There is no way to dance around the issue and I am just going to come out and say it. I believe the USPS has been holding millions of dollars from dormant prefunded permit accounts, and at a specific point making it almost impossible to get the money back. The worst part is this has been most likely going on for years. I want to bring this to everyone’s attention so we can all start petitioning for changing this process for the future.
One of the core focus areas of my business is to track down lost postage for our clients. We have identified over 13,000 lost postage accounts from the meter vendors that have been turned over to the states as unclaimed property but have not found one permit account turned over from the USPS. This year alone we have also helped our clients recover over $800,000 that was sitting at the mailing vendors in dormant accounts not yet turned over to the states. We know that funds get lost and the main reason is because they are in prefunded accounts that are forgotten. To make matters worse, at any point in time the USPS is holding $1.2 billion in permit accounts (Customer Deposit Accounts) and when these accounts go dormant, it is unclear where the funds go.
Here are the main reasons postal accounts go dormant:
- Site closed/merged/changed names/core contact left.
- Postage account was for a location outside the headquarters where visibility was lacking.
- Fragmented process inside the organization without one group responsible for managing the postage accounts.
- Money sent to prefund the account is looked at as an expense vs. an asset and not tracked.
- Multiple accounts set up at different post offices and for multiple classes of service to prefund mailings.
The big issue comes with how the United States Postal Service handles these funds. With most organizations (Corporate, Non Profit and State Government), unclaimed funds are turned over to the state’s unclaimed funds office, where it is easy to search for your money. These funds will typically remain visible on that states website or on www.missingmoney.com until the money is claimed. With the USPS, at 24 months of inactivity, a notification is sent (USPS 16-7.3 Sample Add-Pos Non-Use Cancellation Notice). The entity has 30-60 days to collect their funds, (or renew the permit) or the money gets transferred into general ledger account where we believe the visibility is lost. The only way to get this reversed is to know what funds you had lost, then to go to that specific local post master for help. It is unclear after the 26 month period how long this Postmaster will have visibility to be able to help you get your funds back.
I have included the chart below so you can compare the lost funds process for the USPS vs. most other entities. The big difference is the long term visibility. With the USPS, visibility is lost at 26 months and a single notification or from the due diligence of a local postal employee who goes the extra mile to help clients (which I am sure happens). This is compared to being able to search for your money on websites that remain active for long periods of time.
We have done multiple Freedom of Information Act Requests to the United States Postal Service and have had them all denied. We have done these from our company, trying to look at the amount of funds available, as well as formatting these requests for our clients to send, requesting detail on their accounts. We have been surprised by the lack of support and information that the USPS has provided.
The only way we are going to change this process is if we make the problem visible and force the USPS to make changes. We need the United States Postal Service to create a public listing of these closed accounts and make at least the name and address of the original permit owner visible in a database that can be searched.
Here is how you can help:
- Talk to your USPS Account Managers and local Postmasters.
- Bring this issue up at your local Postal Customer Council meetings.
- If you plan on attending the National Postal Forum, bring it up at the USPS booth.
- Sign our petition at https://www.change.org/petitions/usps-create-a-public-listing-of-dormant-permit-accounts
I do not believe that the USPS is trying to be deceptive, but that their process is archaic and needs to be changed. When the USPS takes your prefunded postage, they are acting like a bank and they need to be held to the same fiduciary standards as any other financial institution. This means they need to take all means necessary to manage your funds and make sure they get returned properly.