Yesterday set the stage for my efforts to access my Provident Fund (PF) aka retirement savings in India.
I have three PFs so I was hopeful that with those odds, there would be some progress at least with one or two – hopefully the bigger ones. I’ve been here long enough to know it wasn’t going to be easy. But I had my sense of humour girded to be amused by the follies to come…
PF1 – Under a month – Efficiency incarnate!
My oldest and smallest PF… from my first official employer in India, took a few calls to suss out the right person. However, once I had the statement, forms, supporting documents, Rs 1 stamps and the usual sundry requirements to accomplish anything official in this country, off they went!
My estimate for progress was a couple of months. I was ready to have to re-do, re-submit and wait some more too….
Imagine my incredible surprise when a couple of weeks later, I received an alert that funds were deposited into my account.
Seriously? Really?? You have got to be kidding!
Til it dawned on me, this PF was managed by the company directly and not EPFO. Ah…. that explains all.
Time for a crazy happy dance!
PF2 – Only eight months – A rose by any other name…
Do any of you have a middle name? And if yes, do you consistently use it with everything you do? I suspect not.
Picture this – an ex colleague who is an absolute whiz at all things financial, insanely organised… heck he’s the kind of guy regulators chase for advice.
- He – like me – has a middle name.
- He – like me – typically only uses the 1st and last name.
- He – like me – filled out a few company related forms just using his 1st and last name.
- Guess what – unlike me – all his official ID has all three names.
So when his PF was registered with only his 1st and last name, it did not match his supporting documents or bank account. Our company confirmed yes – he is one and the same person, to no avail. Years went by… and nothing could be done.
Finally, in desperation, he started to find loopholes to get ID made without his middle name. Then opened a bank account without his middle name…
He’s a smart man and realised his only recourse was to bow to the powers that be at the EPFO office and submit documents, bank details exactly as they had on record. Because no matter what begging, pleading, connecting the dots and more, it was impossible for the EPFO office to budge an inch.
Voila, five years after starting the process, he received his PF.
Why is this story relevant? You guessed it! As I began the laborious process of filling out the withdrawal paperwork, discovered this PF only had my 1st and last name.
However I’m a savvy chick where these things are concerned. Or rather, had already been burnt so had a ready solution.
Many years ago I bought some mutual funds just using my 1st and last name. When I went to redeem, could not as… yup you guessed it, my ID and bank account had my middle name.
So I had to go through the steps to acquire a legit alternate ID and bank account with just my 1st and last name.
Past follies would see me through to a solution this time!
However twice the company lost my paperwork, mid process changed their forms and a few other minor hiccups. In short, I was required to submit documents thrice! Yeah.. not once… not twice… that’s thrice…
That said, from the date they
finally didn’t loose the paper… I mean had everything to process, it only took a month.
They messed up on the tax treatment… but that’s another matter… at least I received most of it…
And I’m a pro now at tax crap. What’s one more problem to fix there?!?
Time for a slightly beat-up funky face…
PF3 – Still counting – Ooops, oops and oops…?!?!
The next one up has more than one complication.
You see… the original company I worked for merged with its global competitor. Meaning the original PF into which my funds were held is now dormant – only those like myself who had moved on and could not transfer our PF to a new employer remain.
Then we discovered another complication.
You see… the lovely company that set-up my PF goofed up. They got my date of birth wrong. Which means it must be corrected before the withdrawal can even be initiated.
Hmm… first efforts to correct began in March duly providing evidence of my correct date of birth (DOB), with further efforts initiated every couple of months.
NOTHING has happened. Zero… de nada… not even a speck of progress. Haven’t even got out of the starting gate.
Houston – we have a problem.
You see… some dude many years ago punched in a ‘0’ instead of a ‘9’.
Finding a way around using my middle name – there is a solution.
Pretending to be 9 years older than I actually am? That’s not something I can magically fix. And apparently neither can the EPFO.
And without it being fixed, I will never be able get that money – even after retirement age (their version or the real one!)
I didn’t make the mistake. I can’t correct the mistake. But until the mistake is fixed, I’m screwed.
Starting to feel a wee bit helpless, I even offered to show up at the Delhi EPFO in person to plead my case. Not what I want to do but…
This better not be another case of needing to shrug n sigh… accepting fate. Naturally, this is a reasonably healthy sized PF! Of course.
I’m starting to lose that sense of humour now folks!
I guess 1.5 out of 3 isn’t bad though… it should only take a few more years to suss out the tax issue and maybe another five years or more for my date of birth error to be fixed…? Maybe… if I’m really lucky…??!
Arrgh!! All the beating up won’t help!
Complete commiserations. It’s so miserably done.
I will NEVER get my India PF accumulated over 3 yrs in India and amounting to a significant sum. Why? I do have an NRO bank account that must stay open for `the term of my natural life,’ ie 67 yrs for women as determined by the Indian government at the moment…it could, of course, be extended as people live longer….
BUT, the law was changed to require non-Indians to work for at least 10 yrs in India before being entitled to THEIR money. AND there needs to be a reciprocal treaty between Indian and the expat’s country.
I was in India as a Thai national, and India and Thailand will likely never have such an accord as Thailand would have to change a law before it could ever sign such a treaty. With Thailand’s ongoing political follies as it digs into its forever developing country status, that’s not likely to happen within the term of my natural life by any definition.
Then there’s the company provident fund. Well, after finding that India financial rules require me to submit > 300 pages of documents involving certification by a registered chartered accountant in India, tax clearance documents among other Kafkaesque hurdles to extract the annual stipend (that doesn’t amount to as much as the cost of my nice handbag), the company closed down said fund and requested the tax office allow stakeholders be allowed to withdraw their funds.
That was 3 yrs ago. In Feb, the tax office agreed! But LIC wasn’t sure, until Aug., when it said YES!!
BUT I was excluded. I can’t withdraw my funds as I’m no longer an `active’ employee in India…!!!!
LIC’s annual stipend was last week deposited to my NRO bank account and I’ve just embarked yet again (after LIC agreed I exist following the submission of a certificate of existence back in July) on the tortuous process of extracting it to my bank account in Thailand.
Thankfully, my company covers the cost of the backend grunt, which I’m sure would otherwise exceed the principal.
Two days to get the forms, and hopefully in about a month I’ll get a random phone call from some back-office bank guy in Chennai asking me trick questions about activity in the otherwise dormant account to ensure that I’m not some money launderer posing as myself to extract the grand total of 123,000 rupees out of India.
In the previous two years, the little back office guy has blocked the transfer because I couldn’t answer random questions like precise details of the past 3 transactions in this otherwise dormant account during phone calls that have come while 1: I was in the shower and 2: I was standing on a train platform.
I’ve eventually got the money, but more phone calls and emails have been needed to crack the bank.
Insanity I can look forward to for the `term of my natural life’ unless my company pays me out of this absurdity.
Good luck with your PF!!!
Oh Margo I feel your pain!! It is one of those absurd – and yes kafka-esque’ quagmires that we fall into… At least Canada and India managed to make some progress, hence I can now technically access. However, nothing is ever simple! Lemme know if there is ever anything I can do to help you – at least I’m sitting in amcchi Mumbai rather than Bangkok!
Thx Carissa! I do hope some sanity is inserted for both of our sakes sooner rather than later!
Indeed! BTW I completely gave up on my superannuation – can’t encash and it is actually better with BSLI than LIC so…
OMG! At least I can get mine…for the time being!
Oh god, these regulations are just so insane. Always incredible how unflexible they are with such things. I wonder into what troubles I might still run in life as for example in my Finnish passport my city of birth is written down as “Neumönster” however it should be “Neumünster”. At Chinese airport they had already some questions regarding this few times… and of course I tried to fix it but now, I have to travel extra to FInland, sign a form and come back few months later to see if they actually change it (probably not so I dont even trouble myself for now with this).
Crazy, isn’t it!
I went to update my Australia tax details recently; one of the questions to verify my bonafides was my date of birth, and I was told my answer was wrong.
Well, I might not have remembered my postal address or phone number from 25+ years ago, but I my DOB is hard-wired into my brain!
I had to show other documents, ie passports, drivers licenses, to prove this. Then they had to lodge a request to back-office tax boffins to allow my DOB to be corrected.
That was several weeks ago and I haven’t had any confirmation that it’s done yet, although I have no doubt it will be fixed well before Carissa becomes 9 years younger to begin the quest to get her hands on her withheld India PF!
Haha! I’m sure you will get yours sorted long before mine is… and its 9 years OLDER. I mean come on, really?
Sounds just like terrible much fun! I really really wonder how this all can be so hard around the globe
Every govt wants its ‘dues’! 😉 Funny my upstairs neighbour who is Canadian, living in India pays taxes in the US?! Go figure…
The world makes terribly much sense :p
Hahaha! Indeed. 🙂
Munster Monster? But hey – if it provides an excuse to catch up with family and friends in Finland… just saying.. its not all bad. 😉
I am not really sure how it works for you, but you might find this as a surprise, but PF system has actually improved. Initially, there was just one PF office in Bandra, I’m talking of the year 1999. I moved on to different jobs and I was able to get my PF withdrawn in 3 months time. In 2009, the last time I withdrew PF, it took exactly 45 days and the amount was in my bank account. This time I went to another branch in Kandivali. I read the Part 1 of this series and I talked to many of my employed friends and they too claim that they have got their PF on time whenever they applied it. I am really not sure how the system functions now post-2009.
I was thoroughly impressed with the EPFO grievance process. I received a response within 24 hours with a full break-up of the amounts deposited.
Naturally, that prompted me to go back to the extremely unhelpful HR outsource company to explain they made a mistake in how they submitted my documents as TDS should not have been deducted.
They turned around after a week sending me an undated EPFO circular as proof TDS should be deducted. When I could then re-iterate that as per Pt 3 of the very circular they gave me, TDS was deducted in error!
Who knows what will happen next with this case… However I have submitted another EPFO grievance, stating TDS deducted in error. I received a real live (gasp!) contact person with email and phone number. Will give them a few weeks…
I’m beginning to think the DOB error issue is stuck with someone incompetent at the HR outsource company rather than the EPFO. I’ve called their bluff demanding copies of the stamped acknowledged letters requesting the correction so that I may directly file a grievance with the EPFO.
Whaddya bet they can’t provide as haven’t actually done their job?