Employers are again receiving “no-match letters” from the Social Security Administration (SSA) . No-match letters—called Employer Correction Requests—will be sent when SSA discovers a mismatch between information provided by employers for wage reporting purposes and SSA’s records. A “no-match” relates to employee names and social security numbers (SSNs).

In March 2019 SSA began mailing notifications to employers identified as having at least one employee name and SSN combination submitted on their W-2s that do not match SSA’s records. The purpose of the letter is to advise employers that corrections are needed in order for SSA to properly post employees’ earnings to the correct record.  The no-match letter will tell the employer how many employee names they provided in a particular tax year which do not match their records.

According to SSA, there are a number of reasons why reported names and SSNs may not agree with their records.  This includes typographical errors, unreported name changes, and inaccurate or incomplete employer records. On the flip side, the discrepancy may be the result of fraud by the employee.

In order for employers to view and correct name and SSNs errors they must register through Business Services Online (BSO) and use the Employer Report Status service.  Instructions to find and resolve errors are found on SSA’s website (click here). This is different than in the past, when employees’ names and SSNs were identified on the no-match letter.

Importance of this announcement by SSA and takeaways for employers:

  • If an employer receives a “no match letter,” it does need to be promptly addressed. However, employers should not automatically assume that it relates to the individual’s immigration status or the employment eligibility verification form (the “Form I-9”). In fact, the Employer Correction Request (ECR) specifically states, “this letter does not address your employee’s work authorization or immigration status.” Furthermore, the ECR specifically cautions an employer from taking any “adverse action against an employee…just because his or her number does not match our records.”
  • Prior to submitting the W-2, employers can use the Social Security Number Verification Service (SSNVS) to verify employees’ names and SSNs. However, this tool is only to be used for wage reporting purposes and not for pre-screening of job applicants or for immigration purposes.
  • Employers should check their records to confirm they have accurately entered the information provided to SSA. Then, address the discrepancy with the employee by asking them to verify their SSN and, as necessary, provide them with a period of time to address the issue with SSA.  The letter itself states that employers must provide necessary corrections to SSA within 60 days of receipt of the letter.  Some would argue that up to 90 or 120 days is a reasonable period of time. A sample letter employers can provide employees is found on SSA’s website by clicking here.
  • Note, employees are not required to physically show employers their SSN card for wage reporting purposes. Alert employees that discrepancies can occur due to name changes because of marriage, divorce, or other valid reasons an individual may legally change their name.

To learn more, see SSA’s sample Educational Correspondence (EDCOR) Announcement which employers may receive (click here).

Separately, and now from an immigration perspective, one question is how Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will treat employers receipt of no-match letters. No-match letters have a long and tortured history, dating back to the early 1990s, and litigation ultimately led to no-match letters not being issued by SSA for a period of time.  The litigation stemmed from issuance of a regulation by the Bush Administration that was intended to provide employers with guidance on how to address no-match letters. One controversial part of the proposed regulation (which was ultimately rescinded by the Obama Administration) involved Homeland Security potentially considering receipt of such letters as evidence of an employer’s “constructive knowledge” that they were employing individuals not authorized to work.  And therefore, full circle to above question as to how ICE will treat receipt of no-match letters during an investigation or audit of an employer’s Forms I-9 as ICE can and does ask for such forms with the Notice of Inspection.