Three online EPF services you should use

One can now check balance, download account statement showing contributions and track claim status

Deepti Bhaskaran, Mint 16/12/12

source: http://www.livemint.com/Money/9PTRpn17JMWl9k0r7KBqNM/Three-online-EPF-services-you-should-use.html

For a salaried employee, Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) is one of the main investment vehicles for building a retirement corpus. Unfortunately, other than the return on investment and tax incentives that EPF offers, the system is fraught with administrative bugs that make this vehicle painful to track. But if the developments in the last couple of years are any indication, things are gradually changing for the better.

You don’t need to wait for the EPF slip that your employer hands you every year to know the status of your EPF investments anymore. Now, you can not only get the balance in your EPF account online but also generate an account statement. Not only that, you can also track the status of your claims online.

Mint Money explains the three big benefits that technology has brought to EPF.

EPF balance online

In 2011, Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) started an online facility called “know your EPF balance”. You can access this facility through the website of EPFO, or you could access this facility directly here.

This facility tells you the contributions made by you and your employer and the interest earned on that money as on a given date. Remember you contribute 12% of your salary in EPF and your employer matches that contribution. “EPFO credits the interest only at the end of a financial year, so interest is available only of the last financial year. Contributions, however, will reflect as updated in the system,”says B.K. Panda, additional central provident fund commissioner information service.

This facility is available to active members who make regular contributions in their EPF accounts. “For employees with an inactive account where no contribution has been made for the last 36 months, this facility is not available for security reasons,” says Panda.

To know your EPF balance you need to know two things: the state in which your regional PF office is located and your account number. Once you select the state, you will be taken to the next page having regional code and office code. Check your account number that will have this information. The EPF account number is alphanumeric in which the first two entries indicate the regional office in which your company submits the PF contribution. For instance, if your company contributes in the regional office of EPF in Mumbai, the entry will look like MH/BAN. MH here stands for Maharasthra and BAN stands for Bandra.

The next entry of your account number will be in digits. First will be the establishment code or employer code followed by an extension number and then the employee’s account number. As you click on the boxes, a text will appear at the bottom of the box indicating the entries that you need to make.

After keying in your account number, enter your name and mobile number. EPF will text message you the account balance. The text will have two figures: EE and ER. EE here means the contribution made by you, the employee, and ER means the contribution made by your employer.

Downloading account statement

To take the concept of “know your balance” to the next level, EPFO launched an e-passbook service for EPF members last month. Also, unlike “know your balance” that does not give you the most recent account balance information, e-passbook gives you an up to date account statement. This has been made possible after EPFO moved the system of contributions by the employer from a manual mode to an electronic form. “Earlier employers would contribute in lump sum a few times in a year but would give the break-up of the contributions and the number of employees only at the end. And then we had to reconcile the two which took time,” says Panda. “But with the electronic system in place they need to give the break-up of contributions along with the contributions they make. Now we are able to update the accounts of EPF members immediately,” he says.

This facility is available only if your employer has uploaded contributions to your account electronically for May 2012 onwards.

For you, this means you get to download an e-passbook that will give you break up of your contributions, the contributions of your employer, contributions made to the employees’ pension scheme and the interest credited to your account. Think of it like a bank account statement which captures all the transactions in the account.

The process is simple. Go to the website and click on “member portal” or you can directly go to this webpage. You first need to register yourself. For this you need to give your name, mobile number, date of birth and the number of one identification card. You could choose from identity proofs such as permanent account number, bank account number, driving licence number, passport number, ration card number, voter identity card number, unique identification number or national population register number. Once you fill up this information, a verification number will go to your phone and you will need to verify that number on the webpage. Once this is done, you get registered as a member of the EPFO.

Once in your account, click on download e-passbook, from here on the process is pretty much similar to the process of “know your balance”. Select the state of the regional PF office with which you have an account, fill up the employer code and your code.

But in this case, another verification, personal identification number (PIN), is sent to your mobile number. Key that in and you will get your account passbook in a PDF format. “We have mapped the account numbers to mobile phones. So once an account is opened under one mobile number, it can’t be accessed by another mobile number. To ensure that the same person has access to this account a PIN is sent for verification to ensure security,” says Panda.

Also remember that you can generate multiple account statements, but if your account is inoperative for more than 36 months, you do not have access to this facility.

Track your claims online

This facility allows you to track the status of your claim online. Claim here means withdrawals from EPF or transfer of accounts. To encash your account you need to fill up Form 19 and submit it with the human resource (HR) department of your previous office. In the back end, the HR department will submit the form with the regional PF office which will then initiate a process of transferring the balance in your EPF account to you. Once your forms reach the EPF office, your claim gets registered and you can track your claim.

For transferring your account you need to fill up Form 13. You can give this form to your present employer who will facilitate the transfer. The EPF will register the claim after it reaches the EPF office. Again you need to follow the steps mentioned above. Click on “know your claim status” and give details of your account. The webpage will indicate your claim status.

But this facility is not as effective. For instance, the records are not updated. “Earlier claims were handled manually. But in the last couple of years, we have computerized the system. So claims made in the last couple of years should be easy to track,” says Panda. Also the system doesn’t give you a stipulated time frame to settle the claim. “Ideally, claims get settled in 30 days but we have such a huge backlog that there are delays. As of now, we have settled about 87% of our claims within 30 days,” says Panda. Also, you can track your claim only once it is registered with the EPF. If there are delays from the HR department, this facility is of no use.

EPFO is taking some positive steps towards making EPF more accessible. Use these facilities to keep a tab on your account.

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