Join now!   |   Subscribe   |   Pay an Invoice   |   Contact Us   |   Sign In
Unclaimed Property Focus
Blog Home All Blogs
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.

 

Search all posts for:   

 

Top tags: unclaimed property  Compliance  education  UPPO  audits  Delaware  due diligence  Advocacy  reform  litigation  Members  ULC  UP101  RUUPA  UP Laws  reporting  Uniform Law Commission  Holders Seminar  legislation  Canada  Gift Cards  service providers  uniform unclaimed property act  UPPO Asks  Annual Conference  fall reporting  Policy  VDA  VDAs  FAQs 

Delaware Makes a Case for Converting Audits to VDAs

Posted By Contribution from Carla McGlynn, 2017/18 UPPO president, Thursday, November 30, 2017

With Delaware’s Dec. 11, 2017, deadline for converting existing audits to state’s Voluntary Disclosure Agreement Program fast approaching, the Secretary of State’s Office recently held a webinar for eligible unclaimed property holders. Alison Iavarone, Delaware’s unclaimed property VDA administrator provided background on the VDA Program and addressed frequently asked questions about the conversion option.

 

The VDA conversion option originates from S.B. 13, legislation intended to shift the state’s unclaimed property compliance efforts away from audits, while promoting voluntary and continued compliance, according to Iavarone. Holders that received an examination notice before July 22, 2015, are eligible. Those that were under audit as Feb. 2, 2017, also have the option to choose a fast-track audit, administered by state’s Department of Finance.

 

Why Convert?

Iavarone suggested several reasons why eligible holders should consider converting their audits to VDAs:

  • The VDA Program is intended to be a more business-friendly method than an audit for holders to come into compliance.
  • The VDA Program is designed to be faster and less expensive than an audit.
  • The holder manages the VDA process and presents its findings to the state for validation. After completion, holders that meet future reporting obligations are protected from audit for historic liabilities for the property types and entities reviewed under the VDA.
  • The state waives interest and penalties for holders participating in the VDA Program.
  • Holders are not expected to begin their internal VDA review from scratch. They can use any review information gathered before converting to the VDA to ensure greater efficiency.
  • Work papers from the audit will not transfer to the Department of State as part of the conversion. The only shared information pertains to the scope of the audit – a summary of entities, property types and audit population periods.

Frequently Asked Questions

Iavarone addressed several key questions related to the state’s VDAs.

 

What is the look-back period?

The look-back period is 10 report years (15 transaction years) from the date the original examination notice was sent to the holder.

 

What is the scope of the VDA from a converted audit?

The scope, for most eligible holders, was determined by the auditor. At a minimum, holders are expected to use the same scope as the audit for the VDA. If they choose, holders may expand the scope.

 

How is the state handling bifurcated audits, covering securities and general ledger items?

Under Delaware law, only the general ledger portion of the audit may be converted to a VDA. Securities are not eligible.

 

What if a holder already settled part of an examination?

If holders have settled and closed portions of the audit before conversion, only the remaining entities and property types will be covered under the VDA.

 

What is the statute of limitations?

S.B. 13 includes a 10-year statute of limitations from when the reporting duty arose. It will not be applied retroactively, as the previous six-year statute of limitations applied before S.B. 13 was effective.

 

How is estimation applied?

The estimation process continues to use second-priority or gross estimation, as it has in the past.

 

What if a settlement cannot be reached?

The audit will refer back to the Department of Finance if a settlement cannot be reached for a particular property type or some other aspect of the VDA.

 

Who is managing the VDA process for Delaware?

Drinker Biddle continues to manage the VDA Program on behalf of the Delaware VDA administrator, who ultimately has final review and approval responsibilities. 

 

Eligible holders must file Form NOI CONV with the Department of State by Dec. 11, 2017, to participate. For more information, visit http://vda.delaware.gov

Tags:  audits  Delaware  VDAs 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

Deadline Approaches for Converting Delaware Audits to VDAs

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Under Delaware Department of Finance regulations that became effective on Oct. 11, 2017, unclaimed property holders that received an examination notice from the department on or before July 22, 2015, have the option to convert the audit to the state’s Voluntary Disclosure Agreement Program. The deadline for submitting the Notice of Intent to Convert Audit to VDA form is Dec. 11, 2017. Holders undergoing a securities examination are not eligible to convert.

 

Converting from an existing audit to a VDA holds several potential benefits for holders.

 

Waived interest and penalties

Delaware officials have stated that waiving the mandatory 25 percent interest charge and other penalties is intended to be a significant incentive for holders to come into compliance via the state’s VDA program.

 

Limited carryover of audit work

“The only aspect of the audit that will have precedential impact on the VDA is the scope of the examination,” said Kendall Houghton, partner with Alston & Bird. “That includes any determination by the Department of Finance and its contract auditors about which entities will come under review, and the applicable property types and years. Other than that, holders that convert to a VDA have the option to incorporate other aspects of work performed during the audit, but are not required to do so.”

 

This limited carryover of audit work has two noteworthy advantages to holders:

  1. They don’t have to start over, redoing every aspect of the audit. Holders that qualify for the VDA conversion have been under examination for at least two years and have likely dedicated significant resources to the process. They can choose to use completed work as they prepare their VDA analysis, submission and quantification of liability.
  2. They are not required to use the audit firm’s work papers and determinations made during the examination.

Closing and release agreement

Upon completing the VDA program, holders have the opportunity to secure a closing and release agreement from the secretary of state. That can be quite valuable, as it protects holders from liability for the period covered under the VDA, as long as there was no willful misrepresentation or fraud, and they meet future reporting requirements.

 

Flexibility

Holders that elect to convert their examinations to VDAs are not required to complete the VDA program. If they are unable to reach acceptable terms or anticipate that the results of an unclaimed property lawsuit may deem Delaware’s estimation practices unconstitutional, for example, holders may choose to withdraw from the VDA program. This gives them the option to challenge their liability or litigate it later, which would not be an option once the VDA closing and release agreement is finalized.

 

Control

Undergoing a self-directed review under the VDA process gives holders greater control of the process than completing an audit. The self-directed review is typically more targeted, freeing holders from overly broad information requests from the auditor. They also have the ability to set their own timelines.

 

“If you’re engaged in yearend closing and need to put the VDA process aside for a few weeks, you can do that without the constant tension of having to fulfill the auditor’s record requests,” Houghton said.

 

Relaxed review standards

The VDA’s review standards are generally less stringent than those imposed during an audit. For example, under an audit, checks voided after 30 days need to be researched and remediated. Under the VDA process, the standard increases to 90 days for voided checks. This standard is more in line with common business practices and is likely to generate a lower error rate for liability estimation.

 

“The remediation standards employed in the VDA program are more appropriate because the holder knows its policies and procedure, and is in the best position to assess whether an item on the books has been proven not to be unclaimed property,” said Houghton. “There is effectively a presumption in the audit process that anything on the books is unclaimed property, and the level of documentation required to rebut that presumption is more rigid.”

 

Greater cooperation

The VDA program is designed to give holders the opportunity to complete the self-directed examination, secure a release and move forward with proactive compliance. As such, even when issues between holders and the VDA administrators are contested, they are generally able to discuss, vet and settle the differences. Everyone involved typically approaches challenges with the common goal of collaborating on a solution.

 

Potential downsides

Despite the advantages available to holders through the audit-to-VDA conversion, opting to convert is not a clear-cut decision for everyone. As mentioned previously, upon execution of a closing and release agreement, holders forfeit the right to challenge the liability or later litigate it. In the event of a significant lawsuit that changes the unclaimed property audit landscape, holders that completed the VDA would not have the right to file a refund claim or dispute the estimated liability they paid.

 

For some holders that have substantially completed the audit process, the VDA process may represent an additional burden. Although not starting from scratch because they can use material from the examination period when preparing their VDA analysis, the self-directed review process still requires dedication of resources. A holder may decide that completing the audit process is more prudent than dedicating additional consultant, outside counsel and staff resources to the VDA program.

 

Finally, if the holder is subject to a multi-state audit, converting to a VDA in Delaware would not affect the audit from the other states. So, entering into the VDA could effectively shift the holder from a single process to multiple processes, posing potential resource issues.

 

The third option

In addition to completing the examination or converting to a VDA, holders may instead elect to convert to an expedited audit. Much like the VDA, this option includes a waiver of interest and penalties. However, very little information regarding the expedited audit process has been published, and the waiver is subject to the escheator’s determination that a holder cooperated with the auditor.

 

“The VDA and audit processes have been around a long time, but the expedited audit process is new and has a lot of unknowns,” said Houghton. “The administrative comments and guidelines don’t exist yet. That creates a lot of questions that aren’t yet answerable.”

 

For more information about Delaware’s VDA conversion initiative, refer to Delaware’s Convert Audit to a VDA web page.

Tags:  audits  Delaware  VDAs 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

Tennessee Reduces Dormancy and Lookback Periods, Adds Requirements

Posted By Administration, Thursday, August 10, 2017

Among the first states to pass a version of the Revised Uniform Unclaimed Property Act this year was Tennessee. On May 25, 2017, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed H.B. 420 into law, effective July 1, 2017. The new law includes several substantial changes to the state’s unclaimed property requirements. Noteworthy provisions include:

 

New property types: Among the new property types addressed in H.B. 420 are health savings accounts (HSAs) and stored value cards. HSAs are presumed abandoned if unclaimed three years after the earlier of either the date distributions must begin to avoid tax penalty or 30 years after the account was opened. Stored value cards (other than payroll or gift cards) are presumed abandoned five years after the later of: Dec. 31 of the year in which the card was issued or funds were last deposited; the most recent indication of owner interest in the card; or a verification of the balance by or on behalf of the owner. 

 

Due diligence: Holders must perform due diligence for property valued at $50 or more. Notices must be sent to apparent owners by first-class mail between 180 days and 60 days before the unclaimed property report is filed. Owners who have consented to receive electronic communications must be sent the notice by both first-class mail and email unless the holder believes the email address is invalid. 

 

DMF matching requirement: The new law specifies that life insurers must perform searches of the death master file and comply with the Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefits Act. 

 

Dormancy periods: Most property type dormancy periods have been reduced from five years to three years under H.B. 420.

 

Audit lookback period: For audits in Tennessee, the lookback period has been reduced from 10 years to five years. 

 

Record retention: Holders are required to retain records for 10 years after the unclaimed property report was filed or was due to be filed. 

 

Promulgation of examination rules: The new law specifies that the state treasurer should develop rules for examinations, including procedures and standards for estimation, extrapolation and statistical sampling.

 

Sale of securities: H.B. 420 requires the treasurer to sell a security between eight months and one year after receiving it and giving the apparent owner notice. If the treasurer sells the security within six years, and a valid claim is filed before the six-year period expires, the owner will be entitled to receive a replacement of the security or its market value plus interest.

 

Informal conference provision: This law establishes provisions for an informal conference in situations where an examination results in a determination that a holder has failed to pay or deliver reportable property to the treasurer. It also allows for judicial review of the treasurer's decision. 

 

Exemptions: The law retains the state’s business to business and gift card exemptions. 

 

For the latest information about this and other noteworthy unclaimed property bills, visit UPPO’s govWATCH website

 

Tags:  audits  DMF  dormancy periods  due diligence  record retention  RUUPA  securities  Tennessee  unclaimed property 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

Michigan enacts new audit standards

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 25, 2017

Earlier this spring, the Michigan treasurer enacted new audit standards for examination, authorized under the Michigan Uniform Unclaimed Property Act. Following is an overview of those new standards.

 

Rules and rights

The state unclaimed property administrator is charged with determining who will undergo examination. Use of collection goals or quotas is prohibited. If someone under audit believes a contracted auditor is acting outside of the scope of the Act, policy or procedures, a review may be requested and will be carried out by the administrator.

 

Auditor standards

Auditors are expected to meet specific professional standards and supervision requirements, and follow specific fieldwork standards. Their planning should include a timeline for each examination segment, the property types to be included and the documentation the audit subject may need to provide. The timeline should account for whether or not the audit subject intends to provide electronic records.

 

Auditor documentation should provide sufficient detail to enable an experienced auditor with no connection to the examination to understand: the documentation of work performed; the property types reviewed; any estimation techniques used; and calculations that form a basis for the examination findings.

 

Process

For audits conducted only on behalf of Michigan, the state administrator is responsible for notifying and examination subject of the audit, providing the auditor’s contact information and the administrator’s contact information. For audits conducted on behalf of Michigan and at least one other state, the administrator submits an audit authorization to the auditor.

 

The auditor and examination subject are expected to reach agreement on a nondisclosure agreement within 30 days of the notice of commencement of the examination. The auditor is also responsible for ensuring confidential records remain confidential.

 

Before or during the opening conference, the administrator establishes whether the audit subject is an “eligible holder.” The audit standards provide a timeline and process for the audit subject to dispute its standing as an eligible holder.

 

At the opening conference, the audit subject receives a copy of the auditor’s contract with the state. The administrator is charged with investigating complaints that the auditor is not complying with the contract or examination standards. If appropriate, the administrator may replace the auditor with another auditor to complete the audit.

 

The auditor is also responsible for providing:

  • A list of states participating.
  • A description of the components and stages of the audit.
  • Expected duration.
  • A description of the responsibilities of the audit subject and auditor.
  • The potential types of property that may be subject to examination.
  • An initial records request.
  • The time period subject to examination.
  • The applicable dormancy periods for each property type.
  • Explanation of examination methods, including estimation techniques that may be used.
  • A summary of the opening conference.

 

Remediation

After the preliminary audit findings, the auditor will provide a copy to the exam subject, beginning a 120-day remediation period. During the remediation period, the exam subject can provide documentation demonstrating that property presumed abandoned should be removed from the final report.

 

Final conference

Within 30 days of the end of the remediation period, a final conference will occur. The audit subject’s total liability will be calculated at this conference. The auditor may adjust the liability based on information received during the final conference. Within 45 days, the auditor will file the examination report with the administrator and provide a copy to the audit subject.

 

 

Tags:  audits  Michigan  unclaimed property 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

Diving deeper into the world of exemptions

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 11, 2017

Exemptions provide holders with the ability to significantly reduce their unclaimed property liability. Unfortunately, identifying, understanding and applying available exemptions are not simple.

 

“There’s no uniformity in terms of their application or meaning,” says Freda Pepper, counsel for Reed Smith LLP. “For example, the business-to-business exemption isn’t addressed by every state or offered by every state. Among states that do offer it, the B2B exemption comes in a variety of shapes and colors. Some are full exemptions, some are partial exemptions and some have qualifications that others don’t.”

 

B2B exemptions are based on the idea that businesses don’t require the same protection as consumers because they have the resources and knowledge necessary to protect and recover their property from another business. While many states agree on this premise, they differ in their execution of the exemption.

 

Some, including Illinois, Kansas, Ohio, Maryland, and Virginia, offer broad B2B exemptions with few conditions. Others, including Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan and North Carolina, offer limited B2B exemptions that are still holder-friendly but may include exclusions. Others offer what appears to be a B2B exemption, but it is really a deferral, requiring an ongoing business relationship.

 

“Holders may not understand whether an exemption is outright or more of a deferral,” says Chris Jensen, director of abandoned and unclaimed property compliance for Ryan. “Sometimes the liability is delayed or deferred from reporting until the relationship you have with another business no longer exists. The definition of an ‘ongoing business relationship’ differs by jurisdiction, so it is important to review the state’s requirements before applying the deferral.”

 

Some states may not include a B2B exemption or deferral in their unclaimed property statutes, but do so administratively. These present greater risk and diligence, as they may change when a new administration is installed.

 

The B2B exemption is one of the more common exemptions, but many others are available. Gift cards represent another opportunity in many jurisdictions. More than 30 states offer some form of gift card exemption, depending on card variables including expiration date, fee inclusion and type of merchant (retailer or other). Other retail exemptions include merchandise return credits, loyalty cards, layaway deposits and rebates—each with their own restrictions, rules and application standards, depending on the state and other factors.

 

While holders are generally accustomed to reporting property regardless of its value, a few states offer de minimis exemptions. Michigan, for example, does not require escheatment of property valued at $25 or less. Similarly, Florida and Arizona exempt select property types below $10 and $50, respectively.

 

Because exemptions vary so widely, it takes some effort to identify and understand them. Even locating exemption language in state statutes can prove challenging.

 

“Locating where exemptions actually appear in the statute varies by state,” Pepper says. “Sometimes there’s an outright exemption addressed in the area covering the presumptions of abandonment. Often, the exemption can be found in the definitions section of the statute. For example, when defining ‘property,’ there may be a passage listing that is not considered reportable property. So, finding the exemptions can be a hunt.”

 

In addition, taking an exemption doesn’t relieve a holder from all responsibilities for that property.

 

“If the holder determines an asset is exempt from reporting, it doesn’t necessarily extinguish the liability on their books and records,” Jensen says. “There remains an expectation that you adjudicate the asset with the owner and resolve it on your books and records. Don’t automatically take it as income. Having conversations internally about how property is managed after its determined to be exempt cannot be understated.”

 

With so many variables and sometimes murky definitions at play, applying exemptions presents some challenges. Holders may need to examine how their reporting software accounts for available exemptions and consider their level of risk. When an exemption is offered administratively but not statutorily, a holder applying the exemption takes on some risk. Likewise, when definitions related to exemptions are vague and open to holder interpretation, risk increases. Holders should document their interpretation, apply it consistently and keep track of when it is applied. Doing so may prove useful if faced with an audit.

 

Holders seeking to minimize their unclaimed property liability have the ability to do so via exemptions. The lack of uniformity from state to state presents numerous challenges. Identifying, understanding and correctly applying available exemptions may not be easy, but can be worthwhile.

 

To help holders dive deeper into the world of unclaimed property exemptions, Jensen and Pepper will lead UPPO’s An Advanced View of Exemptions webinar on Wednesday, May 17. This informative webinar will focus on various exemptions offered by the states and will help holders determine when and how to apply them. Unclaimed property professionals with customers or vendors located in states that offer exemptions should not miss this in-depth educational session. Register now.

 

 

Tags:  audits  compliance  exemptions  unclaimed property 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 
Page 1 of 5
1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5
Membership Software Powered by YourMembership  ::  Legal