TN 6 (04-11)
RM 01105.027 Handling Inquiries About Letters from SSA Concerning Names and SSNs That Do Not Match Our Records
Title II of the Social Security Act requires the Social Security Administration (SSA) to maintain earnings records for covered workers. Maintaining accurate earnings records is necessary in determining an employee’s benefit amount. Employers are required to report wages annually for each employee on Form W-2 (Wage and Tax Statement). Social Security processes these wage reports as an agent of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). SSA also processes self-employment income data from the IRS.
During the Annual Wage Reporting Process, a wage report may fail validation because it does not have a social security number (SSN) or name, or the SSN or name submitted does not match information on our records. For a number of reasons, reported earnings information may not agree with our records. These include typographical errors, unreported name changes, inaccurate or incomplete employer records, or misuse of an SSN. In these cases, SSA places the earnings information in the Earnings Suspense File (ESF) instead of posting the earnings to a worker’s record.
SSA attempts to resolve items placed in the ESF by sending letters to employees, employers, and self-employed workers to inform them that a reported name or SSN does not match SSA’s records. We refer to these letters as decentralized correspondence (DECOR) notices, and their purpose is to obtain corrected information to help SSA identify the worker to whom the earnings belong so that we can post the earnings to the correctly identified worker’s earnings record. Social Security began sending DECOR notices in 1979.
B. DECOR notices to employees, self-employed workers, and employers
SSA sends DECOR notices to individual employees (SSA-L3365-C1 (Request to Employee for Social Security Information)) and self-employed workers (Form SSA-L2765-C1 (Request for Self-Employment Information)) to inform them of name and SSN discrepancies.
We derive the address of the employee from the Form W-2 and the self-employed worker’s address from the data provided by the IRS.
If an employee’s address is available and the address does not exist in the United States Postal Service database, or if an employee’s address is unavailable, we send a notice (SSA-L4002-C1 (Request for Employer Information)) to the employer. This notice requests information about the earnings reported by the employer for the employee and placed in the ESF.
NOTE: Effective August 23, 2012, we suspended all DÉCOR letters because of budgetary reasons.
C. Letter to employers on multiple no-matches, EDCOR (Code V – no match letter)
For tax years 1993 through 2005, we sent “Code V” educational correspondence (EDCOR) to employers if their wage reports included more than a certain number of employee names and SSNs that we could not match to our records. The exact criteria for sending these notices varied over the years.
We stopped sending Code V EDCOR as of tax year 2006 in response to litigation surrounding a proposed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulation that would have required employers to follow a prescribed course of action upon learning of an employee name or SSN discrepancy, or “no match.” DHS later rescinded the proposed regulation, and the Commissioner decided in 2011 to discontinue this correspondence process.
D. Address for DECOR notices
The Wilkes-Barre Direct Operations Center generates the DECOR notices (Forms SSA-L2765-C1, SSA-L3365-C1 and SSA-L4002-C1) and includes a return envelope with the following address: Social Security Administration
Direct Operations Center
P.O. Box 39
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18767-0039
E. Employer 800 number agent, field office (FO) and national 800 number agent procedures for handling employer inquiries
Follow these steps:
If you are in an 800 Number site or FO site, go to step 2.
If you are an Employer 800 Number Agent, go to step 3.
If the employer has questions regarding the SSN listed on the DECOR notice and needs additional details from Social Security, encourage him or her to contact the SSA toll-free number for employers at 1-800-772-6270 between 7:00 A.M. and 7:00 P.M., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.
Is the employer willing to call the toll-free number above?
If yes, STOP.
If no, go to step 3.
Use the steps below for responding to the employer:
Remind the employer that there are many possible reasons why the information they reported did not match our records. For example, the discrepancy could be due to a transcription or typographical error, an incomplete or blank name or SSN, or a name change.
Ask the employer to check his or her records to determine if the information provided to SSA matches those records.
Ask the employer to check his or her records for a copy of the Social Security card.
Tell the employer that a disagreement between an employee's name and SSN in the employer and SSA’s records DOES NOT mean that the employee lacks work authorization, nor does it make any statement regarding a worker's immigration status.
If the employee is still employed by the employer,
ask the employer to tell the employee to provide his or her SSN card and to make sure that the employer accurately reported both the employee’s name and SSN. The employee is required to show the card if it is available. The employer may photocopy the card, but is not required to do so.
advise the employer NOT to send any background documentation to SSA. If the employer prepares a Form W-2c (Corrected Wage and Tax Statement), tell him or her to send it with a covering Form W-3c transmittal with NO supporting documents attached. If the employer cannot obtain correct information and a Form W-2c cannot be prepared, tell the employer to retain the documentation but NOT to send copies to SSA.
NOTE: If the employer receives DECOR notice SSA-L4002-C1 and can record the correct information on the provided questionnaire, tell him or her to complete the questionnaire and return the notice to SSA. Advise the employer NOT to attach a Form W-2c to the SSA-L4002-C1. In addition, encourage the employer to use W2c Online at www.socialsecurity.gov/employer, to correct name and SSN errors. Returning the SSA-L4002-C1 is the second choice.
If the employer and the employee are unable to resolve the issue based on reviewing the SSN and name,
ask the employer to tell the employee to contact a local Social Security office.
tell the employer to give the employee a reasonable amount of time to rectify the situation with SSA. It may take up to 2 weeks, and sometimes longer, to get a new or replacement Social Security card.
If the employee no longer works for the employer, tell the employer to continue to try to obtain the corrected information from the employee through the address on his or her record and submit it to SSA on Form W-2c (Corrected Wage and Tax Statement).
If the employer is unable to resolve the discrepancy with the employee (e.g., the employee is unable to provide a valid SSN or may no longer work for the employer),
advise the employer to document efforts made to obtain the corrected information in his or her records.
explain that the documentation should be retained as required by law. This is in the event the IRS contacts the employer. For more information, see IRS Publication 15 (Circular E), Employer’s Tax Guide.
encourage the employer to use our Social Security Number Verification Service (SSNVS), located at www.socialsecurity.gov/employer to minimize future name and SSN mismatches.
Employer 800 Number Agents: If you have questions, contact Office of Earnings Operations (OEO) analysts in Wilkes-Barre, PA.
FO and National 800 Number Agents: If you have questions, contact your regional office Employer Services Liaison Officer (ESLO).
F. List of Regional Employer Services Liaison Officer (ESLO) contacts
The following is a list of appropriate names, addresses, and telephone numbers of ESLOs:
Boston-CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT
JFK Federal Building
Boston, MA 02203
New York-NJ, NY, PR, VI
Room 4060, 26 Federal Plaza
New York, NY 10278
Philadelphia-DE, DC, MD, PA, VA, WV
PO Box 8788
Philadelphia, PA 19101
Atlanta-AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, TN
61 Forsyth Street, SW, Ste. 22T64
Atlanta, GA 30303
Chicago-IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI
Paul Dieterle or Pat Hayes
600 West Madison, 10th Floor
Chicago, IL 60661
Kansas City-IA, KS, MO, NE
601 E. 12th Street
Kansas City, MO 64106
Denver-CO, MT, ND, SD, UT, WY
1001 17th Street
Denver, CO 80202
Dallas- AR, LA, NM, OK, TX
5414 Aldine Mail Road
Houston, TX 77039
San Francisco-AZ, CA, GU, HI, NV, AS
1221 Nevin Avenue
Richmond, CA 94801
Seattle-AK, ID, OR, WA
701 Fifth Avenue
Suite 2900, Mail Stop 303A
Seattle, WA 98104-7075
G. Handling employee or self-employed worker inquiries
1. FO procedures
Review the letter with the worker and ask him or her to double-check the name and SSN on his or her Social Security card.
Follow standard Item Correction (ICOR) procedures for establishing the employee's identity and reinstating the earnings. (See RM 03870.015.)
If you take an ICOR action to reinstate the earnings, inform the worker that he or she does not need to complete and return the form attached to the letter.
Be sure to check the Numident File for possible corrections while performing the necessary ICOR actions to correct the earnings record.
If a correction to the Numident record is necessary, obtain evidence to support the correction (per RM 10212.000 and process an application for a replacement SSN card following instructions in RM 10210.015).
NOTE: If the worker does not provide the correct SSN, do not search for it or disclose any information on SSA’s records (see GN 03360.005A).
2. National 800 number agent procedures
Follow the procedures in TC 18001.110F (Handling Employee or Self-Employed Individual Inquiries).
H. Handling media inquiries
1. Employer 800 number agent procedures
Advise media representatives to call their local Social Security office.
Provide the telephone and hours of operation or advise them to use the national toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 between 7:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.
2. National 800 number agent procedures
Follow the procedures in TC 29001.070 (Media Inquiries).
3. FO procedures
Follow instructions from your Regional Communications Director for handling or referring media inquiries on this sensitive topic.
I. Exhibits of the decentralized correspondence (DECOR) notice
See NL 00901.050 Decentralized Correspondence (DECOR) Notice.