Huge budget deficits are rekindling the torch for non-tax revenue sources. As a result, the state might more stringently enforce New York unclaimed property law. Examples of unclaimed property range from uncashed vendor and payroll checks to unclaimed insurance policies. After a set amount of time and several attempts to contact the rightful owner, New York law requires businesses to turn over these assets to the state. The state then becomes the perpetual custodian of these funds. The New York unclaimed property tax law is one of the oldest in the country and was enacted in part to protect individuals from losing their assets to businesses who were conveniently lax in their notifications to debtees.
However, since a majority of funds remain unclaimed and non-liquid assets are auctioned eventually, unclaimed property has evolved into a revenue source. According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, there is about $33 billion in property that has already been escheated, or turned over, to the comptrollers of the fifty states. Estimates also speculate that only 20% of businesses correctly abide by these laws, meaning that the corporate landscape is ripe for audits designed to enforce New York laws. Non-compliant businesses would not only be required to turn over this type of property, but also be subject to fines and, in cases of fraud, possibly face criminal prosecution. Rather than being an unsuspected windfall, these forms of payments represent a significant liability. A successful auditing procedure has several components.
- A thorough knowledge of New York law and its impact across the types of property in your possession.
- A categorization and reporting of all forms of payments
- A resource and procedure for obtaining updates and revisions to the New York law.
- Procedure for necessary notifications that are to be sent to claimants prior to escheatment.
In an environment of budget deficits and tax shortages, failing to report property represents a potentially costly risk to businesses that are already vulnerable in a poor economy. Unless you delegate your reporting responsibilities to a trusted auditing company, you will need to train staff to apply the complexities of New York law. When the fine for willful inaction is $100 for each day past the filing deadline, ignoring your property could be a costly decision.