In Canada there is an estimated $3 to $5 billion in unclaimed property being held by domestic and foreign government entities even despite the fact that Ontario, Canada’s largest province, has yet to pass unclaimed property legislation that would significantly benefit hard working families and small businesses.
Have you ever wondered who are the top Canadian owners of unclaimed property? It may come as no surprise to many that the Government of Canada / Receiver General of Canada has lost almost 4,000 assets that are currently being held by other governments or governmental entities around the world. Not far behind are the provincial Minsters of Finance. There is likely millions of dollars that should be claimed for the benefit of all tax paying Canadians but no one in government is even bothering to look for these lost assets.
Rounding out the top tier of unclaimed asset owners are Canada’s largest financial companies who are coincidentally also the leading holders in Ontario of unclaimed property belonging to hard-working Canadians and growing companies.
And you thought you were financially unorganized!
*Estimated as of January 2016
AssetMine maintains the largest global database of unclaimed financial assets consisting of approximately 150 million assets valued at $55 billion.
The AssetMine proprietary database contains over 150 million assets worth an estimated $55 billion belonging to individuals, corporations and government entities around the world. For interest, we conducted a database query on a list of deceased Canadian celebs. Here are the top ten notable deceased Canadian celebrities for which we found unclaimed property:
||(inventor of game “Trivial Pursuit”)
||(leading classical piano player)
||(big-band leader; 1929-62 performer of “Auld Lang Syne” in New York on New Year’s Eve)
||(country singer; released mega-hit “I’m Movin’ On” in 1950)
||(creator of the APL computer language)
||(comedic movie actor; starred in “Airplane” and “Naked Gun” series)
||(legendary jazz piano player; won 7 Grammy awards)
||(composer and bandleader; initiator of “easy listening” genre)
||(ABC television news host)
||(politician and world class statesman)
When a bank account, certified cheque, bank draft or other financial instrument becomes dormant, federal law in Canada requires the holding chartered bank to remit these funds to the government after a specified dormancy period. Every year Canadian banks escheat $ millions of dormant financial assets to the Bank of Canada.
So, if Canadian chartered banks are that familiar with the concept of unclaimed property that belongs to their clients, why is there so much unclaimed property out there globally belonging to the big 5 Canadian banks?
Unclaimed property experts estimate that globally there are many thousands of lost financial assets totaling over $10 Million in unclaimed property belonging to Canada’s Big 5 Banks. Ironic, because banks go to great lengths to get their money back from debtors but don’t seem to be concerned with the $ millions of their own assets that are lost and unclaimed. Most people would be surprised to know that Canadian chartered banks are losing track of their own assets and leaving them unclaimed in government treasuries worldwide.
The top holders of unclaimed property are typically banks, insurance companies, brokerage firms, pension funds and retailers many of which are US multinational corporations. In the US, such companies are required by law to comply with strict unclaimed property regulations in each of the 50 US states, forcing them to remit any dormant financial assets to the government after relatively short periods of time. The governments in turn are required to make their unclaimed property lists public and available for claiming by rightful owners.
In their homeland, US multinationals are accustomed to adhering to consumer protective unclaimed property laws, whereas, they are subject to little or no regulation when operating here in Canada. These US multinational companies essentially get to keep unclaimed property that belongs to hardworking Canadians. This is due to the arrested development of Canada’s unclaimed property laws which can be attributed to Canada’s powerful and influential corporate lobbyists who have curbed the legislation for their own selfish interests. At the end of the day, Canadians are the big loser with assets belonging to Canadians being used to prop up the balance sheets of US multinationals. The governments of Quebec, Alberta and BC have taken action in this regard to protect the interests of the citizens in their provinces.
Ontario, however, refuses to enact this very important consumer protection law requiring all large companies holding dormant assets belonging to Ontario families and small companies to find the rightful owners or to remit the funds to the custody of the government. It is really offensive that in exchange for thousands of dollars of donations to the Liberal Party of Ontario that large companies get to keep millions, and possibly billions of dollars belonging to hard working Ontario families and growing small companies.
The Bank of Canada requires federally regulated Banks and Trust companies to remit certain types of dormant funds after they have been inactive for a period of 10 years. These dormant assets can easily be searched for on the Bank of Canada website.
However, simply searching your name on the Bank of Canada website will not give you conclusive results of all the potential assets that could be out there for you. Here’s why:
- The site was not designed for complex or multiple name searches, only for individuals looking for a specific name, thus requiring an exact name match to return any results.
- Listings which contain misspellings, non-standard punctuation, abbreviations or acronyms will be missed. This type of human data entry error is the biggest impediment to finding lost assets and is often the same reason that the asset was initially lost.
- The Bank of Canada is one of nearly 100 unclaimed property data sources in North America.
- Assets may be held in a different jurisdiction than expected due to bureaucratic priority rules.
Engaging a professional asset location and recovery firm is the most efficient and effective method of finding unclaimed dormant financial assets – and recovering them. AssetMine maintains the largest global database of unclaimed financial assets consisting of approximately 150 million assets valued at $55 billion.
The Bank of Canada requires federally regulated Banks and Trust companies to remit dormant funds after they have been inactive for a period of 10 years. These dormant accounts can easily be searched for on the Bank of Canada website.
Unfortunately, the Bank of Canada does not require the escheatment of the following additional asset types which could amount to $ billions more in unclaimed property:
- Accounts in U.S. dollars and other non-Canadian currencies
- Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) and Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) accounts
- Life insurance policies
- Credit union or Caisse populaire accounts
- Unclaimed balances at utilities and other companies
- Gold or silver certificates
- Safety deposit boxes
- Stocks (equity shares) and dividends
The good news is that some provinces have enacted unclaimed property law to help protect Canadians from having these assets squandered by the multinational corporations that hold them. Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia each provide their own searchable database of unclaimed property collected within the province. The Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada holds some unclaimed property stemming from bankruptcies.
The bad news is that the majority of Canadian provinces have not enacted unclaimed property law. This includes Ontario, which is Canada’s largest provincial economy by far. This means that holding financial institutions are sitting on cash that belongs to hard-working Canadians.
North American governments are holding between $50 and $100 billion in lost financial assets belonging to individuals and companies. In most jurisdictions, escheat law requires unclaimed/dormant financial assets to be surrendered to governments so that the owners of the assets can efficiently locate and recover them.
Ontario is not one of these jurisdictions and unfortunately companies are allowed to hold and use financial assets that are not theirs to keep. In fact, Ontario is the single largest jurisdiction in North America without an unclaimed property law to protect Ontario consumers, hard-working families, and small- and medium-sized businesses.
Ontario is the largest economy in Canada, with a GDP nearly twice that of Quebec (Canada’s second-largest economy) and is estimated to be approximately 40% of the entire Canadian economy. Experts say there may be up to $2 Billion in unclaimed assets being held by large companies in Ontario that belong to people and small companies within the province and across Canada. And in Ontario there is no law that requires the holders of these assets to look for the asset owners, so they essentially get to keep the money! Imagine, this could be your grandfather’s life insurance policy or your aunt’s brokerage account that you did not know existed when they passed away. No one is looking for the legal or beneficial owner because in Ontario they do not have to.
The Ontario government has decided that they presently have too many other more pressing priorities than to “do the right thing” by enacting this very important consumer protection law for the benefit of taxpayers. This perspective was likely highly influenced by the very strong, biased and well-funded special interest and lobby groups in Ontario representing the largest companies that hold the lost assets and are able to fund the provincial MPP constituencies and to ensure their election or re-election.
Most Ontarians would agree that the best use for these unclaimed and lost funds would be to get them back to their owners: hard-working families and growing companies or at least working for all taxpayers by surrendering them to a financially struggling government rather than having them sit on the balance sheets of large multi-national entities.
Ontario was the first province to consider unclaimed property law back in 1989 when the province passed the Unclaimed Intangible Property Act. Unfortunately, the statute was never proclaimed in force. In 1989 there was also a very strong lobby against the legislation by the same group of wealthy multi-national companies. The voice of the average person or small company – essentially those whose money is lost and unclaimed – has been left out of this discussion.
Unclaimed property legislation would be incredibly beneficial for both Ontario taxpayers and Ontarians who own unclaimed financial assets. Existing programs in the US have proven their merit over the last 50+ years. Why hasn’t the Ontario government implemented unclaimed property legislation? It’s time for citizens to start asking their government: What’s the holdup? There is no excuse – unless it’s the government’s fear of influential lobby groups. Contact your MPP if you think it’s time for the Ontario government to act in the best interests of taxpayers who are being kept from their own money.
The 2012 Ontario Budget announced the government’s plan to establish a program that helps reconnect unclaimed property with its rightful owners and, until the property is claimed, allows it to be used for the benefit of Ontarians.
The program would be similar to those that exist within other various jurisdictions in Canada and the United States. The essence of these programs requires that the holding institution escheat financial assets, which remain inactive for a specified time period, after efforts to notify owners of the property go unanswered. The government will maintain a publicly accessible record of these properties that can be used by citizens to identify and recover their assets within that jurisdiction.
The proposed new program will adopt many of the principles set out in the Uniform Unclaimed Intangible Property Act (2003):
- Unclaimed property should not rest with holders of the property (who are not the owners of the property) indefinitely and owners of unclaimed property should have an effective mechanism to identify and recover it.
- A holder of unclaimed property must provide written notice to the apparent owner of that property pre-escheatment.
- The government should be responsible for establishing a registry to enable Ontarians to be reunited with their intangible property once it is deemed unclaimed.
- Until that property is claimed, the property should be used for the benefit of Ontarians.
- Any additional burden to holders of unclaimed property associated with a new program should be minimized to the extent possible.
There are $ millions in unclaimed property belonging to Canadians buried in US state treasury departments. Impact 360 AR helps bring home the cash.
Have you lived or operated a business in the US at any point in your lifetime? The United States currently holds over $60 Billion in unclaimed property, millions of which belong to Canadians. While unclaimed property laws are only beginning to take effect in Canada, UP legislation is far more advanced south of the border. In fact, most US states have implemented very successful unclaimed property laws covering many asset types with minimal dormancy periods and strict compliance. As many jurisdictions begin to follow suit, the amount of unclaimed property being reported continues to grow at a rapid pace.
When searching for unclaimed property in the States, there are challenges that Canadians may face in locating and recovering their assets. For instance, due to bureaucratic priority rules it is quite possible that unclaimed property may end up in a different State database than expected. With the potential to find assets in States where you or your business have never set foot, covering all grounds in your search can be a very convoluted process. Other challenges include the limitations of State websites. Often they require an exact match to the searched name, when in reality many assets may be listed with misspellings or typos which likely caused the asset to become lost in the first place. These two obstacles alone would require one to search every possible name variation in each state database in order to perform a conclusive search: not a feasible task.
In order to recover Canadian unclaimed property in the States, the best course of action is to contact us. Our proprietary database combines nation-wide search capability with sophisticated search methods to ensure the most effective location and recovery of assets rightfully belonging to Canadians.
Many people find it hard to believe that financial assets can be lost or forgotten, and eventually deemed unclaimed property. The reality is that very simple mistakes or acts of carelessness can be the culprit. Some owners become ill or die without alerting family members to the existence of bank accounts, savings bonds or insurance policies. They may change their address without making arrangements to have mail forwarded. Or perhaps a gift card is not redeemed, a lottery prize goes unclaimed, or a rebate cheque is never cashed. Being human after all, some of us simply forget about our assets, leaving them dormant for years.
There are several initiatives you can take in order to prevent your assets from becoming dormant, including:
- Keeping a list of all your family’s assets and their whereabouts – bank accounts, e-commerce accounts, retirement plan savings, layaways, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, life insurance policies, security deposits, safe deposit boxes etc.
- Maintaining your accounts as current by initiating activity
- Notifying everyone necessary when your name or address has changed, especially holders of your assets, and making arrangements to have your mail properly redirected
- Being careful to properly and legibly fill out personal information forms required by asset holders
- Making sure that you receive all your pay cheques and unused paid leave if you cease employment
- Updating and confirming your beneficiary information on insurance policies
- Recording all stock certificates and being sure to cash all dividends received
- Remembering to collect your utility deposits if you move
- Cashing every cheque promptly when received, eliminating the chance of it being misplaced
- Remembering your digital assets such as Paypal, eBay, Amazon accounts
- Never allowing errors in your contact information to go uncorrected if they occur on bank statements or any other official or financial documents
While following these initiatives can help prevent you from losing track of your assets, it is very possible for your assets to become dormant or unclaimed for reasons beyond your control. Human error, for example typographical errors with names or contact information, is the most common example of this and can often make it difficult or near impossible to draw a connection to rightful owners of dormant funds. When this happens, the best course of action is to contact unclaimed property experts, such as Impact 360 – Asset Recovery, who specialize in tracking down unclaimed property for their clients.