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Something to look forward to: Return of the SSA no-match letter

Without supporting regulations

Posted December 7, 2018

In case you missed them, beginning in spring 2019, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will again begin to notify each employer with at least one W-2 form where the name and Social Security Number (SSN) do not match the agency’s records and that corrections are needed. This notice is titled an Employer Correction Request notice, otherwise referred to as a no-match letter.

The agency has already begun mailing informational notifications to businesses and third parties who submitted wage and tax statements (Form W-2) that contain name and SSN combinations that do not match the agency’s records.

A no-match letter cautions employers against taking any adverse employment action against a referenced employee based solely on receipt of the letter, and explicitly states that the letter makes no statement about the referenced employee’s immigration status. Rather, the letter simply reports an apparent error in either the employer’s records or SSA’s records, and seeks the employer’s and, if necessary, the employee’s assistance in conforming those records.

There are a number of reasons why reported names and SSNs may not agree with the SSA’s records, including an unreported name change due to marriage, divorce or naturalization; input errors by SSA staff; reporting errors by an employer or employee; identity theft; errors in reporting proper culturally based hyphenated or multiple surnames; and fraud.

The regulations behind the letters were rescinded in 2009, and all such communication ended in 2012. Without the regulations and no-match letters, employers were somewhat on their own, even though they could be questioned regarding such discrepancies during Form I-9 audits, illustrating the gravity of discrepancies and the importance of compliance.

The mere receipt of a no-match letter does not, by itself, constitute “constructive knowledge” on the part of an employer that a particular employee is not authorized to work. Only the Department of Homeland Security is legally authorized to conclusively determine an individual’s authorization to work.

If your employee’s name and Social Security number do not match Internal Revenue Service records, check to see if your information matches the name and Social Security number on the employee’s Social Security card. If it does not match, ask your employee to provide you with the exact information as it is shown on the employee’s Social Security card. Give the employee a reasonable period of time to address and correct information.

If the information matches the employee’s card, ask your employee to check with any local Social Security office to resolve the issue. Once resolved, the employee should inform you of any changes.

Employers could be penalized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for having an incorrect SSN on a Form W-2. Penalty rates depend upon the seriousness of the infraction. The rates are adjusted for inflation.

This article was written by Darlene M. Clabault, SHRM-CP, PHR, CLMS, of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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