Social Security Card And Money

Mismatch Letters…In the News…Again

If you’ve been around the business world in the last 20 years, the topic of mismatch notices may be familiar to you.

A quick search on “Google” and you will find other instances when the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced they were issuing letters to U.S. employers notifying them of “mismatches” in the data reported to SSA. They announced frequently between 2002 and 2015.

The topic of immigration is currently at the forefront of our political debates.  However, the Social Security Administration’s primary duty is to accurately record the tax withheld from an individual’s paycheck to their correct account at the SSA— to build a retirement account the employee can draw from when they become eligible.  The SSA has tried through the years to reduce the number of errors currently located in what we’d call their “suspense file” waiting to be allocated to the correct employee.

So here we are in 2018– the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced again they will begin mailing “informational notifications” in the spring of 2019 to businesses and third parties who submitted wage and tax statements (Form W-2) that contain name and Social Security number (SSN) combinations that do not match their records.

The Employer Correction Request Notices (EDCOR) will be sent to those employers who have at least one W-2 form where the name and SSN does not match the SSA records. Employers will be required to submit corrections on Form W-2c, Corrected Wage and Tax Statement, within 60 days of receiving the SSA letter.

The notice (EDCOR) is to tell employers that receive the letter that it “does not imply that you or your employee intentionally gave the government wrong information” about the employee’s name or SSN. The letter does not address your employee’s work authorization or immigration status.

The employer should not use the SSA letter to take any adverse action against an employee, such as laying off, suspending, firing, or discrimination against that individual just because his or her SSN or name does not match the SSA’s records.  Any of those actions could, in fact, violate State or Federal law and subject the employer to legal consequences.

Mismatches can be caused by typographical errors, unreported name changes, incomplete records, or SSN misuse. In any event, employers who receive such letters must act promptly and are advised to document the steps taken to resolve the discrepancy.

The correction requests are to include the number of mismatches as well as directions to Business Services Online (BSO), where employers may review name and SSN.

The SSA provides a free Social Security Number Verification Services (SSNVS) through BSO that allows you to verify employees’ names and SSN in the SSA records in advance of filing your annual W-2 submissions.  Using SSNVS can significantly reduce errors through BSO.

What you should do:

To view the names and SSN that could not be matched to the SSA records, the SSA asks the employer to use the Employer Report Status within BSO.  To begin using BSO, you must complete a one-time registration process.  To register, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/bso/bsowelcome.htm.  You may also file your Form W-2c corrections online in BSO.

The SSA website includes steps on how to correct mismatches. As an early part of this process, employers who receive a mismatch letter should check their personnel records for the affected employees to confirm that the information in company records matches that provided by the SSA.

In the event the mismatch is not based on employer error, the employer should notify each affected employee of the mismatch, preferably in writing. The SSA website contains a “sample letter” for this purpose.  Employees must then resolve the mismatch.  However, employers will remain responsible for ensuring the process is complete.  To do so, employers may follow up with each affected employee to confirm the steps they are taking and that a resolution does occur.  Again, employer documentation of these steps is recommended.

It is important that employers not take adverse employment action (including formal discipline, termination, or informal forms of negative treatment) against employees solely based upon the notice that a mismatch has occurred.  Employers must allow time for the employees to address and resolve the mismatch.

Employers also must ensure they do not treat different classes of employees differently in the event more than one mismatch is reported.  In the event a mismatch cannot be resolved or SSN misuse is confirmed, employers should contact legal counsel to determine the appropriate steps to take with regard to the involved employee.

The SSA does not offer guidance for employees who have left employment and cannot be reached.  Our recommendation would be to encourage the employer to send a letter to the last known address of the employee if a mismatch letter is received concerning prior employees.

If you have questions, the SSA’s toll free number is 1-800-772-6270 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday.  The SSA can answer most questions over the phone.  If you call, please have the SSA letters with you.  Also, general program information is available from the SSA website at www.socialsecurity.gov/employer.