In 1993, the Social Security Administration started issuing no-match letters to employers. However, in 2012, the SSA stopped sending no-match letters to employers, due to various litigation concerns. Quite recently, the agency resurrected the practice, distributing around 575,000 no-match letters since March 2019.

Also called employer correction requests, no-match letters inform employers of discrepancies between an employee’s Social Security number and the information in the SSA’s database. The problem could be as innocuous as a typographical error or name change, or as grave as identity fraud.

A no-match letter is basically a warning to the employer to check — and if necessary, correct — the employee’s information. It’s vital that employees’ Social Security records are correct because the data is used to determine Social Security eligibility and the amount that should be paid.

If you receive a no-match letter, proceed with caution. 
Do not make any assumptions as to the reason for the SSN mismatch. According to the SSA, the no-match letter does not suggest that you or the employee deliberately provided the government with inaccurate information regarding the employee’s name or SSN. Further, the letter does not serve as proof that the employee is an unauthorized or undocumented worker.

Employers should not take any adverse action against an employee — such as firing, suspension, laying off or discrimination — simply because they receive the no-match letter. For example, firing an employee based on a no-match letter alone could result in the employee suing the employer for citizenship discrimination, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Below are three tips for handling no-match letters.
1. Verify that the name and SSN on the employee’s Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, matches the employee’s personnel records. If the W-2 information was misreported, notify the SSA by following the instructions in the no-match letter.

2. Notify the employee of the mismatch if he or she needs to take some type of action. The SSA has a sample letter on its website that employers can give to employees in these cases. The sample letter should address the following:

  • The name and SSN you have on record for the employee.
  • If the record is incorrect, ask the employee to provide you with the right information.
  • If the record is correct, advise the employee to contact his or her local Social Security office and inform you of any changes once the issue is resolved.
Note that you cannot require the employee to show you his or her Social Security card — unless the employee chose to use his/her Social Security card for Form I-9 (employment authorization) purposes.

3. Give the employee a reasonable amount of time to rectify the problem. There’s no law defining what constitutes “reasonable,” so this is a gray area. Some industry experts recommend between 30 and 60 days; others advise 120 days.

If the employee fails to respond to your written notice or cannot resolve the issue with the SSA, defer to legal expertise on what to do next.