Nidhi Chauhan, 33, applied for transfer of her employee provident fund , or EPF, amount to her account with the new employer. Even after months, neither her present nor her previous employer knew about the status of her application. While the present employer said it had forwarded the application, the previous one claimed it never received one. Resigning to her fate, Nidhi stopped following up the case. "It is easier to get a loan than to access your own EPF money. I had no clue where my money was. At one point my employer advised me to withdraw the money."
Like Nidhi, there are thousands of people who do not know how to get their PF money transferred. More important, they do not know how to follow up after applying for the transfer.
Consider this. As on March 2013, Rs 22,000 crore was lying unclaimed with the Employee Provident Fund Organisation, or EPFO, in accounts inactive for more than three years. This means this money is not earning any interest.
The EPFO has accepted time and again that delays in fund transfer give rise to a lot of dissatisfaction among subscribers. Realising this, it launched a portal on 2 October 2013 for online transfer of funds. Since then, more than 1.15 lakh people have applied online for transfer of funds. Of these, 90,000 claims have been settled; around 8,900 applications have been rejected.
The EPFO also also introduced a revised Form 13 (for fund transfer) in July 2013. You can submit it either to your present or to your previous employer. Earlier, you had to submit the form to your present employer. Choosing the previous employer saves time (See How EPF Money Gets Transferred).
There is, however, an exception to this. If the present employer comes under the exempted category (maintains a trust to manage money on its own), you can submit the form only with present employer. This is because in such a case the EPFO will need the bank account number and other details of the trust.
KK Jalan, Central PF Commissioner, says, "Earlier, there were three major reasons for delay. First, the documents were sent by post. Second, there was a problem in identifying in which EPFO office was the account of the previous employer. Third, there used to be a delay in transit of Annexure K. We have tried to resolve these issues through the online facility."
ONLINE CLAIM TRANSFER
After reading about the online facility, Nidhi again decided to file an application, this time online. "I decided to try the online route as I didn't want to lose out on interest income."
To her surprise, she could apply without hassle. "Things have improved a lot since I last applied," she says.
The interesting thing is that the online process has not only eliminated the delay in transit, it has also reduced the chances of your file going to the wrong EPFO office, which was one of the biggest reasons for late settlement of claims.
We bring you steps that you must follow while applying for online EPF transfer.
Step 1: Go to the EPFO website, epfindia.com.
Step 2: The home page will show a section called 'online transfer claim portal'. Click on it.
Step 3: Before logging in, check if you can apply online. If not, you will have to submit a physical copy of Form 13 to either your present or your previous employer.
Step 4: After checking the eligibility, log in and go to the claims section. There, click on 'request for transfer of funds'.
The EPFO keeps you updated through SMSes. You can also track the application through the EPFO website.
The process involves four entities-your present employer, your previous employer, the present EPFO office and the previous EPFO office.
As a result, you cannot blame one person or entity for the delay. While EPFO officials say the delay is mostly from employers' side, employers put the blame on the EPFO. The only sufferer is the member, who does not know how to take the case forward. Plus, there is a chance that your employer may not be aware of the online process and so asks you to submit the form physically. Don't give in to this suggestion. Online filing has made the system fast and transparent. Instead of asking your employer about the status of the application, you can now ask him to give reasons for the delay. With the EPFO helping you track the process online, the accountability of employers has increased manifold.
The EPFO plans to provide a universal account number to members by October 15. This will help millions deal with the problem of transfer of funds. At present, members get a new number with every job change.
Once you get the universal number, you will not be required to apply for transfer of funds with every job change. Your funds will get transferred to the account with the new employer at the click of a button. You will need to submit KYC (know-your-customer) documents to your present employer so that they can verify your details. But for old accounts, you will still have to apply either in digital or physical form.
The EPFO also plans to make all payments to its beneficiaries through the electronic mode. This will improve efficiency and reduce paper work. At present, 93% benefits are paid electronically.
WHAT TO DO?
Apply online. This will help you track the status of your application and at the same time help the EPFO keep a check on the employer for speedy settlement. If there is no response from the employer, the EPFO can always push it for attestation and verification. In case you are not eligible for online filing, give a physical copy of the transfer form to your previous employer to save time.
Universal account number will give you and your employer the option to go for faster transfer of funds. Till then, use the online facility.