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Catching “UP” on Canada

Posted By Will King, UPPO member, Thursday, November 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, November 14, 2013

The passage of unclaimed property laws in countries across the globe is a trend that continues to gain momentum. In staying on top of these trends, holders and practitioners are monitoring a series of changes happening just north of our border in Canada.

Unclaimed property initiatives in the Canadian provinces mirror their U.S. neighbors in many respects. Significantly, in 2003, the Uniform Law Conference of Canada (ULCC) developed a Uniform Unclaimed Intangible Property Act (UUIPA). Much like the U.S.’s unclaimed property jurisdiction rules, under the UUIPA, an enacting province or territory would be entitled to receive unclaimed intangible property if the property belongs to an owner whose last known address as shown on the holder’s records is in that province or territory.[1] Also similar to U.S. statutes, the UUIPA contained provisions that include an owner notification process by holders, the requirement to remit property after a statutorily defined period of time, and establishment of a public registry of unclaimed property. Still, the status of unclaimed property laws in each province is different. An update on four key provincial unclaimed property laws (or efforts to enact such a law) is provided below.

Ontario
In 1989, Ontario passed the Unclaimed Intangible Property Act, however at the time, the statute was not proclaimed in force. In 2012, the Ontario budget announced the government’s intention to create an unclaimed property scheme that mirrors that of the United States. Under the proposed plan, intangible property currently lying unclaimed in institutions in Ontario is to be remitted to the Ontario government where an owner may claim it, and where it is to be used to the benefit of Ontarians until such time as it is claimed. The property intended to be included in the program includes amounts due under insurance policies, unpaid wages and interests recognized by share certificates and bonds, as well as other property types.

Using the UUIPA as the basis of discussion, in June 2013 the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General (OMAG) held a series of roundtable stakeholders meetings in Toronto. The meetings were held in order for stakeholders to express their opinions related to the new law. In addition, Ontario sought its second round of written comments from stakeholders which were due back on Sept. 18.

A summary of the stakeholders meetings issued by the OMAG revealed that – perhaps not surprisingly - consumers were very interested in the creation of a program encompassing as much unclaimed property as possible, similar to programs in the United States and Alberta (discussed further below). Further, in their summary the OMAG indicated holders were concerned about a new law creating undue burdens on them, particularly the cost burden of having to deal with low value property, that the law’s application not be retroactive in nature, and that dormancy periods be uniform among the provinces. You can find out more about the proposed Ontario unclaimed property law by visiting: http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about/uipp_consultation.asp

It is possible that a form of the UUIPA may ultimately become Ontario law. If so, it’s scope could be quite broad. Consider that, the UUIPA applies to credit balances, shares, cash, bonds, amounts due and payable under insurance policies, trust funds, distributions from retirement or pension plans, gift certificates, etc. The dormancy periods are generally three or five years depending upon the property type. Under the UUIPA , due diligence mailings are required for property valued at $100 or greater but is not required for items the holder has reasonable grounds to believe that the correct address of the owner cannot be reasonably ascertained. Within four months from the end of the calendar year, a holder is required to report and remit unclaimed property.


For more about the UUIPA visit: http://www.ulcc.ca/en/uniform-acts-en-gb-1/545-unclaimed-intangible-property-act/1114-unclaimed-intangible-property-act

Quebec
A comprehensive unclaimed property program has existed in Quebec since 1997. Additionally, Quebec has incorporated many aspects of the UUIPA into its unclaimed property law and places requirements on financial institutions, insurance companies, trust companies, mutual fund and other investment dealers, credit unions, pension plans, and more. Specifically, Quebec’s unclaimed property requirements apply to financial assets, property of successions, property of dissolved businesses, property without an owner and property located in Quebec whose owner is unknown or untraceable. Like the UUIPA (and in the U.S.), jurisdiction is based on the last known address of the owner.

The dormancy period for most of the property types covered by Quebec’s unclaimed property law is three years. If the value of the property is $100 or more, the holder is required to conduct a reasonable search to locate the rightful holder and notify him or her in writing about the property and how to claim it. Property that remains unclaimed must be reported to the Revenu’ Quebec three months after the end of the fiscal period during which the asset became unclaimed.

More information about Quebec’s unclaimed property law can be found at: http://www.revenuquebec.ca/en/bnr/pfnr/detenteur/procedure_instit.aspx

Alberta
On Sept. 1, 2008, Alberta’s Unclaimed Personal Property and Vested Property Act (UPPVPA) went into effect. Like many U.S. laws, the UPPVPA specifically excludes gift certificates, retail business credits, and certain other property from its scope. However, it does apply to uncashed checks (including payroll), accounts receivable credits, refunds, bonds, shares, amounts due and payable under insurance policies, retirement and pension fund distributions, etc. While the law as written applies to securities, a pending review by the Alberta Treasury Board and Ministry of Finance (ATBF) of the application of the Act to securities property has delayed application of the law to this property type.

Similar to the laws in the United States, the Alberta UPPVPA requires the delivery of notice to the owner at the owner’s last known address in the books and records of the holder. However, the Alberta law does not require due diligence be performed when the holder knows the address to be invalid although such information must be included in the unclaimed property report.

Reports and remittance are due with 120 days after Dec. 31 and Alberta requests reports be delivered via their online website portal at: https://tracs.finance.gov.ab.ca/publicTracs/submitUnclaimedProperty.do?event=init


For more about the Alberta UPPVPA and compliance requirements go to: http://www.finance.alberta.ca/business/unclaimed_property/info_property_holders.html

British Columbia

Quite different from the Alberta unclaimed property laws and those of most U.S. states, the British Columbia unclaimed property law and regulations apply narrowly to certain types of property valued at specified dollar thresholds. Unlike state unclaimed property laws and the Alberta law, uncashed vendor checks and outstanding wages and payroll items are not covered by British Columbia's Unclaimed Property Act (the BC Act).

Note however, that the BC Act does apply to outstanding items that may be held by insurance companies. More specifically, amounts of $200 or greater which are due and payable by an insurer under the terms of an insurance policy, such as premium refunds - which are not due under a life insurance policy, annuity, endowment policy or a variable insurance contract - are covered under the BC Act and carry a three year dormancy period. Amounts due and payable by an insurer under a life insurance policy, an annuity, an endowment policy or a variable insurance contract relating to segregated funds, and which are $1,000 or greater, have a three-year dormancy period. In addition, money deposits of $200 or greater that are not deposits in a savings association or a deposit for an insurance premium, are covered property, but only if there is a right to receive a cash refund of the deposit. These deposits carry a three year dormancy period. Other types of property are covered under the BC Act as well if they meet particular dollar thresholds, such as money orders, securities, and trust and retirement plan distributions.

Under the BC Act, businesses that hold covered property are required to make reasonable efforts to locate the owner and to notify them of the property within six months from the end of the dormancy period. If the owner cannot be located and notified within 12 months of the dormancy period, the property is considered unclaimed. Once property is considered unclaimed, a business must consider whether reporting and remitting it to the British Columbia Society (BCS) is mandatory or voluntary and, if it is voluntary, what its obligations are if it does not report and remit. Under the BC Act, the following businesses must report and remit property that is deemed unclaimed: credit unions, debt collection agencies, real estate agencies, and companies in liquidation.

Businesses for which reporting and remitting property is voluntary, have the option of reporting and remitting property to the BCS or retaining the property and doing the following:

  1. Publishing designated information about the property and owner in a publicly-accessible database as specified in the BC Act, and
  2. Establishing and maintaining an information line or other point of contact for owners inquiring about unclaimed property, and
  3. Making available to the public, information about whom to contact and how to make a claim, and
  4. Establishing and following procedures for reviewing and processing claims, including a process for appeal of a decision to deny a claim.

For more information about the BC unclaimed property requirements visit:

http://www.unclaimedpropertybc.ca/submit.php

Many unclaimed property holders already face the daunting task of staying informed of legislative and regulatory changes in the United States year after year. Now, with the emergence of a Canadian unclaimed property scheme, holder compliance efforts will accordingly increase in complexity. However, it’s imperative to stay on top of these changes so appropriate and timely compliance program adjustments and determinations can be made.

About the author: Will King is the Associate General Counsel and a vice president at Unclaimed Property Recovery & Reporting (UPRR). If you have questions for Will you can contact him at wking@uprrinc.com or 857.444.6004.



[1] The commentators to the UUIPA believe that this is "the fairest, clearest, and most practical basis for determining the jurisdiction to which unclaimed intangible property should be reported and transferred.”


More Resources
Overview of Ontario’s Unclaimed Property Law Feedback

Tags:  Alberta  British Columbia  Canada  Ontario  Quebec  reform  unclaimed property 

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