Social Security Administration “No-Match” Letters are Back! Have You Gotten One?
The Social Security Administration (“SSA” or the “Agency”) has officially resumed issuing Employer Correction Requests, commonly known as social security number “no-match” letters. These letters, which alert employers of mismatches between submitted W-2 form information and SSA records, have not been sent to employers in seven years. Last year, the Agency warned the practice would resume this spring – and boy, has it ever!
History of the “No-Match” Letter
The SSA began issuing no-match letters back in 1993. The letters were meant to be informational notices which alerted employers to discrepancies between submitted W-2 information and SSA records. The Agency stopped sending these letters in 2007, reinstated the practice in April 2011, and then discontinued the practice once more in 2012.
In March 2019, the SSA began mailing no-match letters to employers with at least one name and Social Security Number (SSN) combination submitted on an employee’s W-2 that does not match SSA records.
The 2019 Letter
The 2019 version of the no-match letter is different than previous versions in that it instructs employers to access a list of employees with mis-matches by logging into SSA’s Business Services Online (“BSO”) system. The Agency announced the purpose of these letters is to advise employers that corrections are needed in order for the SSA to properly post its employee earnings to the correct record. In fact, the letter asks employers to provide corrections to the information within 60 days of receiving the letter. A sample of the 2019 letter can be viewed here.
What Should You Do if You Receive a No-Match Letter?
First and foremost – stay calm. There are a number of insignificant reasons why reported names and SSNs may not agree with SSA records, such as typographical errors, unreported name changes, and inaccurate or incomplete employer records. The letter is not an indication that you are in trouble, and the letter does not implicate an employee’s work authorization or immigration status. You should therefore not make any employment decisions based solely upon receipt of the letter. Of course, there is the possibility that the employee used undetected fraudulent documentation. If true, the employee could be in trouble, but the employer is not.
Next, come up with a game plan for how to address the letter. For employers receiving a great number of these letters (we have heard of larger organizations receiving hundreds of no-matches) coming up with a plan could pose a challenge. We urge all employers to access the information on the SSA’s BSO system as soon as possible. Once you receive the list of employees with no-matches, check your personnel records. Is the worker still employed? If so, check for typos or other discrepancies that may have caused the no-match. Only after all this should you consider contacting the involved employees.
If you decide to reach out to these employees, you have more decisions to make. How will you notify the employees? Definitely in writing, but should you have an open meeting in advance to soften the blow to employees who may be frightened by this process? Are you prepared for your impacted employees to not return to work the following day? If this could hurt your business, what is your plan? Finally, after you ask the employees to investigate and advise the SSA of any reasons for the problem, what else will you do? Will you follow up? Should you take action if the issue remains unresolved? This last question, as of yet, has no good answer. As you can see, you have much to do before this letter is finally filed away!
Possibly the most important step when addressing these letters is to contact competent counsel who can help you navigate these murky waters. Consult with an attorney regarding format of communications to employees, the timeline for response, and other important protocol necessary to ensure you are properly responding to these letters without violating local, state and federal discrimination laws. Having a proper plan in place will make all the difference and will help you sleep better at night!
Brody and Associates regularly provides training and counseling on employment law issues including I-9 compliance. If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203.454.0560.