What is Form N-CEN, and how does it differ from N-SAR?

April 20, 2021

In 2016, the SEC, introduced Form N-CEN, replacing Form N-SAR. Form N-SAR was previously used to disclose information about portfolio holdings and fund operations semi-annually.

Compared to the latter, N-CEN is to be filed once a year by all Registered Investment Companies including money market funds, no later than 75 days from the close of the fiscal year for which the form is being filed.

A single Form N-CEN contains basic details about the company, the funds it operates, strategies employed, organization of the fund(s) and details of all service providers.

With N-CEN the SEC has removed some of the outdated items (given below) and updated the form to streamline information and reflect current market requirements, making the information transparent for even third-party institutions to effectively collect and analyze.

 How N-CEN is different from N-SAR?








(XML) Extensive Markup Language, alternatively a online web- form is also available

On Paper or as electronic fillings on EDGAR


Financial Information of Investment Management Companies, ETFs, Mutual Funds, Unit Investment Trusts and Money market Funds

Financial Information of Investment management companies ( eg sales of shares. Portfolio turnover rate, data from shareholders report)


Census type information

Census type information


Reduced expenses

Costlier than N-CEN


FORM N-CEN has been divided into seven parts, Part A and Part B are to be filled by all funds. The successive parts are to be filled depending on the specific nature and size of the companies.

Many changes were made during the transition from Form N-SAR to Form N-CEN. Several items considered redundant were removed, such as:

  • The need to file a letter to inform of a change in the fund’s independent registered public accountant(s).
  • Reporting of instances that affected the participation of entities
  • Repetitive information that may be reported elsewhere like items relating to expenses and fees.

Conversely, Form N-CEN has added several items that are beneficial for understanding the market. The form lays extra emphasis on whether a fund belongs to a ‘family of investment companies’, on additional information concerning the directors and on recording whether the fund issues a class of securities registered under the Securities Act.

How can Form N-CEN data be used?

FORM N-CEN collects census-type information, so one can hope to gather information about different facets that affect a fund. The nature of the information collected via N-CEN makes it easier to research and identify funds by background. Aggregation of data across multiple N-CEN forms enables market intelligence on securities lending, brokerage, and custodians, and can help build a comprehensive market landscape.

Apart from information on ETFs, UITs. SBICs, one can look up additional information such as

  • Investments in controlled foreign corporations,
  • use of lines of credit and inter-fund borrowing,
  • cash-collateral managers and indemnification arrangements,

 This form also requires institutions to provide data on the directors and compliance officers of the fund along with the location of its records and material change in valuation methods.

The availability of this new information through N-CEN improves the ability of the SEC to regulate functions and allows better risk monitoring and analysis of the industry.

RADiENT provides all the market data, quotes and charting of securities as reported in Form N-CEN in user-friendly formats. One can also access critical demographic and service provider information through integrated N-CEN and N-PORT data, which is available on RADiENT. 

About the Author

Jasmeet Sodhi

Jasmeet is an avid researcher and heads growth and marketing strategy development for RADiENT. Jasmeet previously interned at multiple startups where she developed a passion for marketing and content. She holds a Master’s in economics and international affairs from SOAS, University of London and a Bachelors in Economics from Ashoka University. In her free time, Jasmeet enjoys running and reading.

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