TN 14 (08-11)

RS 01404.003 Wage Development Policy

A. Definitions of terms used in Wage Development

1. Master Earnings File (MEF)

The Master Earnings File (MEF) is SSA's main electronic earnings information for an individual worker. The file stores the earnings history for each number holder (NH) by SSN.

2. Item Correction (ICOR)

Item Correction (ICOR) is the Earnings Modernization (EMOD) System which permits SSA personnel (FO, OCO, PSC, and TSC) to electronically correct an individual's MEF. The EMOD ICOR system involves numerous SSA processes that permit the action needed to control, record development and correct an individual's MEF.

3. Employer Report Query (ERQY)

The Employer Report Query (ERQY) is an online query that provides employer W2 wage reports for years after 1977 (1978 and later). The ERQY provides the employer identification number (EIN), employer name and address, W2 Wage Report Summary data for Box 3 and Box 5 totals, number or W2s and W2 Corrections processed, etc.

4. Feedback

Feedback is a process where OCO checks its 1086 earnings microfilm files for earnings detail(s) of an NH between the periods 1937 through 1977. If the earnings in question are located during the feedback process, OCO will post the earnings to the MEF.

NOTE: Beginning with tax year 1978, posted earnings details are stored on the MEF so it is not necessary to request feedback for tax years after 1977.

5. Scouting

Scouting is a process in which OCO searches online sources and microfilmed wage reports for a specific period. OCO will verify if the employer filed a report by checking the 941 file for years prior to 1978 or the ERQY and AWR/EAMATE microfilm file for years after 1977.

NOTE: We discontinued the procedure for storing actual employer reports on microfilm in 1978 with the implementation of Annual Wage Reporting (AWR) when SSA began posting all earnings details to the MEF. Processed wage data for years after 1977 is available on microfilm.

CAUTION: Scouting and feedback are different actions requiring OCO to check different records.

6. Earnings Alert Query (EARQ)

The Earnings Alert Query (EARQ) is an immediate response online query that displays possible inaccuracies on an individual’s Social Security earnings record for years after 1977 (1978 and later).

B. Policy on wage development

1. Establishing and maintaining earnings records

It is SSA’s responsibility to establish and maintain records of the amounts of wages paid to individuals and of the periods such wages were paid (i.e., establishing and maintaining earnings records.

2. Presumption of posted earnings

An individual's earnings record maintained by SSA is presumed correct as posted.

This presumption also applies to the absence of postings, i.e., the absence of postings is evidence that no wages were paid.

3. Correction of an earnings record

To overcome the presumption that the earnings record is correct as posted, evidence must be presented to the contrary.

This evidence may be submitted by a NH, an employer, a third party or gained through information located within SSA's files which was not previously associated with the NH's SSN.

4. Sufficiency of evidence submitted to correct an earnings record

SSA has full authority to determine what evidence is sufficient to overcome the presumption of correctness. SSA has the authority to subpoena evidence and testimony when necessary. (RS 01403.080)

5. Statute of Limitations for correcting an earnings record

The Statute of Limitations provides certain restrictions for correcting earnings records after the time period has expired. (RS 02201.008)

NOTE: An earnings record may always be corrected to add or increase wages from an employer or to transfer earnings from one NH's MEF to another, to the suspense file, or vice versa.

6. Wages/Self Employed Income (SEI) posted

SSA assumes that all earnings are posted in the year following the year wages were paid or self-employment income (SE) is derived.

7. Employer reports not timely filed

Occasionally an employer report is not timely posted. It is assumed, however, that the reporting is complete unless Social Security becomes aware of a problem employer situation, or if during the process of developing an earnings issue,