July 08, 2019

The Return of No-Match Letters: A Social Security Saga

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has resumed the practice of sending thousands of Social Security Employer Correction Request Notices (known as "no-match letters") to employers, informing them that some number of employees on payroll had names that did not match the Social Security numbers (SSN) issued by the SSA. The reemergence of the practice, which was originally in place from 1993 to 2012, is causing an unwelcome sense of déjà vu for hundreds of thousands of employers across the U.S.

Since March 2019, more than 575,000 employers have received no-match letters. The letters are short, just two pages long. The letters indicate: “You reported [number] employee names and Social Security numbers (SSN) on the Wage and Tax Statements (Forms W-2) for tax year [year] that do not match our records.” The letters request “corrected information” from employers to reconcile wage reports and ensure employees are credited for their Social Security earnings. Employers are required to create an account and log onto the SSA’s Business Services Online (BSO) system to view the SSNs and employee names in question.

Other than reminding employers that no adverse action should be taken against employees who are on the no-match list, the letter does not provide specific guidance for employers to take in following up on the letter and how to go about correcting any SSN issues.

Although the SSA cannot enforce no-match letter responses, it can share information with other government agencies that have enforcement powers, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). And even if previous years did not show a correlation between an ICE raid or audit and receipt of an SSA no-match letter, there is no guarantee in this current administration that this would remain the case.

Employers should remain mindful of this rapidly changing situation, especially in terms of potential impact to the current workforce.

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