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Heather Gabell

Heather spearheads the monitoring of legislative and regulatory activity related to unclaimed property. Utilizing her expertise, she is specifically focused on interpreting, tracking and communicating changes to the unclaimed property laws both internally and externally to ensure compliance in all reporting jurisdictions. Furthermore, she monitors legislation and regulatory activity related to privacy concerns and data security. Heather holds a law degree from Villanova University School of Law and is a member of the UPPO, SSA, STA, and NICSA organizations.

Recent Posts

1/18/21 9:36 AM

Unclaimed Property Inactivity - Why It Pays To Be Proactive

Financial institutions, like other entities, must comply with state unclaimed property laws, which include sending customers due diligence notices and reporting dormant accounts to the states on an annual basis.

Banking property, including checking accounts, savings accounts, and certificate of deposits are considered dormant absent owner-generated activity within a period of time defined by the state (typically 3 or 5 years). The recent adoption by several states of revised unclaimed property laws modeled on the 2016 Revised Uniform Unclaimed Property Act (RUUPA) and the continued introduction of similar legislation (North Dakota and Indiana in early January 2021), illustrates the ever-changing nature of these laws and the need to monitor legislative changes. States adopting a “RUUPA” – like law may adopt the shorter dormancy period (3 years) for most property types, alter the 60-180 due diligence timeframes and/or add the requirement that notice be sent to the owner via first class mail and email (if the owner has consented to electronic mail communications from the holder).

Taking a proactive approach to the escheatment process by communicating early and often with your customers decreases the population of reportable property, meaning less costs associated with due diligence (certified mail, return receipt requested, is required in some states, particularly above a certain dollar threshold) and with the reporting process itself.

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Topics: Compliance, Due Diligence, Best Practices

1/8/21 1:07 PM

States Surveyed About International Mail and Covid-19 Pandemic Unclaimed Property Impacts

After the Shareholder Services Association (SSA) and Securities Transfer Association (STA) voiced their concerns via a joint letter to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) regarding the interruption of international mail delivery due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NAUPA sent a survey to its member states in May 2020.  

The apprehensions raised were surrounding the suspension of mail service, which would prevent the successful completion of due diligence and ultimately the reporting property without a last attempt at reunification with the property owner.  It is notable that states may liquidate securities property, making it difficult for the shareholder to retrieve it in its native form.   In connection with ongoing concerns expressed by UPPO and the holder community, NAUPA recently released the responses from 19 states to the following questions:

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Topics: Compliance, Due Diligence, Best Practices

12/21/20 7:44 AM

Vermont Clarifies Which Unclaimed Property Law Applies to Spring 2021 Reports

Vermont recently provided clarification for holders reporting unclaimed property to the state in Spring 2021. Holders should follow the statute currently in effect (§1247 Chapter 14, V.S.A. Title 27), and should not apply the provisions of the Revised Uniform Unclaimed Property Law (House Bill 550, effective January 1, 2021), until the following reporting season.

The guidance provided by the Office of the State Treasurer states the following:

The new RUUPA guidelines will start for January 1, 2021 and next reporting year. That means the current statute applies to this reporting year and should be followed for all reports sent for the spring reporting season.

Reporting Unclaimed Property to Vermont

Per the state's current Unclaimed Property Reporting Manual, holder reports are due to the Treasurer's Office by May 1st of each year. If May 1st falls on a weekend or holiday, reports are due the next business day. As May 1, 2021 is a Saturday, reports for the year ended December 31, 2020 must be received by May 3, 2021.

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Topics: Reporting, Vermont

12/1/20 7:52 AM

Unclaimed Property Invitations, Audit Notices, and Self-Audit Letters

States often send official communications to companies regarding unclaimed property. While some of these mailings are mere filing reminders, other types of communications, such as VDA invitations, audit letters, and self-audit letters, urge holders to take affirmative steps to comply or demonstrate compliance with the unclaimed property laws. We will discuss some, but not all of these types of communications, to assist companies in understanding what each one means, and what holders should consider upon receipt of such a communication.  

Delaware – VDA Invitations and Audit Notices:

We recently posted that the Delaware Department of Finance is expected to send new unclaimed property audit notices in the near future to businesses who did not enroll in the state’s Voluntary Disclosure program (VDA program) in response to the Secretary of State’s invitation to participate in the program dated August, 21, 2020. Under Delaware law, businesses who do not enroll within the 60-day notice period in the letter will be referred to the Department of Finance for an unclaimed property audit.

Indiana, Pennsylvania, Utah and Washington: The Self-Audit Letter

Indiana, Pennsylvania, Utah and Washington have recently started mailing holders letters on official state letterhead that advise holders of their obligation to comply with the unclaimed property laws. Further, the letter proclaims that based on the state’s records, the holder “has never” or “only rarely” reported unclaimed property to the state.

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Topics: Compliance, Audit, Best Practices, Voluntary Disclosure Agreements

11/16/20 7:27 AM

Holder Alert: Delaware Expected to Mail Unclaimed Property Audit Notices in the Near Future

MarketSphere Unclaimed Property Specialists has learned that the state of Delaware will soon be mailing unclaimed property audit notices to those companies who did not respond to the latest round of invitations sent by the state on August 21, 2020 to enroll in the Secretary of State’s Unclaimed Property Voluntary Disclosure Program (VDA program). Approximately 200 holders received these letters, which notify the holder that it is “likely out of compliance” with Delaware’s unclaimed property law and inviting them to participate in the VDA program. Any company can receive a VDA invitation, including public or private corporations, large Fortune 500 companies and smaller companies.

In accordance with Delaware law, the state cannot initiate a new unclaimed property examination (audit) without first notifying the company that it may enter into the Secretary of State’s VDA program (12 Del. C. Ch. 11, section §1172).   These letters put the company on notice that if the holder does not enroll in the VDA program, the Secretary of State’s Office will refer the company to the Delaware Department of Finance, who will issue an unclaimed property audit notice upon the expiration of the 60-day notice period.

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Topics: Delaware, Audit, Best Practices, Voluntary Disclosure Agreements

10/29/20 8:20 AM

IRS Issues Guidance For Payments Made to State Unclaimed Property Funds

On October 16, 2020, the IRS issued new guidance applicable to payments made to state unclaimed property funds.

 

IRS Rev. Rul. 2020-24

The IRS provides that a payment from a qualified retirement plan to a state’s unclaimed property fund constitutes a designated distribution which is subject to federal income tax withholding and reporting requirements

In the example provided by the IRS, the employer is a plan administrator of a qualified retirement plan that does not include designated Roth accounts, employer securities, nondeductible employee contributions or accident or health plan benefits. The taxpayer is an individual with an accrued benefit in the plan with a value of $900 who did not make a withholding election.  In 2020, the taxpayer’s accrued benefit was paid to the state’s unclaimed property fund. 

Under the ruling, because none of the statutory exceptions from the treatment as a designated distribution apply (wages, a payment to a nonresident alien or corporation or dividends on employer securities), the payment and the amount withheld are a designated distribution and subject to federal income tax withholding. Additionally, because the amount is over the $10 reporting threshold, the distribution must be reported on Form 1099-R, with the distribution amount in Box 1 and the federal income tax withheld in Box 4.

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Topics: Reporting, Best Practices

10/14/20 8:17 AM

New Brunswick, Canada Publishes Proposed Rules on Unclaimed Property Act

New Brunswick will soon join Alberta, British Columbia, and Quebec as Canadian provinces with active unclaimed property laws on their books.   New Brunswick recently published proposed rules in connection with their Unclaimed Property Act, which received Royal Assent on March 17, 2020 (Bill 22).  Per the Financial and Consumer Services Commission (FCNB), the Act will be proclaimed and become effective with the adoption of the rules. 

The proposed rules were approved for publication on September 22, 2020. Businesses and other stakeholders are invited to provide feedback by November 23, 2020. The Act, proposed rules, and the invitation to comment are available at: https://fcnb.ca/en/unclaimed-property.  

The following is a summary of the Act and proposed rules.

Exemptions from the Definition of “Property”

  • Gift cards;
  • Property acquired from participating in a loyalty program;
  • Property in a safe deposit box held by a provincially regulated credit union ,trust company, or federal financial institution;
  • Property owed under an accident or sickness in-force insurance policy; and
  • Property with a fair market value of less than $1.00.
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Topics: Compliance, U.P. Law

10/6/20 7:42 AM

New York Sends Invitations to Participate in Unclaimed Property Voluntary Compliance Program

New York is increasing its focus on unclaimed property compliance. The New York State Comptroller’s Office of Unclaimed Funds (OUF) recently sent letters to companies regarding participation in the state’s Voluntary Compliance Program (VCP).

 

The correspondence states: 

We are contacting you because your company has conducted business in New York State, but has not filed reports with the New York State Comptroller’s Office of Unclaimed Funds (OUF) pursuant to the Abandoned Property Law (APL). The law can be found on the New York State Legislature’s website at http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us/lawssrch.cgi?NVLWO.

We encourage you to review your records for any unclaimed funds that may be subject to reporting. Unclaimed funds include uncashed checks issued to employees or vendors, outstanding accounts receivable credits and credit balances, and unredeemed gift cards/certificates, among others.

The first step of coming into compliance with the law is completing our Self-Audit Checklist. This online survey will help you to identify if your company is holding any unclaimed funds. Find it online at https://surveymonkey.rNYSVCU and use reference number XXXXXX. Complete the survey even if you find that you have nothing to report.

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Topics: Compliance, Audit, Best Practices, Voluntary Disclosure Agreements, New York

9/24/20 9:06 AM

The Role of Death and Dormancy for Unclaimed Property Holders

Organizations (holders) are not always made aware of the death of the people they do business with. While death plays an important role in the escheatment process, holders of banking and securities property types are not required to proactively search for and confirm death. Similarly, in the securities industry, SEC 17Ad-17 searches for lost shareowners are not required if the holder has received documentation that a shareowner is deceased

Death, however, is a factor in triggering escheatment. For example, death serves as the dormancy trigger for Roth IRA accounts in most states, as a possible trigger date for individual retirement accounts, and in states like Illinois and Maine, decreases the dormancy period for “other tax deferred” accounts.  In states that have adopted certain provisions of the 2016 Revised Uniform Unclaimed Property Act (RUUPA) as they relate to retirement accounts and securities, holders are not required to confirm death unless and until they receive a notice or indication of death (with death to be confirmed within 90 days).

Often, a holder becomes aware of the death of an owner when the next of kin contacts the holder. In other cases, notice of death comes from an SEC 17Ad-17 search of an account that is RPO (Returned by Post Office). There are no statutory requirements that force holders of banking or securities property to proactively determine if owners are deceased. Auditors, however, have been taking a more aggressive approach and assert that holders must proactively bump their records against the death master file (“DMF”) database. If an account owner is found to be deceased and there has been no contact with a beneficiary, the account is considered lost, which triggers escheatment and the property becomes fair game for the auditor. The National Change of Address (NCOA) database is similarly utilized by auditors as an attempt to locate accounts with updated addresses. According to auditors, these updates serve as proof that the holder does not know the location of the account owner, which triggers escheatment for some property types, including securities.

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Topics: Compliance, Reporting, Audit, Best Practices

9/16/20 8:34 AM

A Proactive Approach To Improve Unclaimed Property Due Diligence

The 2016 Revised Uniform Unclaimed Property Act (“RUUPA”) is a model act designed to assist states in updating their unclaimed property laws, which for the most part, are outdated, since they are based on either a 1981 or 1995 version of the act.   Certain provisions of RUUPA address modern technology and have been incorporated into the laws of states that have recently enacted RUUPA-like laws.

For example, RUUPA requires that holders reach out to owners of retirement, securities or custodial accounts that have consented to receive electronic communications from the holder via email no later than 2 years after the owner’s last indication of interest in the property. This pre-due diligence requirement must be followed up promptly with first class mail if the holder lacks an email address for the owner or believes an email to be invalid, if the email bounces back, or if the owner does not respond within 30 days.

RUUPA also requires that if an owner consented to electronic communications, the due diligence notice must be sent via first class mail and email. Both the pre-due diligence outreach and the electronic due diligence requirements have been adopted in Tennessee, Utah, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, and Colorado (email optional), Vermont (effective 1/1/2021), and Nevada. RUUPA-like bills have been introduced in the District of Columbia, Minnesota, Washington, and Wisconsin, and we expect additional states to also follow suit.

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Topics: Due Diligence, Reporting, Best Practices