In Florida, all things relating to unclaimed property are handled by the Department of Financial Services, Bureau of Unclaimed Property.
- As a business owner, this will be the agency to contact if you possess unclaimed property (unpaid wages, for example). Remember that you are subject to both reporting requirements and the obligation to turn over abandoned property to the state.
- It is also the point of contact if you believe that you may have knowingly, or unknowingly, abandoned property (for example, failing to get back a security deposit, didn’t receive a tax refund).
Florida businesses have a number of responsibilities concerning unclaimed property. Initially, written notice must be sent to the apparent owner of the unclaimed property, if known. If the property remains unclaimed, businesses have a number of filing and reporting requirements to fulfill. Most importantly, businesses are required to turn over any and all unclaimed property to the state. Stiff penalties apply to businesses who fail to comply with any of these requirements.
Individuals should know that Florida property is generally presumed abandoned if it is not claimed by the owner for more than five years after it became payable or distributable. However, this time limit varies depending on the type of property involved. Once abandoned property is turned over to the state by a business, an individual then has the burden of reclaiming it from the state.
Reporting Unclaimed Property in Florida
A holder of unclaimed property must file a verified annual report containing such information concerning the property as is required by the Bureau of Unclaimed Property (Bureau). The reporting period is based on the calendar year. Thus, the report is due on or before May 1, as of December 31 of the previous year. The Bureau may postpone the report due date upon a written request and a showing of good cause by the holder.
Prior notice to owner. Within 180 days after an account with a value of at least $50 becomes inactive, the holder must conduct a search to locate the apparent owner of the property. Not more than 120 days and not less than 60 days prior to filing the annual report of unclaimed property, the holder of property presumed unclaimed shall send written notice to the apparent owner’s last known address informing the apparent owner that the holder is in possession of the property.
These requirements do not apply to qualifying credit balances, overpayments, refunds, or outstanding checks owed by a health care provider to a managed care payor with whom the health care provider has a managed care contract.
Holders of inactive accounts having a value of $50 or more must use due diligence to locate apparent owners. The account will be presumed unclaimed if:
- the holder is not able to contact the apparent owner by telephone,
- the first-class mail notice is returned to the holder as undeliverable, or
- the apparent owner does not contact the holder in response to the first-class mail notice.
Delivery. Generally, the unclaimed property must be delivered to the Bureau at the same time as the final date for filing the report, unless the owner in the meantime has established its rights to the property. Property held in a safety depository need not be delivered until 120 days after the report due date.
The delivery of the property must be insured by the holder at an amount equal to the estimated value of the property. Each package must be clearly marked on the outside “Deliver Unopened.” A holder’s safe-deposit box contents must be delivered to the Bureau in a single shipment. However, in lieu of a single shipment, holders may provide the Bureau with a single detailed shipping schedule that includes package tracking information for all packages being sent. The delivery date may be extended up to 60 days if extenuating circumstances exist. Delivery or payment of the property relieves the holder of all further liability and entitles him to be defended by the administrator against any third-party claims on the property.
Holders must send abandoned stocks and other intangible ownership interests to the Bureau with the annual unclaimed property report. Upon delivery of the stock or other intangible ownership interest to the Bureau, the holder and any person acting for or on behalf of a holder is relieved of all liability to every person for any losses or damages resulting to the person by the delivery to the Bureau of the stock or other intangible ownership interest.
Recordkeeping. A business must generally maintain related records five years after the unclaimed property is reported. However, the period is three years for traveler’s checks, money orders, and similar financial instruments.
Penalties. Late filing of the annual report is penalized at $10 per day up to $500, which can be waived by the Bureau if justified. The penalty must be remitted to the Bureau within 30 days after the date of the notification to the holder that the penalty is due. The penalty for willfully failing to render a report as required or to pay or deliver property is $500 per day of violation (up to a maximum of $5,000) and 25 percent of the value of property not reported or delivered. In addition, interest at the rate of 12 percent per annum is charged.
If unclaimed contents of a safe deposit box are not paid or delivered to the Bureau on or before the applicable payment or delivery date, the holder must pay to the Bureau a penalty for each safe-deposit box shipment received late. The penalty is $100 for each safe-deposit box shipment container that is late 30 days or less. After 30 days, the penalty is $500 for each additional 30-day period. The penalty assessed against a holder for a late safe-deposit box shipment container may not exceed $4,000 per year. The penalty must be remitted to the Bureau within 30 days after the date of the notification to the holder that the penalty is due.
The willful or fraudulent concealment, destruction, damage or unlawful disposition of unclaimed property, or of its records, is a misdemeanor of the second degree.
The Bureau may initiate, or cause to be initiated, an action against a holder to enforce a subpoena or recover unclaimed property. If the Bureau prevails in the action, the holder must pay the Bureau’s reasonable costs and attorney fees.
Claiming Unclaimed Property in Florida
In Florida, property is generally presumed abandoned if it is not claimed by the owner for more than five years after it became payable or distributable. However, this time limit varies depending on the type of property involved.
Once abandoned property is turned over to the state by a business, an individual then has the burden of reclaiming it from the state. Unclaimed funds are deposited into the State School Fund and used to support public schools. However, the original amount reported can always be reclaimed by the owner or the owner’s heirs.
Locating abandoned property held by the state. In Florida, unclaimed property held by the state may be found by searching the state’s website (http://www.fltreasurehunt.org/ControlServlet?ActionForm=GotoNewPublicSearch).
To find out if other states may be holding your unclaimed property, search the national database established by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA).
Filing a claim. A person claiming an interest in any property paid or delivered as unclaimed property under the Unclaimed Property Act, or that person’s representative, may file a claim with the Bureau of Unclaimed Property (Bureau). Within 90 days after receipt of a claim, the Bureau may return any claim that provides for the receipt of fees and costs greater than that permitted under unclaimed property law or that contains any apparent errors or omissions. The Bureau may also request that the claimant or the claimant’s representative provide additional information. The Bureau must determine the claim within 90 days after receipt of the claim or after the response of the claimant or the claimant’s representative to the Bureau’s request for additional information, whichever is later.
The 90-day period may be extended by 60 days under certain circumstances. Under certain circumstances, a state may also file a claim for recovery.
A person dissatisfied by a decision of the Bureau may, within 90 days after the decision of the administrator or 180 days after filing a claim not acted upon, petition the Bureau for an administrative hearing. Final decisions of the Bureau may be appealed for judicial review.
Florida Unclaimed Property Resources
If you’re looking for additional information on unclaimed property, we recommend contacting your state’s governmental agency that oversees the administration of this area of the law. For help in answering a specific unclaimed property question in Florida, contact the following:
Florida Department of Financial Services
Bureau of Unclaimed Property
200 East Gaines Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0358
Claimant Services Phone: (888) 258-2253 or (850)413-5555
Claimant Services Fax: (850)413-3017
Claimant Services E-Mail: Funclaim@fldfs.com
Reporting/Compliance Phone Number: (850)413-5522
Reporting/Compliance Fax Number: (850)413-3018
Reporting/Compliance E-Mail: EReporting@dfs.state.fl.us
Florida Abandoned Property Time Limits
||Presumed Abandoned After
|Checks or drafts
|Gift certificates, gift cards, and credit memos
||no specific provision
||Life or annuity policies: five years.
The presumed maturity of an insurance policy is two years.
|IRAs or retirement funds
||no specific provision
|Other intangible personal property not otherwise specified
||other intangible personal property originated or issued by an entity in the state: three years.
Otherwise, five years.
|Proceeds from class action suits
||no specific provision
|Property distributable by a business association in the course of dissolution
||six months after the date specified for final distribution
Money that a business association has been ordered by the court or administrative agency to refund is presumed abandoned if it remains unclaimed by the owner for more than one year after it became payable in accordance with the final determination or order providing for the refund (regardless of whether the final determination or order requires the owner to make a claim for it).
|Property held by courts or public agencies
||Funds deposited in the Petroleum Trust Fund: five years.
Other property held by courts or public agencies: one year.
|Property held by fiduciaries
|Safe deposit boxes
|Shares in a financial institution
|Stocks, dividends, and distributions
|Deposits and advances owed utility company customer
|Wages or salaries