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Lost Participants...and How to Find Them

With safeguards to protect the privacy rights of each tax-paying citizen, the IRS offers retirement plan sponsors, like yourself, the opportunity to try and contact former employees. Known as the Letter-Forwarding Program, the IRS offers assistance to plan sponsors who have retained the social security numbers of their former employees, but whose address or whereabouts currently are unknown. For humanitarian purposes (which includes financial entitlement) the IRS will search its database for a recent address and forward your letter to the missing person.

The Letter-Forwarding Program is useful to individuals, plan sponsors, pension plan administrators, financial institutions, and state and federal agencies that are attempting to locate individuals. However, this program cannot be used to locate a party to pending litigation or for service of process.

The IRS is precluded by law from giving addresses or any other information to you. In fact, under the law, the IRS cannot even inform you of the result of the inquiry.  Letters intended for individuals for whom the IRS has no current records and letters forwarded by IRS and then returned as undeliverable, are destroyed.  The IRS cannot  inform the sender of any action taken or of any results.

The IRS Letter-Forwarding Program is comprised of two components:

  1. Forwarding Letters to 49 or Fewer Individuals, and
  2. Forwarding Letters to 50 or More Individuals.

Revenue Procedure 94-22 provides instructions and information on the use of the IRS’ Letter-Forwarding Program.

Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 09-Sep-2013