Many times in my twelve years of providing customer support, I've heard “This is my first time reporting and I don't know what to do. Can you help me?” My heart goes out to those people because I know how daunting it can be to figure out how to get a report to the state.
Large companies often have an entire team dedicated to unclaimed property compliance. They record their standard procedures in manuals that can be shared with new employees. Smaller companies don't often have their procedures recorded. It seems like each year they draw straws to see who gets the unlucky task of reporting unclaimed property. The person who draws the short straw has to muddle through trying to figure out what unclaimed property is, where they need to get the data to report, which property codes they need to use, how they create the file and coversheet to send to the state, and how they deliver the report package and payment to the states.
It doesn't have to be like this. Unclaimed property procedures can and should be recorded in a manual for every company, not just the big guys. Creating a manual helps the next person navigate the process and helps to ensure solid compliance from year to year. You can share the manual with upper management so they understand just how much goes into tracking and reporting unclaimed property. Recording your procedures can even help save your company from penalties that could result from improper reporting and will be a lifesaver if you are ever audited.
What should you include in the reporting manual? The manual should include the following:
- Where does this person need to get their data for unclaimed property records (AP, Payroll, etc.)? Provide the names of your contacts in these departments.
- How often does this person need to gather the data mentioned above?
- Which property codes do you normally use?
- If you are using a software system for reporting, provide instructions for accessing and logging into the system. Provide contact information for technical support.
- What is your process for sending letters? Where are the letter templates stored? How often should letters be run?
- What is the process for handling a claim when an owner comes forward? Include all systems that will need to be updated.
- Create a folder on a shared network drive to store your import files, state reports, cover sheets, and other important files. Include the location of these files in the manual.
- If you use a software system such as UPExchange, the new user will be able to find state website links and contact information within the software. Include instructions for accessing this information. If you do not have software, include the website links and contact information for all states to which you report.
- Anything else you wish you would have known when you had to take over the reporting task.
I'm sure there is more information I haven't included here, but hopefully I have you thinking about how to create your own manual. This will be a good start and you can add to it as you go. Please feel free to comment and include any important information I might have missed.