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UNCLAIMED PROPERTY FOCUS is a blog written by and for UPPO members, featuring diverse perspectives and insights from unclaimed property practitioners across the U.S. and Canada. We welcome your submissions to Unclaimed Property Focus. Please contact Tim Dressen via tim@uppo.org with any questions about submitting a blog post for consideration and refer to our editorial guidelines when writing your blog post. Disclaimer: Information and/or comments to this blog is not intended as a substitute for legal advice on compliance or reporting requirements.

 

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UPPO Asks: Unclaimed Property Misperceptions​

Posted By Administration, Thursday, February 14, 2019

Periodically, UPPO asks members to respond to a question, sharing their ideas, insights, and experience. The recurring UPPO Asks feature is a compilation of their responses. 

 

We recently asked several members: What is the most noteworthy or most frequent misperception you’ve heard about unclaimed property? 

 

“The most noteworthy misperception I hear is that MissingMoney.com and states’ websites are the only places to check for claimable unclaimed property.”—Paul Janisko, CEO, CoreUCP

 

 

“Most people think of unclaimed property as lost stuff, like umbrellas. They do not understand how that could pertain to my company.”—Amy Soler, administrative assistant, tax department, Solvay Business Services

 

 

“Sometimes it is challenging to convince management that the due diligence and other unclaimed property reporting requirements must be followed. Once I took a boss to an unclaimed property presentation provided by the state in order to show that the company needed to follow the unclaimed property rules. Many people that I speak with are still unaware that unclaimed property reporting rules exist. I have stated many times to colleagues who work at other companies, ‘No, you can’t write off old, uncashed checks.’”—Ruby Spiller, senior GL accountant, Infineon Technologies Americas Corp.

 

 

“A misperception on the work end of it would be that it’s easy. People within my company that I have talked to don’t realize how much work actually has to go into it. They just assume I throw a report together and send it off, when there is much more to it.”—Amy Lagunero, accounts payable specialist, Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation

 

 

“The two most common misperceptions I’ve heard are: 1. As a holder, you only have to file in the states in which you operate; and 2. There is a uniform law that most states adopt. The reality is quite the opposite.”—Missy Key, vp – accounting, America First Credit Union

 

 

“1. Owners don’t realize how complicated the process is for getting escheated funds back from the state. Even when all of the required documentation is provided to the state by the owner, it can take years for the owners to get their funds back, if they are able to get them back at all.

 

"2. You don’t have to claim unclaimed property on taxes or as income.

 

"3. Owners don’t realize that their funds are sent to the state after the dormancy period. They often think that we just hold the money forever until they ask for it.”—Courtney Papinchak, accounting manager, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation

 

 

“The most frequent misperception I find for holders is the discounting of the gravity of their compliance responsibilities, recognition of its application and the degree of their potential exposure.

 

“The most frequent misperception I find for owners is that when searching for their properties they need to utilize searches for all name combinations, including aliases, in as many jurisdictions as possible, especially those individuals whose surname may also be a first name.”—Mark Watters, owner, Watters Unclaimed Property Consulting LLC

 

 

“They don’t think it affects them so they don’t care about unclaimed property.”—Susan Maul, senior manager, indirect tax, Arris International PLC

 

 

“The misperception I have often heard is that if someone is owed money from a company they would somehow be found. At this point, I gently explain that most often if the payee has changed address several times, or their last name has changed or whatever other circumstance applies, it becomes very difficult to track an individual – especially if no unique identifier is available, like a SSN or date of birth. I have personally experienced this many times as an escheat administrator since we do not collect SSNs or DOBs from our clients. 

 

“Another misperception I have heard of is if a due diligence letter is not returned by the U.S. Postal Service that means that the owner has received it and funds should not be escheated. Again, I gently explain that just because a due diligence letter was not returned undeliverable, we cannot assume that the owner received it. Since no response has been forthcoming from the owner, it is safe to assume that funds should be escheated.”—Antoinette Di Dato, accounting – compliance, GreenbergTraurig, P.A.

 

 

“One of the biggest noteworthy things in working for a TPA is that I rely heavily on our adjusters to contact claimants and providers when a check becomes stale dated. I am frequently asked to void checks because a claimant/provider is not able to be contacted or due to not having a current address. This is frustrating from my end because I know I am sending out due diligence letters to the wrong address, which means I’m not giving the state ‘good’ information when filing.”—Eric Nesbitt, accounting supervisor, Cannon Cochran Management Services, Inc.

 

 

“I guess the most frequent misconception is that once funds are moved to an unclaimed liability account, the business’s normal policy and procedures are eliminated. For instance, if the funds are related to a death claim, the misconception both internally and externally is that the death claim paperwork is no longer required in order to pay the funds out to the owner.”—Tony McDowell, senior accountant, American Equity Investment Life Insurance Company

 

 

“Common misperceptions in the oil and gas industry are that the states do not want every penny – for instance, only $50 and above; and that the states keep the money after a certain number of years of being unclaimed.”—Joni Byrd, senior advisor – land administration, EnerVest Ltd.

 

 

“The most frequent misperception I’ve heard about unclaimed property is individuals accept full responsibility for the recovery of unclaimed funds. If the statement were true, there wouldn’t be billions of dollars sitting on general ledgers of many companies. I believe some people don’t know the funds are there. Some think the funds are so small they aren’t worth the time and effort. Some don’t believe unclaimed property has anything of value. They believe it is a scam. But, I believe each fund-matters – each one has worth – each has a right to be claimed, and when added together the sum is astonishing.”—Monica Johnson, escheatment/unclaimed property manager, United Parcel Service

 

 

Now it’s your turn. What do you think are the most important personality traits for an unclaimed property professional? Add a comment to this post to share your response.

 

Tags:  unclaimed property  UPPO Asks 

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UPPO Asks: What has been the most noteworthy change within the unclaimed property profession during your career?​

Posted By Administration, Thursday, August 9, 2018

Occasionally, UPPO asks members to respond to a question, sharing their ideas, insights, and experience. The recurring UPPO Asks feature is a compilation of their responses. 

 

We recently asked several members: What has been the most noteworthy change within the unclaimed property profession during your career? 

 

“In an effort to raise revenue and balance their budget, states have been actively initiating audits, shortened dormancy periods, and use third-party auditors with aggressive audit practices. However, the most noteworthy change during my career is the landmark Temple-Inland, Inc. v. Cookcourt case, which challenged the state of Delaware’s unclaimed property audit practices. Not only did the case shed light on Delaware’s estimation methodology, but it also challenged its constitutionality.  

 

“Everyone in the unclaimed property community remembers where they were, when they first read the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware’s opinion holding Delaware’s executive action of auditing and assessing a multistate corporation’s unclaimed property, violated substantive due process because the states action when taken together, ‘shock the conscience.’ Those words reverberated throughout the unclaimed property community for several months. 

 

In finding that the audit assessment ‘shock the conscience’ the court relied on six factors including the fact that the state waited 22 years to conduct the audit and circumvented the typical three- to six-year statute of limitations period. As a result of the court’s decision, Delaware overhauled its unclaimed property statutes and among other things reduced the look back period and limit the statute of limitations. This is a landmark case, because the court decision significantly impacted the future of unclaimed property audits not only by Delaware, but other states as well.”—Zenith Lewis, manager, federal taxes, Southwest Airlines Co.

 

 

“In my 15-year career, there have been significant changes from online reporting, vast amount of resources such webinars, conferences, and – most importantly for me – I was tasked by my current employer to find an organization that would allow me to grow in my position and I came across UPPO. UPPO has been that noteworthy change. I have formed many friendships within this wonderful organization, joined committees, gained a multitude of knowledge and taken advantage of the certificate program.”—Rolita Brownlee, supervisor, policy management, Geico Marine Insurance

 

 

“The most noteworthy change in my opinion is the unclaimed property voluntary disclosure program (VDA), which gives holders an opportunity to come into compliance with their legal responsibilities. It’s also a great tool to use for mitigating the risk associated with premerger due-diligence and post-merger remediation. The benefits of the VDA program are a limited look-back period, and waived or reduced penalties and interest on past due items.  

 

“We recently used the VDA program to report past due property picked up from an acquisition. In this instance, the unclaimed property reports were filed in a timely manner, but there were other issues such as a lack of complete records that were at a greater risk of being noncompliance. Fortunately, working with a third-party vendor, we were able to reduce both the initial obligation and interest penalties. 

 

“Now, that I’ve had that experience, I’m excited about the latest changes in Delaware that revise the earlier guidelines and no longer permit the state to initiate audits without first giving a company the opportunity to enter into the VDA program. Hopefully, this change will benefit holders, especially since the potential for a state audit is higher after a M&A.”—Alicia Douglas, unclaimed property specialist, business development, Ocwen Financial Corporation

 

 

“The change to online filing and the requirements has been a huge change. It remains a constant struggle to be up to date on the all compliance changes.”—Susan Greulich, unclaimed property administrator, GFSS–Global Financial Services and Systems, Eaton

 

 

“The most noteworthy change in unclaimed property over the course of my experience would be the impact of audits. They have not only brought unclaimed property to the table for consumers/clients, but for companies overall. When I began in unclaimed property, there were so few policies, procedures and best practices in place, as well as hardly anyone who could share their experience or guidance in the process. Now we are seeing unclaimed property commercials on TV, online advertisements, and conversations among those not directly involved, and that is such a good thing. The newfound awareness will not only help to create more effective procedures, policies, best practices, etc. but will also lend itself to more individuals that know what unclaimed property is, as well as how it should be handled. I think the industry will continue to grow and expand and we are just beginning to break the surface. I look forward to staying tuned to what is in store in the future and beyond!”—Jessica Rogers, analyst, treasury consultant, Lincoln Financial Group

 

 

Now it’s your turn. What do you think are the most important personality traits for an unclaimed property professional? Add a comment to this post to share your response.

 

Tags:  unclaimed property  UPPO Asks 

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UPPO Asks: How do you raise the profile of unclaimed property compliance in your company?

Posted By Administration, Thursday, August 3, 2017

Periodically, UPPO asks members to respond to a question, sharing their ideas, insights, and experience. The recurring UPPO Asks feature is a compilation of their responses. 

 

We recently asked several members: How do you raise the profile of unclaimed property compliance in your company?

 

“I met with leaders and staff in departments that produce unclaimed property items. I explained the importance of keeping good records and following up on unresolved items as soon as possible. Through these meetings, we identified areas for improvement and implemented process changes to reduce the number of items from becoming unclaimed property. I ask other groups to include me when establishing new programs and processes to make sure potential unclaimed property issues are addressed and become part of the new plan. The high rate of retirements is causing a higher than normal turnover in staff. As a result, I set up short meetings with new leaders in departments that produce unclaimed property to make sure they understand the process. I also contact the leader when I hear of something in the works that may affect unclaimed property to make sure I am included from that point forward. I do my best to be proactive, and that takes good communication.”—Jeannie Matthews, unclaimed property administrator, Idaho Power Company

 

 

“We have monthly meetings with our corporate director of finance to review internal processes and to discuss state regulatory updates. Our director of finance also holds meetings with our controllers to review UCP processes and ensure compliance. Our audit team sends an annual compliance questionnaire that requires our business areas to provide proof of UCP compliance and their sign-off. In the past, we sent out quarterly newsletters to provide UCP updates and processes.”—anonymous

 

 

“Our most effective approach to raising the profile of UP compliance is to raise the profile of the entire area of unclaimed property. Early on, we enlisted a ‘sponsor’ (actually the vp of tax) to assist us with projects to initiate compliance. This has evolved into a steering committee (essentially C level executives), which can help us remove obstacles and handle escalations as needed.

 

“Beyond the power of the C-suite, communication and education are key. I tap into every internal newsletter with articles—since there is always a need for content. I arrange training sessions and webinars for a variety of audiences—from educating the steering committee on new requirements to training operational groups on to how to better meet the requirements for compliance. It is impossible to overeducate/overcommunicate! We talk about audit potential and audit defense to be built into our processes. Working in a company where ethics and compliance are both deep in the culture helps to validate our efforts.

 

“We are actively embedding processes to move potential escheatable items into a pre-escheat account and out of the hands of the operational groups. This greatly reduces the complexity of compliance (at least for the supporting teams) and gives the UP team greater visibility and control.

 

“I think the final piece of raising visibility is the same networking that helps in every area of business. There is nothing that can replace having relationships with solid contacts. These folks become ambassadors within their own organizations. My contacts range from internal audit to controllers to AP/AR analysts, and everyone in-between. It becomes much easier to get results when people know you!”—Charlotte S. Kirk, manager, unclaimed property, ABB Inc.

 

 

“Raising the profile of unclaimed property is always a challenge. Audit notices and the need to file a VDA definitely gets attention, though not in a preferred manner. I find that quantifying the potential exposure of accounting methods and procedures is the best means of focusing user groups on the UCP process. It all boils down to dollars and cents, and persistence.”—Pam Runkel, CPA, indirect tax manager, ADT LLC

 

 

“I’ve worked at several (11) different companies over the last 30 years, and have been involved in unclaimed property for 20+ of those years. I’ve started the process in two companies, and enhanced the process in three companies. One company didn’t want anything to do with UCP at all.

 

“I think the best way to get the message across of the importance of UCP compliance is to have an ally in your department that has access to the C-suite. But to get that audience, you must have supporting documentation to show the potential audit exposure, which is a moving target at best. If you can show that this compliance is a value-added proposition, i.e. refunds from the states, limiting audit exposure, then this will help as well.

 

"This is only the beginning of the journey. Once you get the C-suite buy in, then you must get the other players on board to help with gathering the documents, payroll, A/P, A/R, benefits, accounting, etc.”—Mike Marion, CMI, senior manager indirect tax, Fruit of the Loom Inc.

 

 

Now it’s your turn. What do you think are the most important personality traits for an unclaimed property professional? Add a comment to this post to share your response.

 

 

Tags:  Compliance  unclaimed property  UPPO Asks 

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UPPO Asks: What are the most important personality traits for an unclaimed property professional? 

Posted By Administration, Thursday, June 15, 2017
Periodically, UPPO asks members to respond to a question, sharing their ideas, insights, and experience. The recurring UPPO Asks feature is a compilation of their responses.

 

We recently asked several members: What are the most important personality traits for an unclaimed property professional to have? 

 

“The most important personality traits are patience, good organizational skills and attention to detail.”—Martina Bantham, financial analyst, State Farm Federal Credit Union

 

“I look for people who have at least a basic understanding of unclaimed property, are organized (to manage volumes of data), are patient (helps with obtaining information needed from stakeholders or responses from states) and detail-oriented (to manage the complexities of varying state requirements).”Janeá D. Matchett, unclaimed property program director, Cox Enterprises Inc. 

 

“I believe that the most important personality traits for an unclaimed property professional to have are: ambitious/motivated, decisive, determined, involved, reliable, persistent and interested.”Krystal Greiten, supervisor – unclaimed property, Occidental Petroleum Corp.

 

Now it’s your turn. What do you think are the most important personality traits for an unclaimed property professional? Add a comment to this post to share your response.

 

Tags:  hiring  unclaimed property  UPPO Asks 

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UPPO Asks: How Do You Train Someone New to Unclaimed Property?

Posted By Administration, Friday, March 17, 2017

Periodically, UPPO asks members to respond to a question, sharing their ideas, insights, and experience. The recurring UPPO Asks feature is a compilation of their responses.

 

We recently asked several members: How do you train someone new to unclaimed property? 

 

“We basically walk through the overall process with the employee and familiarize them with the software that we use for compliance. The first year, the process is handled with me as manager, and each time a task comes up, I will share with the employee. The next time another state becomes due, I will allow the employee to process the task on their own, but I always check the work before any mailings or filings have occurred. Once we get to the October filing states, I will relieve the employee of most of the other job duties to allow for the large volume. As states are completed, I will check the work again for accuracy and go through any corrections with the employee. Since I am the manager of the department, I will contact the CFO to sign all the required reports and obtain the notary acknowledgement, and pass back to the employee to complete the mailing.

 

“Then, we relax for a couple of months and start all over again! The second year, I place more responsibility on the employee to complete the tasks, but I always check the work before any reports are released or filed.”—Sherri Moll, unclaimed property manager, CountryMark

 

 

“Over the years, I have developed a comprehensive training guide for new staff that encompasses three areas of knowledge: background of unclaimed property laws, the services we offer clients and value added, and technical skills required of the position. Being a service provider, I believe the depth of training is much more involved, as practitioners require a greater understanding of the nuances involved across industries. I also encourage unclaimed property case studies and schedule a follow-up training shortly thereafter (two to four weeks) and recap the highlights discussed. As with anything, repetition is key.”—Christopher Jensen, director of abandoned and unclaimed property compliance, Ryan

 

 

“Our Unclaimed Property department is actually split into two: the Daily group and the Compliance group. The Daily group processes customer requested refunds and auto refunds in a proactive attempt to keep records clean and prevent unclaimed property. Our Compliance group handles state reporting. Training is slightly different for each group. 

“The Daily group is given an overview on our accounts receivable, cash applications and credit department processes. The group is trained on the transaction codes they will see in the system and how to handle a credit based on the customer's overall account. They are provided with criteria that credits need to meet for processing an auto refund and criteria that customer requested refunds also need to meet. They are given a high-level explanation of the compliance processes. 

“The compliance group is trained on the transaction codes they see in customers AR history in the system and how to handle a credit based on the customer's overall account. The group has a template that is used for all state reports to ensure the detail is consistent, researchable and accurate. The template also assists with accounting comparisons and tracking all other property types that fall into unclaimed property dormancy. The compliance analysts attend webinars to stay up to date with best practices and the ever-changing legislation. 

“Both sides of our UP department have SOPs and checklists to reference as they go through processes and procedures. These are updated regularly.”—Tiffany Kevek, unclaimed property supervisor, Uline

 

Now it’s your turn. How to you train some new to unclaimed property? Add a comment to this post to share your response.

 

Tags:  training  unclaimed property  UPPO Asks 

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