The unclaimed property environment within the United States and Canada is ever-changing with amended legislation as well as statutory, administrative, and regulatory requirements. When considering the variations in regulations and legislation no two states, nor two provinces, are exactly the same—providing a broad spectrum of compliance requirements. Despite the lack of uniformity across states and provinces, the United States and Canada share similarities in regard to unclaimed property and how it is regulated today.
Both the United States and Canada have their unclaimed property roots in uniform legislation that provides a foundation for each individual state or province’s laws. For the United States, the Uniform Unclaimed Property Act (UUPA) is the model act for the 55 reporting jurisdictions. The UUPA was first approved in 1954 and since has been revised by the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) in 1966, with new acts drafted in 1981 and 1995. The ULC provided a revised UUPA known as Revised Uniform Unclaimed Property Act (RUUPA) in 2016.
In Canada, the unclaimed property laws currently only exist in Alberta, British Columbia and Québec. These laws were based in part on the Uniform Unclaimed Intangible Property Act, developed in 2003 by the Uniform Law Conference of Canada. This Act was intended to be a model that each province could utilize to develop its own unclaimed property laws. Each province is able to choose how much or how little of the Act to incorporate into its respective regulations. New Brunswick has also proposed an unclaimed property legislation that has not been passed or enacted yet.
Below are brief summaries of the individual provincial policies in Alberta, British Columbia, and Québec. Ontario’s unclaimed property efforts have included an unclaimed property act in 1989 (never proclaimed into law) and an initiative to establish an unclaimed property program. To date, no policies have been officially passed.
Canadian Unclaimed Property Programs
Alberta enacted the Unclaimed Personal Property and Vested Property Act and Regulation in September of 2008. The Alberta Finance, Tax and Revenue Administration (TRA) provides a searchable directory for Albertans and assists them in claiming any financial assets that are theirs. The dormancy periods range from one to fifteen years based on the individual property types, and includes life insurance policies, retirement savings plans, stock certificates, security properties, and bank accounts.
British Columbia enacted its version of Canadian Unclaimed Property laws in July of 1999, which is contained within their Unclaimed Property Act. Property types included under the Act and Regulation include uncashed checks, money orders, securities, and insurance proceeds, among others. The dormancy periods vary by property type and range between three and five years. Holders whose gross annual revenue is $250,000 or less are exempt from reporting.
Québec has had an unclaimed property law in place since 1999, and declares that financial assets are entered into the register of unclaimed property after a dormancy period of three years. The list of eligible financial assets includes safety deposit box contents, account balances in savings or credit unions, benefits from life insurance, checks and money orders, security accounts, and pension or retirement plan proceeds. Quebec also has penal provisions and charges interest on property remitted late.
Canadian Unclaimed Property Reporting Highlights
When it comes to filing unclaimed property reports, the United States and Canada share some similarities and differences in regard to deadlines, report formats, and required methods.
In the U.S., there are two main escheat reporting cycles—Fall and Spring—for holders to file their annual escheat reports. More than 40 of the U.S. reporting jurisdictions have a fall reporting deadline of October 31st or November 1st fall reporting deadline. Alberta and Québec have the following escheat reporting deadlines:
- Alberta—before April 30. The first holder report is due within 120 days following 12/31
- British Columbia—a holder is permitted but not required to report unclaimed property
- Québec —within the first quarter following the end of the holder’s fiscal year. A holder and the Revenu Québec may agree on the date of the end of the fiscal year.
- For Full-service securities dealers – The end of the fiscal year is February 28
- For Mutual funds – The end of the fiscal year is July 3
A recent industry trend throughout the United States is the use of electronic methods for filing unclaimed property reports. Throughout the United Sates’ Fall 2013 reporting cycle, many states provided holders with the option to upload their reports electronically via a secure website or file transfer process. Although it is not required for the majority of states, electronic reporting is encouraged and cost-effective for holders as technological resources are easily available.
The Canadian provinces also offer an electronic upload method as an option to holders. The below requirements outline the preferred or required report methods for the following provinces:
- Alberta—requires web entry or file upload in XML Format and requires holders to conduct their own internal testing of XML files they create to ensure proper formatting.
- British Columbia—requires electronic reporting for 10 or more items.
- Québec —prefers electronic filing for all reports filed but is only required for 50 or more items
There are many more intricacies and nuances of unclaimed property reporting that impact both Canadian and American holders. Join me at the Unclaimed Property Professionals Organization’s Holders Seminar in Canada and learn more on the cross-border unclaimed property compliance requirements.