Judging from the number of phone calls we have received at TCGA, many of you are receiving letters from the Social Security Administration (SSA) notifying you that there was a mis-match between the information submitted by your company and the records at the SSA.  This letter also suggests that you log into the SSA business services online to check the details of the mis-match.  Finally, the letter has a 60 day deadline for a response.

Since sending the original alert we have received quite a few follow up questions.  We have been working to find answers to all of your questions, and hopefully we can answer most of the questions below:

First of all, there is a 60 day deadline on these letters, and as far as we know the letters started coming in about April 1.  Similar letters have been sent in the past, and in the past there have been lawsuits over the letters, with injunctions filed.  In other words, it may be worth waiting a bit to see if the response is necessary. Don’t lose track of time, however, as it is important to respond if there is no court action blocking the letters.   If you do find a discrepancy and know that it needs to be fixed, there is certainly no reason to wait in order to fix an actual problem.

Related to logging into the SSA business services online:  Some of the groups studying this issue recommend that you do not log into the online system.  The main concern is that some of the instructions state that once employers have registered for SSNVS, they must use it across the entire organization.  We are unclear about exactly what they means, but some worry that this would set a precedence for your company.  Other groups don’t share this concern and seem to recommend that their members use the system.  If you believe the benefits of using the system, which include being able to see more detail about which employees are mis-matched, and the ability to file employee corrections online, then you may want to use the system.  Just understand what the potential risks are for using the system.

If you have gone through your employee records manually and found errors, there is a way to correct these errors without logging into the system.  It is probably best to talk to your CPA about how best to file these corrections.  Your CPA may also be able to help you determine whether a minor difference in names (such as using the middle initial versus the full middle name) constitutes enough of a difference to justify filing a correction.  This is one example of a difficulty in not logging onto the system to review the actual names – we are guessing a bit in this instance.  The correction form (W-2c) can be retrieved from the IRS by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM, or you can order it online here.  Of course if you use the electronic system, you can file the corrections online.

If you have gone through your employee records manually and don’t find any errors, we will need to respond to the SSA at some point to tell them this information.  Here is the second point at which it is harder to do without checking online.  If you do check online, and have a list of names that the SSA show as mis-matched, and your records all match, then you should work with the individual employee to give them a reasonable time to obtain a formal/provable correction with the SSA and provide that correct information to the employer so that the employer can make the necessary correction.  Of course, this assumes that the employee is still working for the employer, and that the employer can get in contact with the employee.  Some of the advice we have seen assumes that all employers will use the online system.  For the ones that assume the employer will not use the online system, there are no suggestions relating to how you would know which names the SSA is concerned about.  Again, this is an instance where it may be good to watch the issue for a little longer.

The reason it is important to handle this issue carefully is that ICE will normally ask to see previously received no match letters if they inspect your facility and they will ask how you handled these letters.  There is a concern that doing nothing with these letters, or that not handling the letters properly could be viewed as an employer have “constructive knowledge” that would be illegals in it’s workforce.

Finally, we believe you should retain a copy of the letter you received and document your response to the letter in case you are inspected in the future.  It may be important later to be able to document how you responded.

We will continue to keep you all updated as this issue moves forward.