Has the Government taken your money?

As reported earlier this year, from the beginning of May any bank account which has not seen activity for three years can be transferred into the Government’s hands. This legislation has now come into effect, so it might be worth calling your bank to check all of your accounts are still in your possession.

Previously the account had to have been inactive for seven years before the Federal Government could take over its handling.

All authorised deposit taking institutions had to submit a report on unclaimed money to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) for accounts which had been inactive for seven years by 31 March, and for accounts which have been inactive for three years by 31 May this year. These accounts will then be transferred to the Commonwealth via ASIC.

Accounts which are most likely to be affected are those which contain the bond for a rental property with a lease of longer than three years, savings accounts into which you are no longer making deposits, unclaimed superannuation, life insurance and trust funds. Hundreds of thousands of Australians own accounts which could be transferred to the Government under the amended legislation.

If you think it is possible you have an account which falls into this category, all you need to do is transfer just $1 in or out of the account to protect it for another three years. Interest payments, fees and charges are not considered transactions and will not prevent the balance of your account from being claimed. If one of your accounts is about to be transferred your financial institution is supposed to let you know, but there have been reports that these letters are not always getting through, especially if the account is under an old address.

The Government will continue to pay interest on all accounts claimed, so that their value remains the same. If your account is claimed and you discover it at a later date, you can reclaim the money if you can prove it is yours by filling out a form and writing to ASIC.

To find out if you have unclaimed money, visit the ASIC website and use the ‘Find lost money’ tool. If you do discover an account which has been taken over, you can then fill out a form on the same website to reclaim it.