Plan sponsors, administrators and qualified termination administrators (QTAs) sometimes need to locate missing participants or beneficiaries. For example, correction of a plan failure under the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (EPCRS) may require payment of additional benefits to terminated participants. See Revenue Procedure 2016-51, Section 6.02(5)(d), for plan correction principles relating to lost participants.
Previously, the IRS provided letter-forwarding services to help locate missing plan participants, but with the August 31, 2012, release of Revenue Procedure 2012-35, the IRS stopped this letter forwarding program. The IRS will no longer process requests to locate retirement plan participants or beneficiaries.
In the absence of IRS letter forwarding services, sponsors, administrators and QTAs may use a variety of other methods to locate missing participants and beneficiaries, including:
- commercial locator services
- credit reporting agencies
- internet search tools
Department of Labor guidelines
The Department of Labor in Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2014-01 lists the following search methods as the minimum steps the fiduciary of a terminated defined contribution plan must take to locate a participant:
- Send a notice using certified mail
- Check the records of the employer or any related plans of the employer
- Send an inquiry to the designated beneficiary of the missing participant
- Use free electronic search tools
FAB 2014-01 also describes additional appropriate search methods and the distribution options for a terminating plan if a participant cannot be located.