Did you shift jobs a few years ago and neglect to transfer your EPF funds? Well, if procedural hassles or simply not knowing what to do, is your problem, you need to act fast. The Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) recently launched an online helpdesk to help members with such “dormant” accounts trace the unclaimed sums and either credit it to their current accounts or withdraw it.

If you needed a harder push, note that in his recent Budget speech, Arun Jaitley has proposed to appropriate amounts lying dormant in both EPF and PPF (public provident fund) for the creation of a Senior Citizen Welfare Fund.

Once these sums are appropriated for this purpose, you are unlikely to ever get it back.

The EPF procedure An inoperative EPF account is one where there has been no contribution for a period of 36 months. No interest is paid on such dormant accounts. To reclaim money lying dormant in EPF accounts, you need to register for a Universal Account Number (UAN) with the EPFO if you don’t have one already. You can do this at uanmembers.epfoservices.in.

Log into the EPFO website at www.epfindia.com . The facility to track down your EPF is available on the home page. The form you need to fill requires you to first describe the nature of the reasons behind your PF account being rendered inoperative and the help solicited from the EPFO.

You then have to fill the details of your employment. This includes the establishment code (in case you don’t know it, rest assured; there is a facility to search for the code), your PF account number, the establishment’s name and address with all the related details.

You should also provide details such as your date of joining and leaving and the name of the PF office where the contributions would have been made. You can leave fields blank if you don’t have the necessary information. Once done, you will receive a reference number, which you should note down.

If your money is traced thereafter, the helpdesk will guide you on the way forward in transferring the amount lying in your inoperative account to your current one, or even withdraw the money using the relevant claim form. A representative from the EPFO will get in touch with you personally, and in the language of your choice to boot. The EPFO even has a web facility to help transfer old account dues to existing accounts.

A few points are worth noting here. First, in order to get the benefit out of this facility, it’s essential that you provide correct contact details and email address and only your own mobile number. This last one is so that the EPFO may easily contact you.

Second, in case there is no response on the registered mobile, the case will be closed.

The PPF procedure

Reviving your dormant public provident fund is a far easier process, since you are aware of the bank or post office where you opened your account.

The minimum deposit for a PPF account is ₹500 and the maximum is ₹1.5 lakh per year. If you don’t make at least the minimum deposit in a financial year, the account becomes inactive.

The difference here is that the account continues to accrue interest, but you will not be able to avail a loan against the PPF, or be eligible for premature withdrawal. To revive your dormant PPF account, all you need to do is to give a request in writing to the bank or post office where the account is held.

You also need to make that request in person. Along with the request, you’ll have to make a deposit of ₹500 for non-payment in each financial year plus a penalty of ₹50 for each year that you have defaulted.

The bank or post office will verify the details you provided before reactivating the account.

Remember that provident fund amounts are intended to finance your retirement and if your retirement funds aren’t earning interest, your life goals could get compromised. In addition to planning for your future, leaving sums of money dormant in your PF account could leave you vulnerable to fraud.