GAO Recommends Further Guidance for Retirement Assets Escheated to States

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released the findings of a survey conducted to measure the effects transfers from qualified retirement plan sponsors and IRA trustees to state unclaimed property funds.

GAO was asked to study what happens after retirement assets transfer to states and to review IRS and DOL guidance to determine steps that can be taken by either agency to improve these transactions. The survey included responses from 22 states, and a variety of 401(k) service providers and IRA trustees.

GAO found that current guidance has resulted in uneven practices across service providers and trustees. To ensure the consistent administration of benefits, GAO has made three recommendations.

  1. The IRS should clarify if transfers to states are considered distributions subject to taxation and withholding requirements.
  2. The IRS should consider whether a transfer to a state is a permissible reason to extend the 60-day rollover period.
  3. The DOL should specify under what circumstances uncashed distribution checks from active qualified retirement plans may be transferred to a state.

The IRS has responded that it will work to implement the suggestions, while DOL has stated it will consider making the changes but will need to consider input from stakeholders before doing so.

The GAO released a Fast Facts summary, highlights of its findings, and the full report.