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What is an SIC code?
Standard Industrial Classification codes — more commonly known as SIC codes — were created by the US government to classify the type of work a business does. This information helps government agencies, marketing companies and other organizations to collect and analyze data about economic activity in the country.
In the US, Canada and Mexico, you’ll also find NAICS — North American Industry Classification system — codes used. This newer system was introduced to give more granular information about business activities. However, uptake has been patchy, meaning many private companies, and even government agencies, continue to use SIC codes instead of, or alongside, the NAICS system.
As a business owner, you’ll often need your SIC code when filling in paperwork such as tax documents and loan applications.
SIC code format.
SIC codes are made up of 4 digits, with more than 1,000 unique recognized codes used.
- The first 2 digits used give the most general information — the major group. All groups are separated into 12 higher level divisions.
- The third digit tells you a little more detail — more specific industry group
- The fourth digit showing the final industry sector
Official US SIC codes are always 4 digits long. However, for more targeted marketing or research, some private companies use extended versions of SIC codes. These can be 6,7 or 8 digits long.
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How to find the SIC code for your company?
To find the right SIC code for your company simply use our lookup table.
First find the right division based on the type of business you run, then identify the correct major group, and industry group by following the prompts and options on screen.
Let’s look at an example — SIC code: 5813, which is used for drinking places (alcoholic beverages).
SIC division 52 through 59 show businesses involved in retail trade activities, with the major group 58 corresponding to eating and drinking places.
From this we get the industry group SIC code 581 — eating and drinking places, and can further narrow this down by adding the fourth digit to create SIC code 5813. This specifies that we are looking at an establishment which sells alcoholic beverages.
|SIC codes range||Division|
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing
Transportation, Communications, Electric, Gas and Sanitary service
Finance, Insurance and Real Estate
How are SIC codes used?
SIC codes are used by government agencies and departments, private companies, and academics analyzing business activity. You’ll need to enter your SIC code when completing various pieces of paperwork, including loan applications and government documents.
Here are a few of the most common ways SIC codes are used:
- SIC codes are used by government agencies to produce labor statistics
- You may need your SIC code when registering your business at federal or state level, or to pay your taxes
- Private companies use SIC codes to identify customers and competitors
- SIC codes are used in marketing campaigns and customer research
- Some companies need to use their SIC code when completing SEC filing
- You might need your SIC code if you want to get a DUNS number
- SIC codes are used by institutions like banks to help identify your company
What is the difference between NAICS and SIC?
NAICS codes are used more by government agencies and departments, while many private companies still use the longer established SIC codes as their primary classification system.
SIC codes came into use as early as 1937. Although the system was revised over time to reflect the changing economy, the US government decided to implement a new categorisation system in 1997, after the NAFTA treaty came into effect.
This new system — the North American Industry Classification System, or NAICS — is used in the US, Canada and Mexico, and aims to give more specific detail about business types.
NAICS codes have 6 digits, and are updated every 5 years, with the latest release being in 2017.
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