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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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Unclaimed property around the world

Posted By Administration and contribution by Kimberly DeCarrera, Thursday, October 22, 2015

Kenya

Following a 2007 study by a National Treasury task force revealing that Kenyan financial institutions held more than 9.1 billion Kenyan shillings in unclaimed assets, the African nation’s government began work to formalize unclaimed property laws. In 2011, it passed The Unclaimed Financial Assets Act, which requires holders to escheat unclaimed property to a trust fund, operated and managed by The Unclaimed Financial Assets Authority (UFAA). Over the past several years, the UFAA has been ramping up, creating the necessary processes and infrastructure to carry out the law. In June 2014, the Unclaimed Financial Assets Trust Fund began accepting unclaimed property, and on Sept. 16, 2015, the UFAA became fully operational with the release of its three-year strategic plan. To date, approximately 60 companies have escheated more than Ksh.3.3 billion, and individuals have claimed Ksh.32 million, according to the UFAA. The authority is currently working to educate holders on their responsibilities and members of the general public on their ability to claim forgotten assets. Holders that fail to report unclaimed property face penalties equal to 25 percent of the property value, plus additional fines based on how long they failed to report.

 

United Kingdom

Many of today’s unclaimed property regulations evolved from bona vacantia common law that originated in the United Kingdom. Under the bona vacantia principle, property with no identifiable owner belongs to the sovereign crown. Today, however, U.K. escheatment requirements are relatively loose compared to those in the United States. The most significant change to U.K. unclaimed property laws in recent years came in 2008 with the passage of the Dormant Bank and Building Society Act. Under this law, the government may use assets from cash accounts that have been dormant for 15 years to fund charitable and social causes. Property owners can still claim their funds even after the holder has escheated it to the Reclaim Fund.

 

Australia

In December 2012, Australia amended unclaimed property regulations in the Banking Act of 1959 and Life Insurance Act of 1995. These changes reduced the dormancy period for many accounts from seven years to three years. The reduced dormancy period, however, was unpopular with property owners and holders—particularly those who intentionally chose to leave their accounts untouched as a savings strategy. In September 2015, Australian Parliament passed the Banking Laws Amendment (Unclaimed Money) Bill. The law returned the dormancy period to seven years, exempted children’s accounts and added consumer privacy protections. It becomes effective on Dec. 31, 2015.

 

Canada

Although Bank of Canada holds unclaimed bank accounts that have been dormant for 10 years, most unclaimed property jurisdiction falls to the provinces. Currently, only three provinces—Alberta, Quebec and British Columbiahave unclaimed property laws and regulations in effect, but Ontario has taken actions aimed at joining them. In 1989, the province passed unclaimed property legislation, but it was never proclaimed into law and eventually was repealed in 2011. In 2012, Ontario solicited feedback about a proposed Unclaimed Intangible Property Program. The ministry of the attorney general held open forums in 2013, seeking additional feedback on the proposal. Since then, no additional developments have occurred. A spokesperson for the Ontario attorney general’s office told CBC News in July that “a provincial election was held in June 2014 and the new government has been focused on a number of other priorities.” However, with estimates about the amount of Ontario unclaimed property as high as 2 billion Canadian dollars, the proposal is likely to resurface.

 

Philippines
Author: Researched and written by Kimberly DeCarrera, Esq. at Barganier and Associates

The Republic of the Philippines, in Act 3936 as amended by Presidential Decree 679, requires banks and other financial institutions to report unclaimed balances. Accounts for owners known to be deceased or with inactivity for 10 years escheat to the Bureau of Treasury after proper notification and judicial actions are completed. In 2013, there was an unsuccessful attempt to shorten the dormancy period from 10 years to five years. Recently, the government filed a class suit to compel banks to escheat all dormant customer accounts. This is the first time that the national government has gone after the entire banking industry to claim accounts, which could number into the hundreds of millions according to one estimate. For a cash-strapped government, this process could prove beneficial, as the law provides for a true escheat with the amounts going to the national government instead of the custodial escheat common in the United States.

 

More information

Check out the UPPO Jurisdiction Guide for Canadian regulations

 

Tags:  Australia  Canada  international laws  Kenya  Philippines  unclaimed property  United Kingdom 

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Unclaimed Property is the Hot Topic in Canada

Posted By Emily Lee, UPPO, Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Have you seen this story? It’s been circling around Canada’s major news publications and is all about the state of unclaimed property in Canada.

Unclaimed property is still a fairly unknown aspect of business compliance yet the facts and figures are staggering. The article estimates around $4 to $7 billion of unclaimed property assets are left unclaimed around the country. The low awareness of unclaimed property compliance requirements among Canadian businesses can likely be attributed to the fact that only three provinces have comprehensive unclaimed property programs: Alberta, British Columbia, and Quebec. Currently, Ontario is in the process of developing an unclaimed property program, and the Bank of Canada only collects unclaimed balances from federally regulated banks and trust companies.

If your company isn’t addressing unclaimed property compliance requirements attend the Holders Seminar – Canada in Toronto, July 9, or the Holders Seminar – Atlanta, Sept. 17 - 18. Both events are designed to educate unclaimed property holders and service providers of compliance requirements and provide opportunities to grow their professional networks.


More Resources

Canada Unclaimed Property Resource Page
Join UPPO today to get exclusive access to tools and resources aimed to minimize risk

Tags:  Canada  unclaimed money  unclaimed property 

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British Columbia’s Unique Program Structure

Posted By Administration, Thursday, June 19, 2014

If you are familiar with unclaimed property programs in the U.S., you might raise an eyebrow at the British Columbia Unclaimed Property Society’s (BC Unclaimed Property Society) structure and requirements. Its distinctness from U.S. programs lies in two areas: 

1) Mandatory or voluntary holder classification
2) A percentage of the remitted funds given to the BC Unclaimed Property Society is donated to the Vancouver Foundation on an annual basis.


Background

In 2003, British Columbia’s unclaimed property program evolved into the program that it resembles today. Before the administration of the BC Unclaimed Property Society was turned over to the Vancouver Foundation, the British Columbia Ministry of Finance managed the program. The Ministry of Finance remains a part of the program by representing the BC Unclaimed Property Society in legislative and policy matters. 

You’ll see the current structure and requirements of British Columbia’s unclaimed property program reflects an environment of deregulation. The intentions of altering statutes were to achieve greater effectiveness in reuniting property with its rightful owner, rather than collecting as much money as possible.   


Mandatory v. Voluntary Holders

A unique feature of the BC Unclaimed Property Society is that holders either classified as a mandatory or voluntary holder. As the title suggests, a mandatory holder is required by law to report and remit unclaimed property to the BC Unclaimed Property Society. Voluntary holders are not mandated by law to report and remit but are strongly encouraged to do so. Under the current statute, voluntary holders that report to the BC Unclaimed Property Society remain in control of the property, and can treat the property as income after a certain amount of time has lapsed (Section 12, Unclaimed Property Act) .

Mandatory Holder
: Municipal and provincial courts, credit unions, and real estate agents

Voluntary Holder
: Common types of property voluntary holders report and remit are trust funds, property insurance and closed pension plans. 

 

Unclaimed Property to Fund Community Foundation

It’s understood that in the field of unclaimed property not all property will be reunited with its rightful owner. So in exchange for the Vancouver Foundation providing administration to the BC Unclaimed Property Society, the Foundation receives a portion of the unclaimed property remitted annually. The Vancouver Foundation, is the largest community foundation in Canada and services a diverse group of nonprofit organizations within Canada. Last year, the Vancouver Foundation received $3.5 million from the BC Unclaimed Property Society to put toward new and existing programs offered by the many nonprofits it supports.

“We have transferred over $20 million dollars to be used for charitable reasons over the last decade. It’s a great boost [to the Vancouver Foundation] and forward thinking as it gives the Foundation a regular funding source,” says Alena Levitz, executive director, BC Unclaimed Property Society.

If you have additional questions about the BC Unclaimed Property Society, attend the Holders Seminar – Canada; July 9, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. EDT in Toronto to hear Alena Levitz, executive director of the BC Unclaimed Property Society speak. Register yourself and a coworker for the price of one today!

 

More Resources

Canadian Resource Page

Tags:  British Columbia Unclaimed Property Society  Canada  unclaimed property 

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British Columbia, Bank of Canada and Quebec Representatives to Speak at Holders Seminar - Canada

Posted By Administration, Thursday, June 12, 2014
Updated: Thursday, June 12, 2014


UPPO has confirmed two Canadian provincial representatives and one representative from the Bank of Canada to speak during the Holders Seminar - Canada, July 9; 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. EDT in Toronto, Canada.

The representatives from British Columbia and Quebec will be describing the specific provincial requirements and the implications it has on reporting during the session titled Cross Border Reporting: Practical and Technical Implications. The Bank of Canada representative will be speaking during the the Cross Border Reporting: Legal Implications session about the jurisdictional issues holders run into and will be providing information about Bank of Canada reporting requirements.

Register today to learn from these representatives!

British Columbia - Alena Levitz
Alena Levitz has been the executive director of the BC Unclaimed Property Society (BCUPS) since 2011.  The BC Unclaimed Property Society is a nonprofit society created in 2003 by the Province of British Columbia and Vancouver Foundation to administer the unclaimed property program for British Columbia.  As Executive Director of BCUPS, Alena oversees strategic planning and operational activities for the Society as well as providing legal advice.

 

Alena has substantial legal expertise with a particular emphasis in the areas of wills and estates as well as estate administration. She oversaw complex estate files for the Public Guardian and Trustee of BC during her five years spent with that office. She has broad experience in stakeholder relations, and government relations gained during her four years as a policy analyst with WorkSafeBC.  Alena obtained her LL.B from Queen’s University and holds an LL.M degree from Osgoode Hall Law School.

 

Quebec - Alexandre LeBlanc
Alexandre LeBlanc joined the Unclaimed Property Department of Revenue Quebec in 2011 as the Executive Director's assistant and adviser. He was in charge of strategic planning and relations with the public and partners. He actively participated in restructuring of the Unclaimed Property Program over the last three years and he also coordinated a marketing project to reach out to Quebec's citizens. Since February, Alexandre works as a project manager to optimize the administration of unclaimed financial assets. He is a member of the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators since 2012.

Bank of Canada - Sylvette Lalonde
Sylvette oversees the day to day management of the unclaimed balance program at the Bank of Canada. As manager, Sylvette provides oversight and control of the unclaimed balances registry while providing support to her team.

Sylvette brings 18 years of experience to her current role. Sylvette spent most of her career at the Bank of Canada in business analyst positions. She brings extensive experience in customer service, case work management and relationship management.


In addition to the individuals above we have confirmed a line-up of impressive speakers to share their expertise about Canadian and U.S. unclaimed property reporting. Join UPPO in Canada, and take advantage of the Buy One Registration, Get a Second Registration Free promotion. Register today!

Tags:  Alena Levitz  Alexandre LeBlanc  Canada  education  Holders Seminar  unclaimed property 

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The Ontario Unclaimed Property Program: Past Developments & Possible Outcomes

Posted By Debbie L. Zumoff, J.D., UPPO President, Tuesday, June 10, 2014
The road to implement an Ontario unclaimed property program has had its share of ups and downs as government officials and property holders have developed various plans to establish a provincial escheatment program. Although the province has not officially passed any policies, the Ontario government has made tremendous efforts to develop a program that is reflective of both the government and holders’ needs.

Ontario’s efforts began in 1989 when the province passed its own unclaimed property act. However, this act was never proclaimed into law and was later repealed on Dec. 31, 2011. In October 2012, Ontario resumed efforts with the announcement of a consultation period, wherein the public could offer feedback on a proposed Unclaimed Intangible Property Program. Through this consultation period, Ontarians had the opportunity to provide their input on a provincial program to manage assets that have been unclaimed for a period of time.

The ultimate goal of the outreach was to develop a program administered by the Ontario government providing that unclaimed intangible property would not reside with individual holders, but instead with the government. Ontario’s plans within this program included creating a database of all property currently held so that individuals could easily check for property to which they may be entitled.

Most recently, the Ministry of the Attorney General held three consultation meetings in June 2013 for Ontarians to come forward in an open forum to communicate their opinions and suggestions regarding the proposed Ontario Unclaimed Property Program.

Below is a brief listing of some of the topics discussed during the meetings:

  • Consumers were interested in implementing a program similar to those in place within the United States and Alberta
  • Consumers expressed that they would like the program to operate retrospectively and apply to property that had become unclaimed prior to an established program
  • Municipalities suggested that unclaimed funds remain with the institutions to support public programs
  • Nonprofit groups suggested the Ontario escheat program be modeled after British Columbia
  • Gift card and prepaid payment card businesses recommended that gift cards and prepaid cards be excluded from the program
Additional issues that were brought to the attention of the Attorney General over the course of the three meetings included decisions to allow for aggregate reporting, establish a threshold for low-value property, and ensure harmonization with existing abandonment periods throughout Canada.

The future of the Ontario unclaimed property program is somewhat unclear. With upcoming government elections scheduled for June 12, 2014, the topic of unclaimed property may resurface depending upon the outcome of the elections. The newly elected officials may choose to move forward with the development and implementation of more aggressive unclaimed property tactics or take a more laissez-fair approach when considering the necessity for legislation and a provincial program. Either way, holders in Canada, as well as any organization with a reporting obligation to Canadian Provinces, should be monitoring the regulatory landscape to ensure they are in compliance with all unclaimed property rules and requirements.

More Resources
Canadian Resource Page
Buy One Registration, Get One Free to Holders Seminar - Canada



Tags:  Canada  Ontario Attorney General  unclaimed property 

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