Have you ever moved without getting your utility deposit back? Still have those uncashed checks? Or, have you forgotten about an old checking or savings account?

According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), states are collectively holding on to approximately $41.7 billion in unclaimed assets, including dormant bank accounts, stock splits, life insurance payouts, gift cards and uncashed payroll checks among other funds. This is up 27% from $32.8 billion in 2010.

Consistent with the nationwide trend, unclaimed monies in the District have shown a modest increase over the course of the last 10 years. As of the end of FY 2015, total unclaimed funds in the District amounted to $300 million corresponding to approximately 1.4 million account records. The proportion of claims paid out to rightful owners has also picked up since FY 2012. Below is a chart depicting this trend.

Unclaimed Property Remittances Vs Claim Payouts

If you haven’t heard of unclaimed properties before, here is a simple description: if banks, insurance companies, credit unions, pensions and similar entities owe you money or other financial assets and you do not collect it, then it’s called unclaimed. These assets could be checking accounts, certificates of deposit, customer deposits and over-payments, gift certificates, paid-up life insurance policies, unpaid wages, insurance payments, money orders, refunds, saving accounts, proceeds of safety deposit box auctions, etc.

By law, all these entities have an obligation to remit the unclaimed property in their possession to the appropriate state(s). The idea is that the property is not theirs, and that states have more resources for finding the individual or company that has ownership. However, if no owner is found, states get to keep the property. In the District, all funds received by the Unclaimed Property Unit are deposited into the District’s General Fund. Although the money belongs to the owners, who may claim it at any time, the funds may be used in the interim to help defray the District’s operating costs.

Below are few statistical highlights that we thought would help increase public awareness of unclaimed properties in DC and nationwide.

  • In FY 2011 (also see the chart above), a record $22 million was returned to the rightful owners by the District. This was the largest total claim payment ever in a fiscal year.
  • The largest claim ever paid to an individual also occurred in FY 2011, about $1.2 million. This may also be an effect of the last recession, as people tend to look for missing monies during economic hard times.
  • The number of claims in the District has increased by 89% during the last 10 years whereas the number of accounts remitted rose by well over 100%.

Unclaimed Property Trend1

In the District, uncashed checks and forgotten account balances seem to constitute the largest sum of unclaimed properties, whereas nationwide, orphaned 401(k) accounts (401 accounts forgotten by employees after they leave their job) are reported to bring in the most.

Unclaimed Property by Type

  • In a nationwide survey done in the year 2014, the State of New York topped the list with $12 billion unclaimed funds reported statewide. Our neighboring state Virginia stood 10th during that year. Below is a table showing where DC and neighboring states stand as of the end of FY 2015.
States/City

DC

MD VA

NY

Estimated amount of Unclaimed Funds as of the end of FY 2015 (in millions)

$300

$838 $1,200

$14,000

So, if you think you might be missing money, you may start your search with www.Unclaimed.org or http://www.missingmoney.com which would direct you to the appropriate state unclaimed property website.

 What exactly is this data? The above analysis is based on historical Unclaimed Property Remittance and Claim Payment data obtained from the District’s Office of Finance and Treasury-Unclaimed Property Division. States have different unclaimed property laws that dictate how they are reported and accounted for. The FY 2015 Unclaimed Property fund balance data was obtained from each state’s Unclaimed Property Offices. The District’s unclaimed property laws are available at D.C. Code § 41-101 and § 42-201. The nationwide data was obtained from newsletters published by NAUPA and also available at www.Unclaimed.org.

 

Where does DC stand when it comes to nontax revenue: What do the numbers tell?

Last month the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) issued an updated report on the District’s general purpose nontax revenue, which is largely comprised of charges for services, fees and fines. Nontax Study Report – 2015. We further compared the revenue composition of the District’s General Fund to that of five neighboring jurisdictions: the City of Alexandria, VA; Arlington County, VA; Fairfax County, VA; Montgomery County, MD; and Prince George’s County, MD. Intergovernmental transfers/revenue, such as payments from the federal and state/local governments are excluded from this analysis since our focus is on District generated revenue. For those who haven’t read about the results of the study as reported in the Washington Business Journal, here is another chance.

The District appears to rely heavily on non-tax revenue sources, such as, fines and fees, when compared with neighboring jurisdictions. Based on our analysis, the significance of nontax revenue seems to be dependent on the level of government under consideration, i.e. whether it is a city, a county or a state. D.C.’s unique character may have contributed to this.Local revenue comparison chart-2014

The percentage share of non-tax revenue in the District has been relatively stable, varying between 13 percent and 16 percent of the total General Fund revenue over the period FY 2005 – FY 2014. In terms of dollars however, it looks like the city’s non-tax revenue has gone up by about 27 percent.General Fund CompositionPercentage Increase NT-FY 2014We also looked at the trend of the top ten nontax revenue sources to see if there was a single source of revenue driving the majority share of the 27 percent increase. We found that collections from Emergency Ambulance Fees, Traffic Fines and Building Permits were the leaders each growing at an average rate of 17%, 8.2%, and 8% respectively.

Traffic related fines however consistently topped the list during the past ten years, FY 2005 – FY 2014. The table below presents the top 10 revenue sources in the order of the share they contributed to the total non-tax revenue base.Top 10 NT revenue - FY 2014We will have a series of posts diving into these top 10 non-tax revenue sources in the upcoming few months.

What exactly is this data? The above analysis is based on the District’s Annual Operating Budget for fiscal years 2005-2014 and the FY 2014 Annual Comprehensive Financial Report (CAFR). Non-tax revenue is income earned by a government from sources other than taxes such as fees and fines. The rankings are calculated based on the total amount of actual revenue reported for each non-tax revenue source within the District’s system of Accounting and Reporting (SOAR) which was later rolled over into the CAFR. The dollar amount reported for Traffic Fines above is inclusive of past due collections of outstanding traffic related tickets by the District’s Central Collection Unit (CCU).

Are your favorite DC Lottery games paying you or the city? Which games paid out more?

Throughout the years the DC Lottery has entertained residents, suburban commuters and visitors, at the same time generating revenue for the city. On Saturday, April 11, DC’s Lottery Executive Director Buddy Roogow passed away after spending over five years with the agency. We would like to express our sincere condolences to his family and colleagues while at the same time looking at the historical trend of prize payouts and transfers to the city’s General Fund.  This post is dedicated to him.

Lottery

A look at the financials shows that, DC Lottery’s prize payout ratio during the past 12 fiscal years has remained within a range of 51 to 57 percent of sales, each fiscal year, whereas transfers to the city’s General Fund stayed within a 25 to 30 percent range. So, yes, more is being paid out! But, which games paid more; here is a quick look at the prize payout data from the last three fiscal years.

Hope this gives you a clue to the top paying games, what remains is your luck.

Lottery2 Lottery3

What exactly is this data?

The prize payout information is from DC Lottery’s annual report and audited financial report. We used the District’s System of Accounting and Reporting (SOAR) to obtain information on transfers to the city. DC-3 is a three-digit game with three ways to play and nine ways to win. Prizes vary from $25 to $500. DC Four is a four-digit game that features eleven ways to win and a top prize of $5,000. More information is available at DCLottery.com.

The District is becoming more pet friendly

During ORA’s  this year annual real estate advisory meeting in February, participants pointed out that most newly built or renovated apartment complexes and/or condos are providing various amenities for pets such as a designated Pet Walking/Potty Area , a Dog Grooming facility, etc. The discussions hinted a growing need for pet friendly buildings. We decided to take a quick look at the District’s pet license data and the corresponding revenues from license fees to see if there is any growing trend.

Pet License DataFor the purpose of our analysis, we decided to stick to the last two years since data in Petpoint was made available as of the beginning of fiscal year 2013. We compared the above data with the corresponding revenue data from the District’s System of Accounting and Reporting (SOAR), and we found it mirroring the trend we see above.

Revenue From Pet Licenses

We will expand on our analysis as more data becomes available in Petpoint and see if the District’s changing demographics is contributing to this trend. In the meantime, we would like to hear what current and future pet owners would say about this.