Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Guidance on Vermont's Limitation of Lookback Provision

The State of Vermont is currently soliciting proposals from vendors to perform unclaimed property auditing services for both in-state and out of state holders.  While the RFP itself is not readily available, the State Treasurer's Office did issue some guidance concerning the state's "limitation of lookback period" in response to a question from a prospective applicant.  As many holders of unclaimed property know, there is no statute of limitations on the state's right to take custody of unclaimed property.  Most states' unclaimed property laws, however, have so-called "limitation of lookback" provisions that place restrictions on the state's right to audit a holder.  For example, the relevant provision of the Vermont Unclaimed Property Act provides that

"An action or proceeding may not be maintained by the treasurer to enforce this chapter in regard to the reporting, delivery, or payment of property more than 10 years after the holder specifically identified the property in a report filed with the treasurer or gave notice to the treasurer of a dispute regarding the property."

One of the Vermont RFP applicants sought clarification regarding the state's interpretation of this provision, and asked: 


Under Vermont Statute (Vt. Stat. Ann. Title 27 § 1259(b)), there is a ten year statutory limitation on the Treasurer’s right to bring an action or proceeding to enforce the Unclaimed Property Law. How is the examination’s reach back period treated for Vermont? Is it ten years based on this statute? If so, does this include the dormancy period(s)? Also, if holder failed to file reports, how far back is the reach back period for this scenario?

The State's response was as follows:

The examination look back period is ten reporting years. The ten years does not include the dormancy period. For all property it would be 10 years plus the dormancy period. For example, a payroll check issued in 1999, becoming dormant in 2000 and reportable in 2001, would be included on the examination. If a holder has failed to file reports, the reach back period would be determined on a case by case basis, but usually is ten reporting years.

Thus, holders subject to audit by the State of Vermont should expect the scope of that audit to be thirteen years for most property types (i.g., the 10 year lookback plus the 3 year dormancy period for most property types).  A copy of the question, and Treasury's response, can be found here.

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