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My 3 Struggles In Reaching EPF Awesomeness

In order to setup my PF account to enable electronic withdrawals, I recently tried to seed my Aadhar number in the EPF UAN portal and went through some struggles that many of you are likely to go through, or are already going through.

(This is Part 2 of our “Get the most out of your EPF” Series. Part 1 is here.)

In order to setup my PF account to enable electronic withdrawals, I recently tried to seed my Aadhar number in the EPF UAN portal and went through some struggles that many of you are likely to go through, or are already going through.

1. You are not unique:

My current company created one more UAN, so I had two “unique” account numbers - not so unique right? It’s not supposed to happen but it somehow did. 

How to get out of it? 

Because my mobile number was linked to the old UAN, I used my mother’s number to activate the new UAN. 

After signing-in to the Unified Member Portal with the new UAN, I initiated an online transfer from my old to new employer-specific “Member ID”. This happened in a few weeks. Apparently every few months, the PF department cleans out the old UANs. One fine day after two months, I discovered I could change the mobile number of the new UAN to my own mobile number, without encountering an error message, which meant my old UAN was gone. It’s a painful wait for this to happen.

Tip: if you are activating both of your UANs now, I suggest using your number for the current UAN and some other number for the old UAN. You can avoid the phone number change step.

2. What’s in a name?

Now that I had my only UAN all sorted, I tried the Aadhaar seeding to enable fast online withdrawals in the future. Entered my Aadhar and name. Error - “Name does not match”. Entered my PAN and name. Error - “Name does not match”. I had my “Oh God!” moment. My name in the PF system just had the first and last names. My bank account, Aadhar and PAN had a middle name. Oops. 

How to get out of it? 

Hunted on the internet. Printed, signed and submitted this paper form to my finance team. They got my CEO to sign and then gave it to our PF consultant who then submitted it to the relevant PF office. Luckily, the PF consultant took an acknowledgment photocopy of the name correction form with a big “PRO” (Public Relations Officer) seal on it, and my finance guy e-mailed me a scanned copy (Make friends with them! They know everything!). 

Then I waited….and waited…and kept checking the UAN portal every day (like I used to check exam results in college) for the magic to happen.

It, unfortunately, didn’t.

Note: You’d have to use this same paper form to fix issues like missing or wrong gender or date of birth. These three (name, gender, date of birth) have to exactly match what’s on your Aadhar card, otherwise, the KYC seeding won’t work. 

3. Grievance (noun): a real or imagined cause for complaint, especially unfair treatment. 

Okay, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t imagining anything. Two months had passed. I read online that EPF had something called an “Integrated” grievance management system (“IGMS”). So I decided to give it a shot. I carefully filled-up all the fields in the “Register Grievance” page under an ominous sounding category of “other”. I also uploaded the scanned copy of the name correction form acknowledgment.

a. I saw a confirmation screen with a reference number like SROWF/E/2017/10928 with a rather helpful status of “Received the grievance” (ya think?). Also saw an officer’s name, landline number, and a generic mailbox address. Again, the wait re-started. 

b. The OCD in me ensured I was signing-in to the UAN Member Portal and the IGMS twice daily (“Hey I’m paranoid about my 1.2 crores! You should be too”). After 10 days, the status changed to “Under examination at our level”. Uh ok, what does that mean. Was there a microscope being used somewhere?

c. After another week, I suddenly got an email saying “Final Action of your Grievance”. Heart beating. Opened it. “It is informed that after processing your grievance, the following action(s) has been taken: The name corrected in this office system as per the request.” Woohoo! Quickly logged-in to the Unified Member Portal and saw that it had been done (and correctly, thank God!). An extra space could’ve spelt disaster.

I then managed to seed the Aadhar, PAN and Bank account details. All the 3 entries went into the “Pending KYC” section. Pestered my nice finance guy to approve it. Next day, all the 3 entries went into the “Approved KYC” section. I can now access the “Online Services” section of the Unified Member Portal and trigger a partial advance pay-out if I want. I presume the option to withdraw the full amount online will be enabled when my employer correctly records my date of departure, whenever that may sadly happen (hopefully never!), under the “Service History” section.

Note: A friend received her EPF amount into her bank account in less than a week after initiating withdrawal online because Aadhaar was seeded and bank account linked. 

So I think I’ve slayed the 3 demons and reached the land of EPF awesomeness! Good luck to you too! Out of 10 people I’ve informally checked with, at least 5 have these issues. IGMS should help, but be patient. Think of it like long-term money that you’ll anyway only withdraw in 2050. And always remember, it’s your hard-earned money that you should have access to.

Epilogue: 

1. After all these gymnastics, do note that if you withdraw before you’ve completed a total of five years in the EPF system, across one or multiple employers, 10% of the balance will be held back as tax paid, and more importantly, you’ll lose all the tax-saving benefits (section 80c) you’ve claimed in previous years! You have to consider those amounts as taxable income in this year’s return, and pay even more tax. This is not advised. If you were terminated, you’re okay to withdraw tax-free before five years, but if you resigned of your own accord, better wait for five years of EPF contributions to accrue. I presume the five year counter resets every time you withdraw the full amount, although this isn’t explicitly spelt out anywhere.

2. Rs. 1 crore may seem like a lot of money today but in 2050, due to the effects of inflation, it still won’t be enough for your retirement. Save more and invest your long-term money in equity mutual funds that own shares of companies, to have enough when you’re done working. Try our retirement calculator to know more.

Update: We're happy to see the EPFO transforming over time and launching new ways to interact with them. Since this article was published, the ability to correct your name, date of birth and gender has gone online. All you need to do is to sign-in to the UAN portal and go to the "Modify Basic Details" option under the "Manage" tab. You'll also be able to enter your Aadhar number here. Once you submit the request, it goes to your employer for approval, after which its transmitted to your respective EPFO field office online. While there's still no set turn-around time for processing the request, you can still submit a grievance using IGMS (see above) if it doesn't get updated after two months. 

(This is Part 2 of our “Get the most out of your EPF” Series. Part 1 is here.)

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