In December 2012, Commonwealth laws that govern unclaimed money were amended by the Treasury Legislation Amendment (Unclaimed Money and Other Measures) Act 2012 .
There are state-based unclaimed money laws to which these changes do not apply.
What do the changes mean for you?
For consumers, the most significant changes may be:
Changes to the definition of unclaimed money
This means that some money may be identified as unclaimed after a period of 3 years (previously 7 years).
This may occur, for example, where you do not deposit or withdraw money from a bank account for a period of 3 years or more. The payment of fees or the receipt of interest are not considered to be withdrawals or deposits. Exemptions for particular account types apply - speak with your bank.
Payment of interest on claims for unclaimed money
From 1 July 2013 when unclaimed money is paid to a claimant, the Commonwealth of Australia will also pay interest to the claimant. The amount of interest and the method of calculating the interest will be determined by Regulations. An example of an interest calculation is available on the MoneySmart website.
If you make a claim to ASIC for unclaimed money we can only pay interest on claims processed after 1 July 2013 and the interest is only calculated from 1 July 2013 onwards.
For example, if unclaimed money was previously received by the Commonwealth of Australia on 31 March 2010 and a claim was processed for those funds on 1 August 2013, interest will be calculated as if the money was received by the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 July 2013.
What can you do to prevent your money becoming unclaimed?
You can take steps to ensure that your money does not become unclaimed. Making even a 5 cent deposit or withdrawal on your bank account once every 2 to 3 years will prevent your account becoming unclaimed.
Keeping in contact with the institution that holds your money, life insurance policy or similar financial product, by ensuring that they have your current contact details, will assist the institution in raising such matters with you.
If you have further questions or are concerned that you may have money that can become unclaimed, you should contact the institution that holds the money (e.g. your bank) and discuss your circumstances.
Where does the money go?
Unclaimed money for which ASIC is responsible, is paid by institutions to ASIC. ASIC does not retain the funds, which are transferred to the Commonwealth of Australia Consolidated Revenue Fund.
ASIC maintains the unclaimed money records (details provided by institutions about the owners of the money), assisting in the identification and reuniting of unclaimed money to the rightful owners.
Is the money lost to me forever?
The unclaimed money received by ASIC is always claimable by the rightful owner, so there is no time-limit within which a rightful owner must make a claim. The money remains available to claim, even though it has been transferred to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. From 1 July 2013, interest will also be payable (see above).
How can I find out if there is unclaimed money for me to claim?
You can do a free search of unclaimed money records held by ASIC through the MoneySmart website - www.moneysmart.gov.au.
There are also links on the website to the Australian Taxation Office and other State agencies who may hold unclaimed money.
The website provides you with information on how to make a claim. In many instances you will need to contact the institution who originally provided the unclaimed money (e.g. your bank) to make your claim.