News and Insights

Nationwide Unclaimed Property Amnesty

Tax Development Sep 09, 1999

An unprecedented national cooperative effort is underway to assist holders of unclaimed property to comply with state law. Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia are participating in a ten month Voluntary Compliance Program that ends on October 31, 1999. Participating states may waive penalties and interest on holders who turn over their unclaimed property during this amnesty period.

Many businesses hold a wide variety of valuable property that has been claimed by its rightful owners for one or more years. Examples are dormant accounts, uncashed checks, unused gift certificates, customer credits, and security deposits. Corporate headquarters accountants might not be aware of unclaimed property held by far-flung operating units and subsidiaries. Each state has its own rules on the statute of limitations for remitting the unclaimed property.

States participating in the amnesty program are offering holders of unclaimed property a "carrot and stick" approach. If they voluntarily comply by October 31, the penalties and interest may be waived. If they do not voluntarily comply, states may begin aggressive audits of unclaimed property. The auditors may look back as far as 10 years prior to identify unclaimed property and assess penalties and interest that may exceed 100 percent of the property’s value.

Most states and the District of Columbia are participating in this voluntary compliance period. The eleven states that have not formally joined the amnesty program as of August 1999 are California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, and Oklahoma.

Ryan & Company, a nationally recognized leader in state and local tax services, is ready to assist businesses with unclaimed property issues. Eric L. Stein, a Principal in Ryan & Company’s Austin, Texas office, is familiar with unclaimed property requirements across the country. Mr. Stein was appointed the national liaison between the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. The Ryan SALT Gateway includes a web page at with links to the unclaimed property websites for all states and the District of Columbia.

For more information, contact Eric L. Stein at 512.476.0022. Mr. Stein can also be reached by e-mail.