A quick rundown on how to claim ‘unclaimed’ EPFO money
There may be substantial sums of money in your EPFO account even after withdrawal or settlement of your claim. Here’s a quick rundown on how you can claim unaccounted EPFO money
In the ongoing crusade to find out more about the way the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) really works, I have been contacted by present, ex-employees and several others who are proving to be a great source of information, as long as their identities are kept confidential.
You can read the earlier piece on EPFO here.
One interesting fact that has been reconfirmed concerns those who have withdrawn their Provident Fund (PF) money as part of a claim, at any time in the past, literally from the inception of the EPFO onwards. It seems that the EPFO had an interesting way of calculating the balance and interest. They often accounted for money in your accounts till the end of the previous financial year only. Anything after that by way of interest earned, or contributions deposited by your employers, was kept in your account or in a suspense account of some sort. This is where it either languished forever, or was quietly siphoned out. There are several reasons for this:
- • The claimant had already pre-signed a blank pre-receipt with a Re1 revenue stamp.
- • The claimant did not know that even after ‘settlement’ there was money accruing in the PF account—as interest earned on balance and interest “not claimed”
- • The EPFO chose not to make any public announcements on this subject
- • There is no provision in the EPFO for anything but a ‘claim’ by a claimant
- • Being a retirement benefit in most cases, original contributors often did not have the wherewithal to fight it out
- • If the original contributor had passed away, then establishing bonafides as the claimant was difficult, if not impossible
- • Any enquiries on this were brushed aside with the answer that this was probably service charges or taxes deducted
- • This “left behind” money has long been considered a perquisite by certain people
To give an example, let us say your last date of service was 30 June 2005. By the time you claimed for settlement of both EPFO contributions and pension it was anytime between end 2005 and early 2006, maybe even later. Your forms were, as usual, pre-receipted blank.
This is what, most likely, would have happened:
- • Interest earned would typically have been calculated as on amount in your balance on 31 March 2005. Or the 31 March of the year preceding the date of claim. Some interest earned would not have been credited to your account at time of settlement
- • EPFO contributions for the last few months of service may or may not have been credited into your account till date of settlement with you. Transfers from other EPFO accounts may not have taken place. This happens often too. This amount would also then flow into your account, and linger there, earning interest
- • The EPFO itself may have declared bonus interest earned for some financial year period, before or after withdrawal, which also would then flow into your EPFO account
Viewed dispassionately, and taking into account the manual calculations of the “least loss to EPFO” sort, it is not surprising that there are varying sums of money in EPFO accounts that by rights have had claimants already go through ‘settlements’. As of now, they continue to also earn interest and in all likelihood also remain tax-free on principal and interest earned. The interest earning element will discontinue if there has been no fresh contribution for three years.
If you are, or have been, an EPFO claimant, or are a direct heir/nominee of an EPFO claimant, what do you need to do?
- If you do not have the EPFO account number of the claimant, file a Right to Information (RTI) query to the EPFO office, with as much detail as you can. Simultaneously, also approach the employers where the person worked, for details
- Armed with these details, file a second RTI on the relevant EPFO office seeking current balance in both Provident Fund as well as Pension accounts. Ask the EPFO to provide you with certified copies of this information
- Once you discover that there is indeed some amount of money still lying in your EPFO account, file a claim form
Currently, the EPFO, in its wisdom, does not have a specific form for this sort of a secondary claim. It has been suggested by ex-employees that you file the relevant Form 19 (if the contributor is alive) or Form 20 (if contributor is deceased/incapable) and enclose a copy of the information on balance received by RTI application, along with a simple letter explaining why this is being claimed again. If the relevant EPFO office rejects the claim, then file it on the EPFO HQ by registered post and follow up using a judicious mix of the public grievance portal (http://pgportal.gov.in/) as well as an RTI query.
(Veeresh Malik had a long career in the Merchant Navy, which he left in 1983. He has qualifications in ship-broking and chartering, loves to travel, and has been in print and electronic media for over two decades. After starting and selling a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing.)
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