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Unclaimed Property Rules and Time Limits for Washington

Filed under Basic Accounting. Fact checked on May 24, 2012.

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Learn the unclaimed property rules and their time limits for the state of Washington.

In Washington, all things relating to unclaimed property are handled by the Unclaimed Property Section of the Washington Department of Revenue.

  • As a business owner, this will be the agency to contact if you possess unclaimed property (unpaid wages, for example). Remember that you are subject to both reporting requirements and the obligation to turn over abandoned property to the state.
  • It is also the point of contact if you believe that you may have knowingly, or unknowingly, abandoned property (for example, failing to get back a security deposit, didn't receive a tax refund).

Washington businesses have a number of responsibilities concerning unclaimed property. Initially, written notice must be sent to the apparent owner of the unclaimed property, if known. If the property remains unclaimed, businesses have a number of filing and reporting requirements to fulfill. Most importantly, businesses are required to turn over any and all unclaimed property to the state. Stiff penalties apply to businesses who fail to comply with any of these requirements.

Individuals should know that Washington property is generally presumed abandoned if it has remained unclaimed by the owner for more than three years after it became payable or distributable. However, this time limit varies depending on the type of property involved. Once abandoned property is turned over to the state by a business, an individual then has the burden of reclaiming it from the state.

Reporting Unclaimed Property in Washington

In Washington, a holder of abandoned property must file a verified annual report containing information concerning the property required by the Washington Department of Revenue. The reporting requirement applies to intangible property with a value of more than $50.

The report is due on or before November 1 and must include all property presumed abandoned and subject to custody as unclaimed property that is in the holder's possession as of the preceding June 30. The Department may require any person who has not filed a report to submit a verified report stating whether or not the person is holding any reportable unclaimed property.

Prior notice to owner. After May 1, but before August 1, of each year in which a report is required, the holder must send written notice to the apparent owner at the owner's last known address informing the owner that the holder is in possession of unclaimed property.

Delivery. The abandoned property must generally be delivered or remitted to the Department simultaneously with the filing of the report.

However, the contents of a safe deposit box or other safekeeping repository must be paid or delivered to the Department within six months after the report filing due. If the owner establishes the right to claim the contents of a safe deposit box delivery to the Department, the holder must file a verified written explanation of the proof of claim instead of delivering such property to the Department.

Recordkeeping. A business must generally maintain related records six years after the unclaimed property becomes reportable. However, the period is three years for traveler's checks, money orders, and similar financial instruments.

Penalties. a person who fails to make a timely payment or delivery of property is charged interest until the property is paid or delivered. The interest may be waived by the Department if the delay was due to causes beyond the person's control.

The penalty for willfully failing to render a report, to pay or deliver property to the Department, or to perform other required duties is a fine of not more than $100 per day of violation, up to a maximum of $5,000, plus 100 percent of the value of the property that should have been reported, paid, or delivered.

A person who willfully refuses to pay or deliver property after written demand by the Department, or who enters into a contract to avoid the duties of a holder of unclaimed property, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000, imprisonment of not more than one year, or both.

Claiming Unclaimed Property in Washington

In Washington, property is generally presumed abandoned if it has remained unclaimed by the owner for more than three years after it became payable or distributable. However, this time limit varies depending on the type of property involved. Once abandoned property is turned over to the state by a business, an individual then has the burden of reclaiming it from the state.

Locating abandoned property held by the state. Unclaimed property held by the state may be found by searching the state's website (http://ucp.dor.wa.gov/).

To find out if other states may be holding your unclaimed property, search the national database established by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA).

Filing a claim. A person, excluding another state, claiming an interest in any property paid or delivered as abandoned property may file a claim with the Washington Department of Revenue, which must consider and decide on such claim within 90 days after it is filed. The procedure is essentially the same if the claimant is another state, except that the claim will be allowed only in those circumstances in which the other state has some basis for claiming a custodial relationship with the property as enumerated in the statute.

To start the recovery process, fill out a state claim form available online (http://ucp.dor.wa.gov/) after performing a successful search. After finding a claim that belongs to you, click the “Pursue Claim: button and follow the instructions on the screen. New users will have to register their information on the site.

A claim may also be submitted by mail. Initially, the procedure is the same as for electronic filing except you choose the mail-in option from the "Provide Proof page" and print the claim voucher. The voucher will indicate what items are needed to establish your claim. Copies of the items listed should be made and mailed in with the claim form. Each page submitted should include your claim number.

A person dissatisfied with a decision of the Department or whose claim was not acted upon within 90 days after the filing date may, within 90 days after the decision of the Department or 180 days after filing of the claim if the Department failed to act upon it, bring an action to establish the claim in the Superior Court of Thurston County.

Washington Unclaimed Property Resources

If you're looking for additional information on unclaimed property, we recommend contacting your state's governmental agency that oversees the administration of this area of the law. For help in answering a specific unclaimed property question in Washington, contact the following:

Washington Department of Revenue
Unclaimed Property Section
P.O. Box 47477
Olympia, WA 98504-7477
Phone: (800) 435-2429, (360) 705-6706
Online inquiries: http://ucp.dor.wa.gov/ucp_con_email.aspx
Website: http://ucp.dor.wa.gov/

Washington Abandoned Property Time Limits

Property Type Presumed Abandoned After
Bank account three years
Checks or drafts three years
Demutualization proceeds no specific provision
Gift certificates, gift cards, and credit memos Credit memos: three years.
Gift certificates and cards issued after June 30, 2004, are exempt from state reporting requirements, unless a company dissolves or goes into bankruptcy.
Insurance policies Life or annuity policies: three years. The presumed maturity of an insurance policy is two years.
IRAs or retirement funds no specific provision
Money orders five years
Other intangible personal property not otherwise specified Excess proceeds of a self-storage sale: six months.
Excess proceeds held by a landlord: one year.
Other property: three years.
Proceeds from class action suits no specific provision
Property distributable by a business association in the course of dissolution one year
Includes refunds.
Property held by courts or public agencies two years
Property held by fiduciaries three years
Safe deposit boxes five years
Shares in a financial institution three years
Stocks, dividends, and distributions three years
Traveler's checks 15 years
Deposits and advances owed utility company customer Deposits, refunds, and advances: one year.
Wages or salaries one year

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