Why withdrawal of money from your PF is fraught with challenges

Though all the processes have moved completely online, they are often plagued by technical glitches, lack of assistance in filling up applications and delayed responses from the EPFO. (Photo: Mint)
Though all the processes have moved completely online, they are often plagued by technical glitches, lack of assistance in filling up applications and delayed responses from the EPFO. (Photo: Mint)


  • A variety of reasons, from inaccurate KYC details to incorrect documentation, can hamper withdrawal of funds

Funding the purchase of your dream house is a tough ask, particularly if you are a salaried employee. For one, property prices seem to be on the rise always. Two, savings from mutual fund investments and bank fixed deposits alone may not be sufficient as there will always be expenses that are often unaccounted for. Most salaried employees then decide to dip into their employee provident fund (EPF) savings, usually as a last resort. But that is easier said than done.

Withdrawing funds from your PF can be a nightmarish experience for many employees. Ask 35-year-old Asleen Kaur, who tried that 15 months back. The Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) denied her claim. Reason? Her last name in the EPFO records was different from that of her other documents such as PAN, Aadhaar and bank account details.

Graphic: Deepak Bhardwaj
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Graphic: Deepak Bhardwaj

To be sure, EPFO lets its members, or subscribers as they are known, update their names online in a few steps: key in the revised name under ‘manage details’ section and upload supporting documents. The request for verification is then submitted both to the EPFO and your employer. Easy, right? That’s what Kaur thought but she was in for a rude shock. “I have been trying to update my records for close to 15 months without any success. My documents are in place but the request keeps getting rejected for unclear reasons.

Despite multiple follow-ups with the EPFO, both online thorough emails and phone calls and physical visits to the office, this issue hasn’t been resolved yet," said the Bengaluru-based communication consultant. Kaur has deferred her house buying decision until she can get her hard-earned PF money.

In distant Jaipur, Anil Sharma, 42, received more money from his EPF than he intended to withdraw. “Despite opting for a partial withdrawal, I have received the full amount. This indicates a failure in the system to correctly process my application," Sharma said, who is a research analyst. EPFO, he said, has not acknowledged the error or taken steps to rectify it. As a result, Sharma has been forced to invest the surplus funds elsewhere, resulting in him losing out on the tax-free, guaranteed returns that EPF subscribers get.

Kaur and Sharma are among the many subscribers for whom the process of EPF partial withdrawal, updating personal details, balance transfer and final settlement is a challenging one. In fact, as per a recent report by The Indian Express, the EPF final settlement rejection rate has surged to an alarming 34% in 2022-23. Rejections of claims could happen due to a variety of reasons, including discrepancy in the subscriber’s personal information or incomplete KYC (Know-Your-Customer) details.

Challenges in withdrawal

The most common reason for EPF withdrawal rejection is incomplete KYC. So, if details like Aadhaar, PAN, and bank account details are not updated and verified, the application will be rejected. Another reason could be wrong bank account details, particularly if you have moved your . account from one bank to another. Sometimes, your employer may not verify your KYC details or there could be a mismatch between what you submit and what the EPFO has on its records. It’s also important to activate your UAN (universal account number, provided to a subscriber by the EPFO) and link it with Aadhaar. The UAN allows you to add any previous or new PF accounts to your current one.

Graphic: Deepak Bhardwaj
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Graphic: Deepak Bhardwaj

Though all the processes—from withdrawal to requests for updating personal details to activating the UAN—have moved completely online, they are often plagued by technical glitches, lack of assistance in filling up applications and delayed responses from the EPFO.

Manas Sinha, a 31-year-old business analyst from Bengaluru, experienced delayed OTPs (one time passwords sent to a mobile number linked to the PF account) and frequent server downtimes, making the already cumbersome process even more frustrating. “The procedure was complex and I did not find clear instructions anywhere on the portal. I tried to get assistance from the EPFO helpline through emails and calls, but did not get a response," Sinha said.

In some cases, the subscriber may even have to make multiple visits to the regional EPFO office even after making a request online for processing their claims.

Chennai-based John Kingsley found this out the hard way. At the time of withdrawal, the 39-year-old cybersecurity engineer found out that his employer had created multiple EPF accounts in his name because his previous one was not linked with his Aadhaar ID. This resulted in administrative complication for Kingsley and he had to run from pillar to post to get the issue sorted. “I had to make multiple visits to the EPFO office to link my Aadhaar to the account and change the bank details. The process was not only inconvenient but the visits also wasted a lot of my time," Kingsley said.

To avoid facing issues during withdrawals, EPF subscribers need to keep their KYC and other details updated, say financial experts.

EPFO did not respond to Mint’s specific queries.

Fund withdrawal process

The EPF withdrawal process, for both partial and final settlement, has now moved online. Subscribers continue to get the option to apply offline as well. The process involves multiple steps and requires the submission of various documents.

Before you initiate the online EPF withdrawal, ensure that your UAN is activated, the mobile number linked to your UAN is active, and your KYC details are updated as per the latest Aadhaar and PAN information. Experts say that following these steps will facilitate a smooth and efficient online EPF withdrawal process, ensuring that you receive your funds in a timely manner. These details can be updated on the official EPFO website, www.epfindia.gov.in, under relevant sections.

Once all the details are updated, you have to log in with your UAN credentials. Under the online services tab, select “Claim (Form 31, 19 & 10C)" for withdrawal. The first step is to verify your details and enter the last four digits of your registered bank account. This is the point where you have to choose the type of withdrawal–full or partial. Select the reason for withdrawal and upload the required documents, such as your Aadhaar card, PAN card, and bank statement.

The offline EPF withdrawal process involves visiting the EPFO website to download the composite claim form, either Aadhaar-based (without employer attestation) or non-Aadhaar-based (with employer attestation). After filling out the form and attaching the required documents, individuals must submit their claim in person at the EPFO office. Then, you will need to wait for approval from your employer. Once approved, the money will be credited to your bank account within 15-20 days.

“Online withdrawal of Provident Fund (PF) contributions has now become a relatively simpler and fast process. There is no need to visit the PF office. However, to avoid rejection of claim, PF members should ensure that their UAN is seeded with Aadhaar, KYC is updated, the bank account is seeded with Aadhaar and verified and e-nomination has been completed. They should not forget to attach other documents like form 15G and a copy of the cancelled cheque," said Vikas Kumar, a chartered accountant and director, Vialto Partners.

Members say that the challenges faced during withdrawal should be addressed by the organisation by simplifying the process for claims made on the online portal, ensuring timely solutions, reliable servers, and providing clear instructions.

Kingsley said he struggled with a lack of clear information on how long it takes to withdraw the funds after leaving a company. The frequent down-time of the EPFO website added to his woes. “I could not access important information and updates on time as the website would not open," he said.

Subscribers can report such grievances, digitally, on the EPFiGMS portal. EPFO claims that the typical time limit for settlement of any grievance shall be seven working days and, in case of non-redressal, the grievance is escalated to higher officials.

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