Addressing the Issue of Missing Participants

March 18, 2013 ( - Thanks to the Internet, locating lost participants is no longer like finding a needle in a haystack—but it’s better to avoid the problem in the first place.  

By Corie Russell | March 18, 2013
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Now that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has stopped forwarding letters for lost participants (see “IRS Stops Forwarding Letters for Missing Participants”), the search ultimately falls on the plan sponsor. In September, the IRS announced it will no longer forward letters on behalf of plan sponsors or administrators of qualified retirement plans or qualified termination administrators (QTAs) of abandoned plans under the Department of Labor’s Abandoned Plan Program who are attempting to locate missing plan participants and beneficiaries.   

The agency noted that since its letter-forwarding program began, numerous alternative missing person locator resources, including the Internet, have become available to assist a plan sponsor or plan administrator in locating a missing participant or beneficiary owed a retirement benefit.    

Plan sponsors can also enlist the help of their recordkeepers or other outside sources if the search for participants seems too daunting. Rollover service provider Retirement Clearinghouse specializes in employee retirement transition services (job changes), assisting plan sponsors, providers and the participants by providing in-person education for employees either entering a plan or leaving it.

According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, the average employee will change jobs 7.4 times over their 40-year career. "We're a mobile nation of workers. We're all over the place," Spencer Williams, CEO of Retirement Clearinghouse, told PLANSPONSOR.