Did you know you are not allowed to withdraw your Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) money unless you are unemployed for at least two months? According to Amit Gopal, senior vice-president, India Life Capital Pvt Ltd, an investment and legal consulting firm in retirement benefits, about 50% of employees choose to withdraw EPF money when they change jobs. They are able to withdraw because of a loophole in the EPF system that continues to remain unplugged. The EPF system recognizes you through your employer. So, when you join a company you are given an account number that’s linked to your employer’s account. EPF has details such as your name, father’s name and date of birth that the employer will provide, but it doesn’t have a way of tracking you when you move jobs. So even if you leave your employer, you can go to Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) to withdraw EPF money.
According to K.K. Jalan, central provident fund commissioner, EPFO, the reason why people line up for withdrawals instead of transfer is the lack of faith in the EPF system. In order to restore faith, EPFO launched the Online Transfer Claim Portal (OTCP) to ensure timely transfer of EPF money. With this you can get your money transferred from one account to another online.
In order to transfer your EPF account online from a previous employer to the current employer, it’s important that these employers have their digital signatures registered with EPFO. That’s because they will need to verify claim papers online by digitally signing it off.
Even if either one of them has registered digital signatures you should be able to transfer your money online. You could check your eligibility, whether your employers are registered, by running a quick eligibility check on the OTCP. Go to www.epfindia.com and click on the OTCP that shows under “for employees” section. If you are eligible you will need to first register yourself online on the member portal. Now you are ready to transfer EPF money. You will need to fill up the EPF transfer claim form, formerly known as the Form 13.
Keep this ready
But before you fill up this form keep this information ready: EPF details of the previous employer, date of joining and leaving the previous employer, EPF details of the present employer and the date of joining. You start with filling up your bank account details and the Indian Financial System Code (IFSC) code. Subsequently you will need to fill up the details of the previous employer. Your employer would have handed you EPF slips every year showing the yearly balance in your account or your salary slips would have your EPF account number.
The minute you key in your EPF account number, the name of the previous employer and the regional provident fund office that maintains the account of this employer will appear. You will then need to fill up your date of birth which the EPFO will cross-check with their records. In case you have the wrong date of birth the EPFO will block you for online transfer after three attempts. You will then have to take the process offline. EPFO though will unblock your account after a few days.
You will also need to fill up your date of joining and leaving the previous employer. “This is essential to calculate the number of years of service for the purpose of pension through the Employees’ Pension System (EPS). Along with the EPF even the EPS account gets transferred,” says Jalan.
Then key in the EPF account number of the current employer and mention the date of joining. It may automatically pop up if EPFO has this information ready. Your form is now complete and is ready to get verified by either of the employers.
You will only be able to get your form attested by the employer whose digital signature is registered. If both are registered you could choose either for attestation, but choosing your previous employer means a faster settlement.
That’s because EPFO will already have details of your current employment, since you would have an active EPF account, but not the details of your previous employment. So if you get your form attested by the current employer, EPFO will need to send it to the previous employer for verification in addition to sending it to the current employer for attestation. But if you get your forms attested by the previous employer, EPFO can begin the process.
You will also need to take a print out, sign it and submit it with the employer you chose for attestation. This isn’t mandatory but your employer may need it to keep a record and may not verify your details until the form is submitted.
Why online transfer
With OTCP, the EPF authorities are in the loop the minute a transfer is initiated. Earlier you would fill up Form 13 and submit it with the employer. Here the employer could take a lot of time in submitting the form with the EPF authorities but EPFO had no way of knowing. But not anymore, now EPFO acts as a mediator which puts greater accountability on employers to sign off on the form on time.
“With OTCP, we are able to put pressure on the employer to move the files quickly at two levels: one we give the employee the name and number of the contact person in the company she needs to get in touch with regarding verification of the transfer claim form and then we can also put pressure on the employer to quickly verify it,” says Jalan. EPFO is in fact contemplating whether to set an outer limit for employers to attest the transfer claim forms. Once the employer attests the papers it moves back into the EPF system and the authority processes it. “In fact the first case of online transfer took just four days. The employer verified the form within 24 hours,” says Jalan. EPFO is looking at an outer limit of 15 days for the transfer.
You can check the status of transfer through your member portal account. However if your employers have not registered their digital signatures online you will need to take the process offline. EPFO is late but is finally catching up with technology to make your life simpler. It’s now in your hands to make full use of your EPF benefits.