Thursday, April 6, 2017

Mess Mutual

Whether you reside overseas or in the U.S. if you have a traditional IRA or a 401(k) account, upon reaching age 70 1/2 you may have to start taking required minimum distributions from your account on an annual basis for which, if you're an American citizen,  you will  receive  from your account administrator a 1099-R form at the end of the year to include with your tax filing  If you're a foreigner, you will receive a 1042-S form instead.

The administrator of my 401(k)   is Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, aka Mass Mutual.  This is a multi billion dollar insurance and investment company,  but their customer service is of wretchedly low quality. For example, last year Mass Mutual made an error regarding my 2015 1099-R which I went to great lengths to correct. Well, not only did I have the same problem again for 2016 but MM made an additional blunder as well.

It all began when it occurred to me in February that I had not yet received my 1099-R for 2016. When I called Mass Mutual customer service about this delay, the representative stated that the form had not been generated because MM had no  record of my taking an RMD for that year, when in fact I had definitely done so. Fortunately, I had kept a confirmation record from which I furnished the information for Mass Mutual to dig deeper. In doing so they finally found the file for the transaction.

When  I then inquired how soon my 1099-R would now be forthcoming, the CS rep stated that I would not receive that form after all because of my foreign address. Instead Mass Mutual would issue me a 1042-S which is for foreigners who have accounts in the U.S.  subject to withholding. Well here we go again I thought. This is the same problem that I had with MM for my 2015 RMD.  I explained this time just as I did before that I'm an American citizen and no matter where I live, I should receive a 1099-R, not a 1042-S. The representative continued to argue the matter, but I stuck to my guns and even gave a change from my Philippines address on file there to my mail forwarding address in the that this issue wouldn't keep cropping up each year.  I finally prevailed and received my 1099-R for 2016 which enabled me to proceed with my IRS filing.

The other day I received correspondence from Mass Mutual: a second  1099 and under separate cover another document. Each communication still reflected my Philippines address. So I called MM and confirmed my suspicions that the change of address that I had previously ordered had never been processed.but I was assured  that it would be done immediately.

While I was editing this post,  I tried to pull up my 401(k) account on line to see if that correction had finally been, but instead I received an error message''We cannot process your request at this time. Please try again later.''

Oh, BTW. the other document that I received was a 1042-S form, about which the rep said ''not to  worry about it'', except now my name may be on file with the IRS as a foreigner, as one copy of that form is automatically also sent to Uncle Sam.

Finally,  I would like to add that the amount in my 401(k)  is chump change as is my required minimum distribution compared to most accounts that Mass Mutual deals with every day. If they can't keep proper track of simple accounts and basic transactions like mine, what kind of errors might they making on major accounts? If you do business with that company, that's something to think about.