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Unclaimed Property Focus
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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: 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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UPPO Asks: How Do You Explain Unclaimed Property to Your Family?

Posted By Administration, Thursday, November 10, 2016

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.

 

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, you may be prepping for the inevitable awkward silences or being ready to swiftly transition conversation to something less divisive. So we recently asked several members: How do you explain unclaimed property to your family?

 

“I usually talk about those gift cards lying around in drawers, the credit for returned merchandise never applied to another purchase, or the summer paycheck that never went cashed. I tell them states require companies to send over that property after a certain period of time, and they have hired private firms to go around auditing companies to see if they have any property like that on their books. I represent the companies to ensure that what they pay over to the state truly is unclaimed property that is required to be reported, and not other amounts that the company is entitled to keep.”—Sara Lima, partner, Reed Smith

 

“I usually say something like this: ‘When we write a check to someone, if they don’t cash it, we have to send it to the state. That’s what I do.’ If they still appear somewhat interested, I’ll elaborate to say, ‘It gets complicated because the states all have different requirements and due dates so I have to keep track of them all which is a pretty big task.’”—Sherry Arkfeld, staff specialist/unclaimed property, Consolidated Communications

 

 

“I generally explain the concept of unclaimed property to friends and family using examples that they can relate to—unused gift cards or uncashed payroll checks. I further explain that contrary to public perception, those properties cannot be ‘kept’ by the holder, but instead are required to be reported to the state of the owner’s last known address after a certain period of time, depending on the state. I rarely dive into the fact that there are multiple reporting jurisdictions with little uniformity between them all.”—Christopher Jensen, director of abandoned and unclaimed property compliance, Ryan

 

 

“Whenever I try and explain unclaimed property to my family, friends or anyone not familiar with it, I usually just try and keep it simple. Typically I’ll use examples that everyone can understand, such as a payroll check. I explain that often when company issues a payroll check, or any other property type that is “owed” to someone, sometimes they remain uncashed. So far, so good.

 

“I then let them know that if an item remains unclaimed for a specific period of time set by a state law, e.g. three years, then the item is deemed to be ‘unclaimed’ or ‘abandoned’ and may have to be reported to the state as unclaimed property. I let them know that historically most companies would just void old uncashed checks, but that there were laws that actually required that these items be reported to the state. Most people begin to fidget about now.

 

“I explain that because the items was actually owed to someone else, it was not the issuer’s property, so they don’t get to keep it. They are required to 1) find the person to whom it’s owed or 2) remit it to the state so that it can locate the owner. I also explain that although a state will typically pay an owner the property it’s holding for them whenever they come forward, in the meantime it can use the money as part of its budget. At this point, most people are staring at a point somewhere over my head.

 

“Finally, I tell them that if the name and address of the owner can’t be found, the property goes to the state of incorporation of the issuer. Then I go for the big guns: Because unclaimed property is not a tax (remember, it’s money that’s actually owed to someone else), there’s typically no statute of limitations. I also explain that historically, unclaimed property audits have covered decades. That, and a very brief summary of how estimations work and the dollars involved, usually gets their attention.

 

“That what I usually do when asked about unclaimed property.”—Matt Chenowth, senior manager of unclaimed property, True Partners Consulting LLC

 

 

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

 

 

Tags:  unclaimed property  UPPO Asks 

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