325 million in the cracks of the sofa

Neglecting to give a sign of life to one’s former employers is the equivalent of never looking into the cracks of the sofa. We risk leaving money there.

Posted at 7:45 p.m.

Even if the potential loss can be counted in thousands of dollars, thousands of Quebecers fail to notify their changes of address. Pension plans unable to find former contributors must then transfer the abandoned pensions to Revenu Québec. Guess how much money is in the prize pool: more than $325 million, I learned when requesting the compilation of unpublished data.

With the other unclaimed sums that end up in Quebec, from inheritances, for example, the balance climbs to 486 million. It makes you want to go look under the cushions, doesn’t it?

The reason I draw your attention to pension plan records is because they make up 67% of the total value of everything on the Unclaimed Property Register (RBNR). It is far from being anecdotal, therefore.

To give you an idea, the Government Employees Retirement Plan, RREGOP, alone sent Revenu Québec 6,659 files totaling $48.7 million… from 2020 to 2022 alone. teachers transferred 558 files ($216,700), that of supervisory staff, 83 ($2.9 million). A file can include more than one person.

Pension plans offered by private companies have the same obligations to transfer funds to Revenu Québec after having taken “reasonable means” to find their owners.

Revenu Québec has no idea of ​​the number of people who deprive themselves of a sum of money from their contributions to a supplemental pension plan. Because entries in the register are made “by property and not by person”. But one thing is certain, the sum sleeping in his bank account is far too high. No doubt it is time for a mega advertising campaign to encourage Quebecers to check online if some of these millions belong to them. You could call it “Operation Sofa”.

The exercise only takes a few seconds and requires no time-consuming registration or documentation. Simply enter your name or the name of someone else (a deceased spouse, for example) into the Unclaimed Property Registry search engine1.

In the context of changing jobs more and more often during a career, it is perhaps not so surprising that pension plans lose track of former members. Some do not even know that they have contributed! But it is important to find solutions to ensure that no one is deprived of their money.

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Some supplemental pension plans force their contributors to jump ship with their savings. This reduces their management costs and eliminates the risk of one day being forced to play detective. When the amount at stake reaches a certain threshold, around $13,300, this avenue is however prohibited. According to Isabelle Bouchard, a specialist in pension plan administration at Aon, 50% of plans force withdrawal, a proportion that has been stable in recent years.

Obviously, this is far from enough.

I do not know why it is so difficult for Revenu Québec to find the owner of the sums entrusted to it. Especially since each amount transmitted by a pension plan is associated with a social insurance number (SIN).

Bernard Morency, associate professor at the Institute for Retirement and Savings at HEC Montreal and former first vice-president of the Caisse de depot, is also surprised that we were able to end up with 325 million in the fund. But at least all the information is centralized. “Revenu Québec, theoretically, should have traces of these people, who have to do their taxes. Perhaps the issue is not taken seriously enough? With the NAS, we could do a blitz. We send a letter to everyone there and we ask them: “What do you want us to do with your rights?” »

Revenu Québec says it is “deploying many efforts” to help taxpayers find their money. It promotes its register, publishes public notices and uses “all the information available in its databases” to contact citizens or their heirs, lists its spokesperson.

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To solve the problem upstream, the coordinator of the Observatory of retirement, François L’Italien, believes that the government could create without too much difficulty a register of contributions, as in France. “We would see all the contributions, by year, by employer. »

Employees are responsible for keeping track of their affairs. But we still have to give them the tools to do so, especially in the context where the level of financial literacy, as we know, is not optimal. “We can’t just tell people with a secondary 5 to manage,” says François L’Italien. With a registry, I’m sure there are people out there who would find business. That’s my opinion too, since even state-hired professionals end up with millions in the RBNR.

Until real solutions are found, take a minute to consult the Revenu Québec website. If it’s nice to come across a $2 while lifting the sofa cushions, imagine the feeling of finding thousands of dollars with just a few mouse clicks.

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  • Total value of property listed in the RBNR
    December 2020: 383 million
    December 2021: 413 million
    December 2022: 486 million

    Source: Revenue Quebec

The article is in French

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