The Return of the “No-Match” Letter
The last time a client of mine received a “No-Match” letter was
in 2012, so I was somewhat surprised when multiple clients received letters
from the Social Security Administration in only the last few weeks. Apparently,
my clients were not alone. According to a New
York Times story, over half a million employers received similar letters in
the last couple of months.
“No-Match” letters start out with “You reported [some number] employee names
and Social Security numbers (SSN) on the Wage and Tax Statements (Forms W-2)
for tax year 2018 that do not match our records.” The letters do not identify
the employees in question, but an employer that wants to know who is on the
list can request a report from Business Services Online. However, the letters
also warn employers against taking any adverse action against an employee whose
name appears on the list.
asked me: “Should I just do nothing?” While the Social Security Administration
has no authority to penalize employers for reporting incorrect information, I
have recommended against taking the “ostrich” approach to these letters. While
there can be good reason for a mismatch (a name change, a typographical error,
or identity theft), it is also possible that the employee was not authorized to
work and originally presented a stolen or fraudulent Social Security card. If a
letter refers to a significant number of mismatches, I think there is a fair
chance that the employer may soon become the subject of an I-9 audit or, worse
yet, an ICE raid.
should an employer do? At a minimum, an employer should notify any identified employee
that they have been identified as a possible mismatch. Ask the employee to
confirm his number, and if the number is incorrect, ask to see the employee’s
card. If the employee insists that you have the correct number, you may want to
tell him to check with the local Social Security office to resolve the issue,
and let you know what they find out. After all, this could ultimately affect
his entitlement to retirement or disability benefits.
If the issue is not resolved, there
is probably not much that an employer can do without risking a claim of
discrimination. However, if the employer can demonstrate with documentation
that it made an effort to investigate each “No-Match,” it is unlikely that the
government will charge it with constructive knowledge of having employed
persons who were not authorized to work.
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