatherings from reporting. The theoretical framework guiding your field research should determine what, when, and how you observe and act as the foundation from which you interpret your findings in relation to the underlying assumptions embedded in the theoretical framework .

Techniques to Record Your Observations Although there is no limit to the type of data gathering techniques you can use, these are the most frequently used methods:

Note Taking This is the most common and easiest method of recording your observations. Tips for taking notes include: organizing some shorthand symbols beforehand so that recording basic or repeated actions does not impede your ability to observe, using many small paragraphs, which reflect changes in activities, who is talking, etc., and, leaving space on the page so you can write down additional thoughts and ideas about what’s being observed, any theoretical insights, and notes to yourself that are set aside for further investigation. See drop-down tab for additional information about note-taking.

Photography With the advent of smart phones, an almost unlimited number of high quality photographs can be taken of the objects, events, and people observed during a field study. Photographs can help capture an important moment in time as well as document details about the space where your observation takes place. Taking a photograph can save you time in documenting the details of a space that would otherwise require extensive note taking. However, be aware that flash photography could undermine your ability to observe unobtrusively so assess the lighting in your observation space; if it's too dark, you may need to rely on taking notes. Also, you should reject the idea that photographs represent some sort of "window into the world" because this assumption creates the risk of over-interpreting what they show. As with any product of data gathering, you are the sole instrument of interpretation and meaning-making, not the object itself. Video and Audio Recordings Video or audio recording your observations has the positive effect of giving you an unfiltered record of the observation event. It also facilitates repeated analysis of your observations. This can be particularly helpful as you gather additional information or insights during your research. However, these techniques have the negative effect of increasing how intrusive you are as an observer and will often not be practical or even allowed under certain circumstances [e.g., interaction between a doctor and a patient] and in certain organizational settings [e.g., a courtroom]. Illustrations/Drawings This does not refer to an artistic endeavor but, rather, refers to the possible need, for example, to draw a map of the observation setting or illustrating objects in relation to people's behavior. This can also take the form of rough tables, charts, or graphs documenting the frequency and type of activities observed. These can be subsequently placed in a more readable format when you write your field report. To save time, draft a table [i.e., columns and rows] on a separate piece of paper before an observation if you know you will be entering data in that way.

NOTE:   You may consider using a laptop or other electronic device to record your notes as you observe, but keep in mind the possibility that the clicking of keys while you type or noises from your device can be obtrusive, whereas writing your notes on paper is relatively quiet and unobtrusive. Always assess your presence in the setting where you're gathering the data so as to minimize your impact on the subject or phenomenon being studied.

ANOTHER NOTE:   Techniques of deliberate observation and data gathering are not innate skills; they are skills that must be learned and practiced in order to achieve proficiency. Before your first observation, practice the technique you plan to use in a setting similar to your study site [e.g., take notes about how people choose to enter checkout lines at a grocery store if your research involves examining the choice patterns of unrelated people forced to queue in busy social settings]. When the act of data gathering counts, you'll be glad you practiced beforehand.

YET ANOTHER NOTE:   An issue rarely discussed in the literature about conducting field research is whether you should move around the study site while observing or remaining situated in one place. Moving around can be intrusive, but it facilitates observing people's behavior from multiple vectors. However, if you remain in one place throughout the observation [or during each observation], you will eventually blend into the background and diminish the chance of unintentionally influencing people's behavior. If the site has a complex set of interactions or interdependent activities [e.g., a play ground], consider moving around; if the study site is relatively fixed [e.g., a classroom], then consider staying in one place while observing.

Examples of Things to Document While Observing

  • Physical setting . The characteristics of an occupied space and the human use of the place where the observation(s) are being conducted.
  • Objects and material culture . This refers to the presence, placement, and arrangement of objects that impact the behavior or actions of those being observed. If applicable, describe the cultural artifacts representing the beliefs [i.e., the values, ideas, attitudes, and assumptions] of the individuals you are observing [e.g., the choice of particular types of clothing in the observation of family gatherings during culturally specific holidays].
  • Use of language . Don't just observe but  listen to what is being said, how is it being said, and the tone of conversations among participants.
  • Behavior cycles . This refers to documenting when and who performs what behavior or task and how often they occur. Record at which stage this behavior is occurring within the setting.
  • The order in which events unfold . Note sequential patterns of behavior or the moment when actions or events take place and their significance. Also, be prepared to note moments that diverge from these sequential patterns of behavior or actions.
  • Physical characteristics of subjects. If relevant, document personal characteristics of individuals being observed. Note that, unless this data can be verified in interviews or from documentary evidence, you should only focus on characteristics that can be clearly observed [e.g., clothing, physical appearance, body language].
  • Expressive body movements . This would include things like body posture or facial expressions. Note that it may be relevant to also assess whether expressive body movements support or contradict the language used in conversation [e.g., detecting sarcasm].

Brief notes about all of these examples contextualize your observations; however, your observation notes will be guided primarily by your theoretical framework, keeping in mind that your observations will feed into and potentially modify or alter these frameworks.

Sampling Techniques

Sampling refers to the process used to select a portion of the population for study . Qualitative research, of which observation is one method of data gathering, is generally based on non-probability and purposive sampling rather than probability or random approaches characteristic of quantitatively-driven studies. Sampling in observational research is flexible and often continues until no new themes emerge from the data, a point referred to as data saturation.

All sampling decisions are made for the explicit purpose of obtaining the richest possible source of information to answer the research questions. Decisions about sampling assumes you know what you want to observe, what behaviors are important to record, and what research problem you are addressing before you begin the study. These questions determine what sampling technique you should use, so be sure you have adequately answered them before selecting a sampling method.

Ways to sample when conducting an observation include:

  • Ad Libitum Sampling -- this approach is not that different from what people do at the zoo; they observe whatever seems interesting at the moment. There is no organized system of recording the observations; you just note whatever seems relevant at the time. The advantage of this method is that you are often able to observe relatively rare or unusual behaviors that might be missed by more deliberately designed sampling methods. This method is also useful for obtaining preliminary observations that can be used to develop your final field study. Problems using this method include the possibility of inherent bias toward conspicuous behaviors or individuals, thereby missing mundane or repeated patterns of behavior, and that you may miss brief interactions in social settings.
  • Behavior Sampling -- this involves watching the entire group of subjects and recording each occurrence of a specific behavior of interest and with reference to which individuals were involved. The method is useful in recording rare behaviors missed by other sampling methods and is often used in conjunction with focal or scan methods [see below]. However, sampling can be biased towards particular conspicuous behaviors.
  • Continuous Recording -- provides a faithful record of behavior including frequencies, durations, and latencies [the time that elapses between a stimulus and the response to it]. This is a very demanding method because you are trying to record everything within the setting and, thus, measuring reliability may be sacrificed. In addition, durations and latencies are only reliable if subjects remain present throughout the collection of data. However, this method facilitates analyzing sequences of behaviors and ensures obtaining a wealth of data about the observation site and the people within it. The use of audio or video recording is most useful with this type of sampling.
  • Focal Sampling -- this involves observing one individual for a specified amount of time and recording all instances of that individual's behavior. Usually you have a set of predetermined categories or types of behaviors that you are interested in observing [e.g., when a teacher walks around the classroom] and you keep track of the duration of those behaviors. This approach doesn't tend to bias one behavior over another and provides significant detail about a individual's behavior. However, with this method, you likely have to conduct a lot of focal samples before you have a good idea about how group members interact. It can also be difficult within certain settings to keep one individual in sight for the entire period of the observation without being intrusive.
  • Instantaneous Sampling -- this is where observation sessions are divided into short intervals divided by sample points. At each sample point the observer records if predetermined behaviors of interest are taking place. This method is not effective for recording discrete events of short duration and, frequently, observers will want to record novel behaviors that occur slightly before or after the point of sampling, creating a sampling error. Though not exact, this method does give you an idea of durations and is relatively easy to do. It is also good for recording behavior patterns occurring at a specific instant, such as, movement or body positions.
  • One-Zero Sampling -- this is very similar to instantaneous sampling, only the observer records if the behaviors of interest have occurred at any time during an interval instead of at the instant of the sampling point. The method is useful for capturing data on behavior patterns that start and stop repeatedly and rapidly, but that last only for a brief period of time. The disadvantage of this approach is that you get a dimensionless score for an entire recording session, so you only get one one data point for each recording session.
  • Scan Sampling -- this method involves taking a census of the entire observed group at predetermined time periods and recording what each individual is doing at that moment. This is useful for obtaining group behavioral data and allows for data that are evenly representative across individuals and periods of time. On the other hand, this method may be biased towards more conspicuous behaviors and you may miss a lot of what is going on between observations, especially rare or unusual behaviors. It is also difficult to record more than a few individuals in a group setting without missing what each individual is doing at each predetermined moment in time [e.g., children sitting at a table during lunch at school]. The use of audio or video recording is useful with this type of sampling.

Alderks, Peter. Data Collection. Psychology 330 Course Documents. Animal Behavior Lab. University of Washington; Emerson, Robert M. Contemporary Field Research: Perspectives and Formulations . 2nd ed. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 2001; Emerson, Robert M. et al. “Participant Observation and Fieldnotes.” In Handbook of Ethnography . Paul Atkinson et al., eds. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2001), 352-368; Emerson, Robert M. et al. Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes . 2nd ed. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2011; Ethnography, Observational Research, and Narrative Inquiry. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Hazel, Spencer. "The Paradox from Within: Research Participants Doing-Being-Observed." Qualitative Research 16 (August 2016): 446-457; Pace, Tonio. Writing Field Reports. Scribd Online Library; Presser, Jon and Dona Schwartz. “Photographs within the Sociological Research Process.” In Image-based Research: A Sourcebook for Qualitative Researchers . Jon Prosser, editor (London: Falmer Press, 1998), pp. 115-130; Pyrczak, Fred and Randall R. Bruce. Writing Empirical Research Reports: A Basic Guide for Students of the Social and Behavioral Sciences . 5th ed. Glendale, CA: Pyrczak Publishing, 2005; Report Writing. UniLearning. University of Wollongong, Australia; Wolfinger, Nicholas H. "On Writing Fieldnotes: Collection Strategies and Background Expectancies.” Qualitative Research 2 (April 2002): 85-95; Writing Reports. Anonymous. The Higher Education Academy.

Structure and Writing Style

How you choose to format your field report is determined by the research problem, the theoretical framework that is driving your analysis, the observations that you make, and/or specific guidelines established by your professor. Since field reports do not have a standard format, it is worthwhile to determine from your professor what the preferred structure and organization should be before you begin to write. Note that field reports should be written in the past tense. With this in mind, most field reports in the social sciences include the following elements:

I.  Introduction The introduction should describe the research problem, the specific objectives of your research, and the important theories or concepts underpinning your field study. The introduction should describe the nature of the organization or setting where you are conducting the observation, what type of observations you have conducted, what your focus was, when you observed, and the methods you used for collecting the data. Collectively, this descriptive information should support reasons why you chose the observation site and the people or events within it. You should also include a review of pertinent literature related to the research problem, particularly if similar methods were used in prior studies. Conclude your introduction with a statement about how the rest of the paper is organized.

II.  Description of Activities

Your readers only knowledge and understanding of what happened will come from the description section of your report because they were not witnesses to the situation, people, or events that you are writing about. Given this, it is crucial that you provide sufficient details to place the analysis that will follow into proper context; don't make the mistake of providing a description without context. The description section of a field report is similar to a well written piece of journalism. Therefore, a useful approach to systematically describing the varying aspects of an observed situation is to answer the "Five W’s of Investigative Reporting." As Dubbels notes [p. 19], these are:

  • What -- describe what you observed. Note the temporal, physical, and social boundaries you imposed to limit the observations you made. What were your general impressions of the situation you were observing. For example, as a student teacher, what is your impression of the application of iPads as a learning device in a history class; as a cultural anthropologist, what is your impression of women's participation in a Native American religious ritual?
  • Where -- provide background information about the setting of your observation and, if necessary, note important material objects that are present that help contextualize the observation [e.g., arrangement of computers in relation to student engagement with the teacher].
  • When -- record factual data about the day and the beginning and ending time of each observation. Note that it may also be necessary to include background information or key events which impact upon the situation you were observing [e.g., observing the ability of teachers to re-engage students after coming back from an unannounced fire drill].
  • Who -- note background and demographic information about the individuals being observed e.g., age, gender, ethnicity, and/or any other variables relevant to your study]. Record who is doing what and saying what, as well as, who is not doing or saying what. If relevant, be sure to record who was missing from the observation.
  • Why -- why were you doing this? Describe the reasons for selecting particular situations to observe. Note why something happened. Also note why you may have included or excluded certain information.

III.  Interpretation and Analysis

Always place the analysis and interpretations of your field observations within the larger context of the theoretical assumptions and issues you described in the introduction. Part of your responsibility in analyzing the data is to determine which observations are worthy of comment and interpretation, and which observations are more general in nature. It is your theoretical framework that allows you to make these decisions. You need to demonstrate to the reader that you are conducting the field work through the eyes of an informed viewer and from the perspective of a casual observer.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when analyzing your observations:

  • What is the meaning of what you have observed?
  • Why do you think what you observed happened? What evidence do you have for your reasoning?
  • What events or behaviors were typical or widespread? If appropriate, what was unusual or out of the ordinary? How were they distributed among categories of people?
  • Do you see any connections or patterns in what you observed?
  • Why did the people you observed proceed with an action in the way that they did? What are the implications of this?
  • Did the stated or implicit objectives of what you were observing match what was achieved?
  • What were the relative merits of the behaviors you observed?
  • What were the strengths and weaknesses of the observations you recorded?
  • Do you see connections between what you observed and the findings of similar studies identified from your review of the literature?
  • How do your observations fit into the larger context of professional practice? In what ways have your observations possibly changed or affirmed your perceptions of professional practice?
  • Have you learned anything from what you observed?

NOTE:   Only base your interpretations on what you have actually observed. Do not speculate or manipulate your observational data to fit into your study's theoretical framework.

IV.  Conclusion and Recommendations

The conclusion should briefly recap of the entire study, reiterating the importance or significance of your observations. Avoid including any new information. You should also state any recommendations you may have based on the results of your study. Be sure to describe any unanticipated problems you encountered and note the limitations of your study. The conclusion should not be more than two or three paragraphs.

V.  Appendix

This is where you would place information that is not essential to explaining your findings, but that supports your analysis [especially repetitive or lengthy information], that validates your conclusions, or that contextualizes a related point that helps the reader understand the overall report. Examples of information that could be included in an appendix are figures/tables/charts/graphs of results, statistics, pictures, maps, drawings, or, if applicable, transcripts of interviews. There is no limit to what can be included in the appendix or its format [e.g., a DVD recording of the observation site], provided that it is relevant to the study's purpose and reference is made to it in the report. If information is placed in more than one appendix ["appendices"], the order in which they are organized is dictated by the order they were first mentioned in the text of the report.

VI.  References

List all sources that you consulted and obtained information from while writing your field report. Note that field reports generally do not include further readings or an extended bibliography. However, consult with your professor concerning what your list of sources should be included and be sure to write them in the preferred citation style of your discipline or is preferred by your professor [i.e., APA, Chicago, MLA, etc.].

Alderks, Peter. Data Collection. Psychology 330 Course Documents. Animal Behavior Lab. University of Washington; Dubbels, Brock R. Exploring the Cognitive, Social, Cultural, and Psychological Aspects of Gaming and Simulations . Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2018; Emerson, Robert M. Contemporary Field Research: Perspectives and Formulations . 2nd ed. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 2001; Emerson, Robert M. et al. “Participant Observation and Fieldnotes.” In Handbook of Ethnography . Paul Atkinson et al., eds. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2001), 352-368; Emerson, Robert M. et al. Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes . 2nd ed. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2011; Ethnography, Observational Research, and Narrative Inquiry. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Pace, Tonio. Writing Field Reports. Scribd Online Library; Pyrczak, Fred and Randall R. Bruce. Writing Empirical Research Reports: A Basic Guide for Students of the Social and Behavioral Sciences . 5th ed. Glendale, CA: Pyrczak Publishing, 2005; Report Writing. UniLearning. University of Wollongong, Australia; Wolfinger, Nicholas H. "On Writing Fieldnotes: Collection Strategies and Background Expectancies.” Qualitative Research 2 (April 2002): 85-95; Writing Reports. Anonymous. The Higher Education Academy.

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Special Counsel’s Report Puts Biden’s Age and Memory in the Spotlight

After an inquiry concluded that President Biden was “well-meaning” but had “a poor memory,” he angrily fired back in an attempt at political damage control.

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President Biden looking down. He is wearing a blue suit.

By Michael D. Shear

Reporting from Washington

The decision on Thursday not to file criminal charges against President Biden for mishandling classified documents should have been an unequivocal legal exoneration.

Instead, it was a political disaster.

The investigation into Mr. Biden’s handling of the documents after being vice president concluded that he was a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” and had “diminished faculties in advancing age” — such startling assertions that they prompted a fiery and emotional attempt at political damage control from the president within hours.

‘My Memory Is Fine,’ President Biden Says

The president defended his ability to serve when questioned by reporters on his memory and age during a news conference, hours after a special counsel cleared him of criminal charges in the handling of classified documents..

[Reporter] “President Biden, something the special counsel said in his report is that one of the reasons you were not charged is because, in his description, you are a well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” “I’m well meaning, and I’m an elderly man, and I know what the hell I’m doing. I’ve been president, and I put this country back on its feet. I don’t need his recommendation. That’s totally –” [Reporter] “How bad is your memory, and can you continue as president?” “My memory is so bad I let you speak. That’s –” [Reporter] “Do you know if your memory has gotten worse, Mr. President?” “My memory is not – My memory is fine. My memory – Take a look at what I’ve done since I’ve become president. None of you thought I could pass any of the things I got passed. How did that happen? You know, I guess I just forgot what was going on.”

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Speaking to the cameras from the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House, Mr. Biden on Thursday evening blasted the report by Robert K. Hur , the special counsel, accusing the report’s authors of “extraneous commentary” about his age and mental capacity.

“They don’t know what they’re talking about,” the president said flatly.

Mr. Biden appeared to take special exception to the report’s assertion that during interviews with F.B.I. investigators, he could not recall what year his son Beau died.

“How the hell dare he raise that,” the president said, appearing to choke back tears. “Every Memorial Day we hold a service remembering him attended by friends and family and the people who loved him. I don’t need anyone, I don’t need anyone to remind me when he passed away.”

The president’s remarkable appearance before reporters underscored the political damage that Mr. Hur’s report could do despite the lack of criminal charges. The report’s discussion of the president’s memory and age was repeated throughout the 345-page document, and was quickly seized on by Republicans, including Mr. Biden’s likely opponent in the 2024 election, former President Donald J. Trump.

In the report, Mr. Hur said the memory of the then-80-year-old president was so hazy during five hours of interviews over two days that it would be difficult to convince jurors that Mr. Biden knew his handling of the documents was wrong. Mr. Hur predicted in the report that if the president were charged, his lawyers “would emphasize these limitations in his recall.”

In part because of Mr. Biden’s memory, Mr. Hur declined to recommend charging the president for what the report described as willful retention of national security secrets, including some documents shared by the president that implicated “sensitive intelligence sources and methods.”

“It would be difficult to convince a jury that they should convict him — by then a former president well into his 80s — of a serious felony that requires a mental state of willfulness,” Mr. Hur wrote.

In his own written statement issued just after the report became public, Mr. Biden appeared to suggest a reason for why he was distracted.

“I was so determined to give the special counsel what they needed that I went forward with five hours of in-person interviews over two days on Oct. 8 and 9 of last year, even though Israel had just been attacked on Oct. 7 and I was in the middle of handling an international crisis,” he wrote. “I just believed that’s what I owed the American people.”

The president’s lawyers, Bob Bauer and Richard Sauber, took exception in a Feb. 5 letter with Mr. Hur’s description of the president’s memory.

“It is hardly fair to concede that the president would be asked about events years in the past, press him to give his ‘best’ recollections and then fault him for his limited memory,” the lawyers wrote. “The president’s inability to recall dates or details of events that happened years ago is neither surprising nor unusual.”

Concerns about Mr. Biden’s age have been a recurring theme of his presidency over the past three years. Fueled in part by video of the president appearing weak or stumbling in public, many voters have expressed concern about his mental and physical fitness as he seeks to remain in the White House until he is 86 years old.

Mr. Biden has tried to laugh off the issue, insisting that with age comes wisdom.

During fund-raisers on Wednesday , Mr. Biden twice recalled a 2021 conversation with Helmut Kohl, the onetime German chancellor, who died in 2017. His spokeswoman later said he misspoke, as many public officials do. In his remarks on Thursday evening, Mr. Biden confused the presidents of Mexico and Egypt, making exactly the kind of mistake that his staff would have wanted him to avoid at a time when his mental acuity is being questioned.

On Thursday, he angrily disputed the suggestion that he was not fit to serve. Asked about polls showing that the American people have concerns about his age, he pointed at the reporter and said: “That is your judgment. That is your judgment.”

He then added: “That is not the judgment of the press,” though he appeared to mean it was not the judgment of the public. Asked why he should not step aside and let someone else in his party be the Democratic nominee, he said, “Because I’m the most qualified person in this country to be president of the United States and finish the job I started.”

Mr. Biden’s aides have repeatedly insisted that despite how the president sometimes comes across in public, he remains sharp and tireless when he is in private, in discussions with aides or in meetings with foreign leaders.

But the report released on Thursday challenges those descriptions, not by relying on short snippets of Mr. Biden posted to social media but rather on hourslong interactions with the president in controlled settings. And the descriptions of his memory were more vivid than what is normally found in legal documents like the one released on Thursday.

In the report, Mr. Hur wrote that in a 2017 recorded conversation between Mr. Biden and the ghostwriter for his book, Mr. Biden struggled to “remember events” and was “straining at times to read and relay his own notebook entries.” Mr. Hur said that the interviews in 2023 with investigators were even worse.

“He did not remember when he was vice president, forgetting on the first day of the interview when his term ended (‘if it was 2013 — when did I stop being vice president?’), and forgetting on the second day of the interview when his term began (‘in 2009, am I still vice president?’),” the report said. “He did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died.”

Mr. Hur was nominated by Mr. Trump to be the U.S. attorney in Maryland, but was later chosen by Attorney General Merrick Garland to lead the investigation into Mr. Biden’s handling of classified documents.

Mr. Biden’s lawyers have been arguing for more than a year that the discovery of classified documents at Mr. Biden’s offices and Delaware home was no more than accidental oversight, and certainly not criminal behavior like the 37 felony charges brought against Mr. Trump for his handling of classified material after leaving office.

On Thursday, the special counsel came to the same conclusion after reviewing a total of seven million documents, a fact celebrated inside the White House and at the president’s re-election campaign headquarters, where aides are preparing to wage a fierce battle to prevent Mr. Trump’s return to the White House.

But the report refuted the longstanding argument by the president’s lawyers that Mr. Biden never put the nation’s national security at risk. Investigators found documents at Mr. Biden’s home in a “box in the garage, near a collapsed dog crate, a dog bed, a Zappos box , an empty bucket, a broken lamp wrapped with duct tape, potting soil and synthetic firewood.”

While concluding that “the evidence does not establish Mr. Biden’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” Mr. Hur nonetheless wrote that Mr. Biden took classified documents and notebooks about Afghanistan with him in 2017 after leaving the vice presidency, and shared some of those documents with his ghostwriter.

The tough language by Mr. Hur could set the stage for Mr. Trump and his allies to launch a fresh round of political attacks on Mr. Biden for doing the very same kinds of things Mr. Trump is accused of doing. And it will probably complicate the monthslong effort by Mr. Biden and his advisers to draw sharp distinctions between the actions of the two presidents.

But the most searing political damage is likely to be about Mr. Biden’s age, which many veteran Democrats already believe is the president’s biggest weakness. Some have privately said they worried that something would come along to remind voters about the age issue, including the possibility of a fall or a mental stumble.

Republicans began using the report to attack Mr. Biden almost immediately, sometimes going much further than the prosecutor’s actual conclusions.

Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said on social media, falsely, that “the special counsel decided not to bring charges against Biden because they believe he has age related dementia.”

In some ways, Thursday’s report was the worst of all worlds: an official description of Mr. Biden behind the scenes, suggesting that with age come stumbles.

Michael D. Shear is a White House correspondent for The New York Times, covering President Biden and his administration. He has reported on politics for more than 30 years. More about Michael D. Shear

Biden’s Mental Acuity Under Scrutiny

Comments about president biden’s age and memory in the special counsel’s report have captured democrats’ fears ahead of the november election and fueled republicans in their efforts to cast the president as weak..

An Age-Old Question: How old is too old to be president? The report has thrust the issue back into the spotlight  just as America seems poised to elect a commander in chief well past typical retirement age, no matter who wins in November.

Implications for 2024 Election: Why is the age issue hurting Biden  so much more than Donald Trump? Both are over 75, but voters are much less likely to worry that Trump is too old to serve .

Voter Reactions: To Americans in their 70s and 80s, the renewed questions swirling around Biden’s age have resonated in deeply personal ways . Many agree that it’s an issue, while others feel the criticism of Biden is insulting.

Rebuffing the Report: Vice President Kamala Harris and other White House officials have sought to discredit the report , suggesting that it was more of a political attack than an unbiased legal document .

The Science of Memory Loss: After the report’s release, medical experts noted that the special counsel’s judgments on Biden’s mental health did not appear to be based on science .

A Protective White House: Biden’s top aides have created a cocoon around him out of concern that his mistakes could be amplified and damage his image. The events that followed the report’s release emphasized those risks in striking ways .

Biden will not face charges over classified papers, says 'memory is fine'

Memory issues.

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the White House in Washington

'INAPPROPRIATE COMMENTS'

Reporting by Andrew Goudsward and Jeff Mason, additional reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Writing by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Scott Malone, Lisa Shumaker, Deepa Babington and Don Durfee

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles. , opens new tab

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Thomson Reuters

Jeff Mason is a White House Correspondent for Reuters. He has covered the presidencies of Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden and the presidential campaigns of Biden, Trump, Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. He served as president of the White House Correspondents’ Association in 2016-2017, leading the press corps in advocating for press freedom in the early days of the Trump administration. His and the WHCA's work was recognized with Deutsche Welle's "Freedom of Speech Award." Jeff has asked pointed questions of domestic and foreign leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea's Kim Jong Un. He is a winner of the WHCA's “Excellence in Presidential News Coverage Under Deadline Pressure" award and co-winner of the Association for Business Journalists' "Breaking News" award. Jeff began his career in Frankfurt, Germany as a business reporter before being posted to Brussels, Belgium, where he covered the European Union. Jeff appears regularly on television and radio and teaches political journalism at Georgetown University. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and a former Fulbright scholar.

Republican presidential candidate Haley makes a campaign visit in North Augusta

Ukrainian soldiers expect more assaults after Russian forces capture eastern town

Ukrainian soldiers dug in around new positions outside of Avdiivka say Russian forces who captured the eastern Ukrainian town last week are pressing on toward nearby towns and villages.

Leopard 2A4 tanks take part in a military training near Tata

Biden won’t be charged in classified docs case; special counsel cites instances of ‘poor memory’

WASHINGTON — Special counsel Robert Hur has declined to prosecute President Joe Biden for his handling of classified documents but said in a report released Thursday that Biden’s practices “present serious risks to national security” and added that part of the reason he wouldn't charge Biden was that the president could portray himself as an "elderly man with a poor memory" who would be sympathetic to a jury.

“Our investigation uncovered evidence that President Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen,” the report said, but added that the evidence “does not establish Mr. Biden’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The report from Hur — who previously appointed by former President Donald Trump as one of the country's top federal prosecutors — also made clear the "material distinctions" between a theoretical case against Biden and the pending case against Trump for his handling of classified documents, noting the "serious aggravating facts" in Trump's case.

Biden said in remarks from the White House after the report was made public that he was pleased that the report cleared him.

"The decision to decline criminal charges was straightforward," Biden said.

He also said: “My memory’s fine.”

Hur’s report included several shocking lines about Biden’s memory, which the report said “was significantly limited” during his 2023 interviews with the special counsel. Biden’s age and presentation would make it more difficult to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the now-81-year-old was guilty of willfully committing a crime.

“We have also considered that, at trial, Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory,” it said. “Based on our direct interactions with and observations of him, he is someone for whom many jurors will want to identify reasonable doubt. It would be difficult to convince a jury that they should convict him — by then a former president well into his eighties — of a serious felony that requires a mental state of willfulness.”

Later in the report, the special counsel said that the president’s memory was “worse” during an interview with him than it was in recorded conversations from 2017.

“He did not remember when he was vice president, forgetting on the first day of the interview when his term ended (‘if it was 2013 — when did I stop being Vice President?’), and forgetting on the second day of the interview when his term began (‘in 2009, am I still Vice President?’),” the report said.

Biden also had difficulty remembering the timing of his son Beau’s death, as well as a debate about Afghanistan, the report said.

“He did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died,” the report said.

Defenders of the president quickly pointed out that he sat for the interview in the days after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Biden, giving previously scheduled remarks on Thursday, appeared to nod to that, saying, “I was in the middle of handling an international crisis.”

He also added that he was “especially pleased” that the special counsel “made clear the stark differences between this case and Donald Trump.”

Andrew Weissman, who served on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, said Thursday on MSNBC that Hur’s decision to lodge criticisms of Biden’s memory problems was “gratuitous” and reminded him of when former FBI Director James Comey held a news conference criticizing Hillary Clinton in the months before the 2016 election.

“This is not being charged. And yet a person goes out and gives their opinion with adjectives and adverbs about what they think, entirely inappropriate,” he said. “I think a really fair criticism of this is, unfortunately, we’re seeing a redux of what we saw with respect to James Comey at the FBI with respect to Hillary Clinton in terms of really not adhering to what I think are the highest ideals of the Department of Justice.”

page 131 photo hur report

In a Monday letter to Hur and his deputy special counsel, Richard Sauber and Bob Bauer, Biden’s personal counsel, disputed how the report characterized the president’s memory.

“We do not believe that the report’s treatment of President Biden’s memory is accurate or appropriate,” Sauber and Bauer wrote in the letter, which was also released on Thursday. “The report uses highly prejudicial language to describe a commonplace occurrence among witnesses: a lack of recall of years-old events.”

Separately, Sauber responded to the report by saying the White House is “pleased” it has concluded and that there were no criminal charges.

“As the Special Counsel report recognizes, the President fully cooperated from day one,” he said in a statement. “His team promptly self-reported the classified documents that were found to ensure that these documents were immediately returned to the government because the President knows that’s where they belong.”

Sauber went on to appear to criticize the report but raised no specific points.

“We disagree with a number of inaccurate and inappropriate comments in the Special Counsel’s report,” Sauber said in his statement. “Nonetheless, the most important decision the Special Counsel made — that no charges are warranted — is firmly based on the facts and evidence.”

Hur’s report said there were “clear” material distinctions between a potential case against Biden and the pending case against Trump, noting that unlike “the evidence involving Mr. Biden, the allegations set forth in the indictment of Mr. Trump, if proven, would present serious aggravating facts.”

meaning of file a report

Most notably, the report said, “after being given multiple chances to return classified documents and avoid prosecution, Mr. Trump allegedly did the opposite.” In contrast, it said, “Mr. Biden turned in classified documents to the National Archives and the Department of Justice, consented to the search of multiple locations including his homes, sat for a voluntary interview, and in other ways cooperated with the investigation.”

Some of the report focuses on documents about Afghanistan, from early in Barack Obama’s presidency. About a month after Biden left office as vice president, in a recorded conversation with his ghostwriter in February 2017, Biden remarked that he “just found all this classified stuff downstairs,” the report said. He told him, “Some of this may be classified, so be careful," in one recording. Biden was believed to have been referring to classified documents about the Afghanistan troop surge in 2009, which Biden opposed.

The announcement tops off a lengthy saga that began in November 2022, after one of Biden’s personal attorneys found classified documents that appeared to be from the Obama administration at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, which Biden had used as a personal office after his vice presidential term concluded. Classified documents were later also found at Biden’s Delaware home.

The existence of classified documents at Biden’s home and former office were first reported in January 2023. CBS News first reported the existence of the documents at the Penn Biden Center.

Attorney General Merrick Garland in January 2023 announced that he would appoint Hur as special counsel to oversee the investigation into Biden, saying the appointment authorized him “to investigate whether any person or entity violated the law in connection with this matter.”

Biden was interviewed in October as part of the investigation, the White House said. The interview was voluntary, according to White House spokesman Ian Sams.

“As we have said from the beginning, the President and the White House are cooperating with this investigation, and as it has been appropriate, we have provided relevant updates publicly, being as transparent as we can consistent with protecting and preserving the integrity of the investigation,” Sams said at the time.

NBC News has also previously reported that the special counsel had interviewed Hunter Biden as well, according to a source familiar with the matter.

With Hur’s announcement, Donald Trump remains the only president in history to face criminal charges, which include seven criminal charges in connection with mishandling classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago. According to the indictment in that case, Trump had more than 100 classified documents at his Florida home, including documents with “Top Secret” classification markings.

meaning of file a report

Ryan J. Reilly is a justice reporter for NBC News.

meaning of file a report

Ken Dilanian is the justice and intelligence correspondent for NBC News, based in Washington.

meaning of file a report

Megan Lebowitz is a politics reporter for NBC News.

Watch CBS News

Read the full decision in Trump's New York civil fraud case

By Graham Kates

Edited By Stefan Becket, Paula Cohen

Updated on: February 16, 2024 / 8:27 PM EST / CBS News

The judge overseeing the civil fraud case in New York against former President Donald Trump and the Trump Organization has issued his long-awaited ruling , five weeks after the  trial in the case concluded . 

Judge Arthur Engoron ordered Trump and his company to pay $354 million in fines — a total that jumps to $453.5 million when pre-judgment interest is factored in. It also bars them from seeking loans from financial institutions in New York for a period of three years, and includes a three-year ban on Trump serving as an officer or director of any New York corporation. 

Additional penalties were ordered for Trump's sons, Eric and Donald Trump Jr., who are executives at the company, and two former executives, Allen Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney.

New York Attorney General Letitia James  brought the civil suit  in 2022, seeking a  penalty that grew to $370 million  and asking the judge to bar Trump from doing business in the state. 

Judge Engoron had already ruled in September that Trump and the other defendants were  liable for fraud , based on the evidence presented through pretrial filings. 

The judge had largely affirmed James' allegations that Trump and others at his company had inflated valuations of his properties by hundreds of millions of dollars over a the course of a decade and misrepresented his wealth by billions in a scheme, the state said, intended to trick banks and insurers into offering more favorable deal terms.

Trump and his legal team long expected a defeat, with the former president decrying the case as "rigged" and a "sham" and his lawyers laying the groundwork for an appeal before the decision was even issued. He is expected to appeal.

Read Judge Engoron's decision here :

  • The Trump Organization
  • Donald Trump
  • Letitia James

Graham Kates is an investigative reporter covering criminal justice, privacy issues and information security for CBS News Digital. Contact Graham at [email protected] or [email protected]

More from CBS News

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Iowa sex abuse victim in Boy Scouts case could be among hundreds shortchanged by state law

Disagreements persist over how much organizations and employers in iowa should be held legally responsible for child sex abuse.

meaning of file a report

  • Iowa's statute of limitations for filing childhood sex abuse claims is unusually limited
  • State statutes of limitations are a factor in determining how much victims will get in a settlement with the Scouts
  • An Iowa state senator introduced a law to lift the limit, but it failed to make it out of committee
  • Now victims like Bill Vahl, who grew up in Dubuque, could see their shares in the settlement greatly reduced

Bill Vahl waited until the last minute to file his claim against the Boy Scouts of America.

Silent for most of his 71 years about the sexual abuse he alleges he suffered from a Dubuque adult Scout leader, Vahl said he had to think long and hard about his love for the Scouts, the crippling health issues he’s coped with all his adult life, and the at least 82,000 other men who say they endured sexual abuse as children at the hands of Boy Scout volunteers who turned out to be predators.

In the end, Vahl decided that becoming part of the nationwide settlement in 2020 was one way he could try to force the Scouts to better protect kids.

“I’d like to make them get better,” Vahl said. “Unwittingly, they have been a big player in this sex crimes business. They’re the ones who serve up kids to these predators. And after everything I’ve read, I thought this is the only way they are going to get serious about making change.”  

Vahl, who now lives in Tucson, Arizona, is in the final stages of submitting pages of documents to the Boy Scouts’ $2.46 billion trust. That fund, approved last March for survivors owed claims as part of a federal bankruptcy case , began distributing payments last fall to men who were abused as children by troop leaders. It's the largest fund of its kind in U.S. history to settle sexual abuse claims.

But debate surrounding the settlements continues.

More: Mid-Iowa Boy Scouts will pay $2.5 million in national organization's massive child sex abuse settlement

On Feb. 16, U.S. Supreme Court  Justice Samuel Alito temporarily froze the settlements to give the court more time to decide a Feb. 9 request by 144 abuse claimants to block the settlements from moving forward. They have said the settlement deal unlawfully stops them from pursuing lawsuits against organizations that are not bankrupt, such as churches that ran Scouting programs, local Boy Scout councils and insurers that provided coverage to the Boy Scouts organization, the Reuters news service reported .

Vahl and several Iowa state legislators are also concerned that the roughly 300 to 350 Iowans involved in the settlement with the Boy Scouts of America will receive a fraction of awards they would be entitled to unless state legislators take action this year to change an Iowa law.

That’s because the current settlement uses a matrix that factors in a mix of variables ― including how much abuse was suffered, how long it lasted and different states' statutes of limitations on civil abuse claims ― to determine how much victims get paid.

Iowa’s statute of limitations requires victims in most instances to file civil cases in district courts by the age of 19. No other state in the U.S. sets the age so low. But the statute also allows victims to file suits within three years of when they made the connection between their abuse and their injuries.

Gilion Dumas, an Oregon attorney who is one of two lawyers appealing the national settlement agreement, has represented numerous Iowans in lawsuits against the national Scouting organization.

She said the matrix penalizes states with civil statutes of limitations that restrict who can file. If a victim was eligible for the maximum settlement of $2.7 million under the current agreement, the maximum claim value in Iowa would be reduced by about 60% to 70%, or to about $900,000, she said.

"What they say is, if you got to bring your claim in state court, there’s a really good chance the jury would throw it out because of the existing statute of limitations," she said. "That’s a pretty harsh argument. We’ve never lost a case in Iowa or Oregon based on the statute of limitations. And we argue you shouldn’t have to reduce the value of claims. But that’s what the matrix says."

In reality, she said, the settlement fund also doesn't have enough money for all the victims nationally, so what Iowans will wind up with is likely to be much less than the reduced amount.

"People might be paid 10% of the value because that’s how much is in the pot... that’s why we’re appealing. There’s not enough money to pay people," she said.

Spokespeople for the Boy Scouts of America, contacted Feb. 16, had not answered questions by the evening of Feb. 19 about the settlement agreement or the exact number of perpetrators and victims identified in Iowa in the bankruptcy case.

Bill would have to become law by April

State Sen. Janet Petersen, a Des Moines Democrat, said Iowa has one year from the effective date of the trust, or April 2024, to change state law or Iowa survivors will receive less than others around the country.

Child advocacy organizations have long considered Iowa’s civil statute of limitations to be one of the worst in the country. Petersen said the measure she proposed again this year would have eliminated the statute of limitation to file civil claims and given victims a revival window to file them. However, the bill, Senate File 2233, didn't make it through the Feb. 16 funnel, a deadline for bills to clear committee.

State Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, where similar legislation to lift the civil statute of limitations has stalled for several years, did not respond to phone calls or emails seeking comment.

Brad Epperly, a lobbyist who represents Iowa's Defense Counsel Association, the only organization registered against Senate File 2233, said eliminating the state's statute of limitations altogether would make it difficult for organizations or employers to defend themselves against years-old sex abuse allegations.

Under Iowa's existing law, he said, the state's statute of limitations doesn't start ticking until someone realizes they suffered sexual abuse as a minor and that abuse was the cause of their injuries. If the perpetrator and/or witnesses were dead, he said, allegations would be difficult for organizations to disprove.

Epperly said his group doesn't oppose eliminating the statute of limitations in regard to perpetrators, but it does oppose eliminating it for organizations and employers. "Ultimately, it's a policy decision" for state leaders, he said.

Supported by the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the Iowa League of Women Voters, Senate File 2233 would eliminate the statute of limitations for those who suffer damages as a result of sex abuse, sex trafficking and sexual exploitation, and create a revival window for survivors outside the statute of limitations to file claims and receive 100% of damages.

But at this point in the legislative session, that measure or another would likely have to be offered as a leadership bill to have any hope of passing, Epperly said.

He said he doesn't fully understand the current matrix in the Boy Scouts settlement, but "that's the agreement they've made."

"It's a tough one," he said. "We've always implored (legislators) to limit the statute to the perpetrators ..."

Dumas, the Oregon attorney, who describes herself as a right-leaning independent, said the proposed statute change, thus far supported primarily by Democrats in Iowa, shouldn't be a partisan issue.

"In addition to supporting it for all the right moral reasons, this lets people follow the rule of law and file a civil lawsuit," she said. "It should not be a party issue. It creates a path forward for a person to sue the person or organization who wronged them. That’s our way."

Years of abuse, then crippling fatigue and pain

Once-secret internal files kept by the Boy Scouts of America, known as the ineligible volunteer, red list or “perversion" files, include more than 1,300 volunteers expelled from about 1965 to 1985 because they were suspected of abusing children.

The names, including Iowa Scout leaders, were released in 2012 after the first successful lawsuit by a survivor against the national Scouting organization in Portland. That case, filed by then-38-year-old Kerry Lewis after decades of quiet settlements, put the world's largest youth organization under the national spotlight and exposed its dark history of failing to protect children from pedophiles.

Those files do not include everyone who has been accused of abuse ― including James Hughes of Creston , a 73-year-old former troop leader who faces a trial this summer on allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct with at least five victims over a decade.

Hughes, a licensed physical therapist, served as the committee chair and merit badge counselor for Boy Scout Troop 63 in northeast Iowa from 2008 to 2018, according to court documents. But he wasn't charged until last summer with four counts of third-degree sexual abuse and six counts of lascivious conduct with a minor, serious misdemeanors. The victims were 13 to 16 years old at the time of the alleged offenses, court documents show.

Vahl has alleged his abuser was Kenneth Krakow, assistant scoutmaster of Dubuque’s Troop 23 from the mid-1960s to 1970, whose name was included in the perversion files when they were released. Krakow had been a volunteer with the troop since the 1930s and had served as scoutmaster previously.

In a letter sent to the national Boy Scouts organization in December 1970, a Scout executive from the Northeast Iowa Council notified the Boy Scouts of America that Krakow, then 49, had been engaging in sexual encounters with boys in the Dubuque area, letters released in the court case show.

“This fact he admitted freely to me in a conference. We have taken appropriate action here,” wrote Scout executive Max Burgoyne in a letter included in the released files.

Vahl said Krakow, who died in 1980, groomed him for more than a year, taking him to stock car races, on extra canoe trips and to run errands.

“He seemed like a cool guy. When he was around us boys, he would revert back into adolescence. He talked about sex and girls and Playboy," Vahl said. "We felt comfortable around him and trusted him.”

Krakow, Vahl said, sexually abused him at least 14 times from when he was about 12 until he was 15.

Vahl said he never was able to tell his parents, or anyone else, what happened.

“It was taboo,” he said. “My parents were pretty neurotic, religious and very conservative and straight-laced. It would have created very big problems in our house.”

Vahl, a civil engineer, said that after becoming a drum major in high school, he got his pilot’s license at 17 and graduated with honors from Iowa State University. But in his early 20s, he began experiencing crushing fatigue and pain that lasted decades.

Doctors at home and at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, couldn’t figure out the origins of his illness and disagreed on how the neuromuscular fatigue should be treated. Vahl said he was exhausted and, most days, felt like he had the flu.

"From the time I was 24, I was overwhelmed with health problems," he said. "I was just trying to stay alive. Some days, it was minute by minute. I hate to be dramatic, but it really was like that."

The ensuing years brought periods of work, a stint on disability, then a greatly reduced work schedule that meant his wife, a teacher, had to be the primary breadwinner.

“My life was just destroyed,” he said. “I lived every day on the edge of suicide. The only thing that kept me going was that I always thought I could beat it. I was also raised as a Christian and suicide was looked down upon. And I didn’t want to embarrass and hurt my parents by doing that.”

Beginning in 2008, Vahl said, his energy slowly began to return after he built up his strength with regular long walks with his dog.

His lawyer suggested he be examined recently by a forensic psychiatrist to prepare for the settlement case. He said he told a psychiatrist about the abuse he suffered.

“He wrote that the sort of a trauma I experienced absolutely could have caused that illness,” he said.

Most survivors don't report abuse for decades

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, or RAINN, a mix of studies shows it often takes decades for survivors to disclose that they were abused. A majority don’t until they are over 50.

Iowa state leaders in 2021 l ifted the state’s statute of limitations for bringing criminal charges in several kinds of child sex abuse crimes. The law covers crimes including sexual abuse, incest, sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

At the time she signed the bill, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said: "Iowa stands in support of survivors of sexual violence as we become the 14th state to eliminate the statute of limitations for these heinous crimes."

But the law does not cover civil claims, unlike a law that went into effect last year for victims who sue in federal courts. But most victims do not sue in federal court, and there are only two federal district courts in Iowa. The federal law also opened a two-year revival window for all expired claims.

Seventeen states, including Illinois, Minnesota and Nebraska, have no statute of limitations for civil lawsuits in such cases.

Vahl said he believes Iowa victims should have the same right under law to hold people and organizations accountable. He points to statistics from RAINN that suggest only 6% of perpetrators of rape will ever end up in jail.

“There are very, very few 18-year-olds or 17-year-olds or 16-year-olds that have the maturity that it takes to walk in to a lawyer’s office or a police station, or (go to) their parents to explain that they were sexually molested,” he said. “However, later in life they often have the courage to confront the issue and file a criminal charge or initiate a civil case.”

Once the Boy Scouts of America was sued, he said, the bankruptcy court also required the organization to institute sweeping changes in the way troop leaders were vetted. The settlement required sex abuse training for the leaders, parents and boys. And it required more parental involvement in camping outings.

“These are examples of how a civil lawsuit can reform programs for the better and make huge improvements in people’s lives,” Vahl said.

Lee Rood's Reader's Watchdog column helps Iowans get answers and accountability from public officials, the justice system, businesses and nonprofits. Reach her at  [email protected] , at 515-284-8549, on Twitter at  @leerood  or on Facebook at  Facebook.com/readerswatchdog .

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