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Copying a Social Security Card

I have copies of social security cards attached to our employees’ I-9 documents. Accounting is requesting a copy to ensure that the numbers are entered correctly into the system for payroll. I understand this but worry about these documents floating around. Is this normal for payroll to get a copy of these documents?

Providing social security cards as supporting documentation for Form I-9 and for payroll purposes are very different.

Form I-9 is used to verify the identity and work authorization of individuals hired for employment in the U.S. Employers are responsible to ensure the form is completed for each employee.

Employees must present supporting documents to verify their identity and work authorization. Employers are not permitted to request or require certain documents be provided. Maintaining photocopies of such documents is allowed but not mandated.

Verifying employees’ social security numbers is crucial for payroll purposes since incorrect numbers can cause an overwhelming headache. The IRS encourages employers to view employees’ social security cards in order to verify the social security number. Employers are permitted, but not required, to photocopy the card.

So, since employees are not required to specifically provide their social security card for I-9 purposes, what does your Accounting department plan to do about the employees who don’t provide it as part of their I-9 documentation? Their plan of getting a copy of the card from employees’ Form I-9 is not very thorough, albeit it’s a common request.

You may consider asking new hires to provide their social security cards for the purpose of confirming the number per IRS recommendations. But, in doing so, you risk the employee mistakenly thinking that he/she must submit their social security card for their I-9. As you know, it’s illegal to require employees to submit a specific document for their I-9. Even if you clearly explain the difference, the risk is still there. (HR has enough risk mitigation to worry about. It’s not worth adding more!)

You’re right to be cautious. Employers have a responsibility to protect employees’ private data. This burden often falls on HR. Some states have enacted legislation requiring employers to take certain precautions to ensure the security of sensitive information while other states have taken employers’ responsibilities a bit further by imposing restrictions on how an employer may use its employees’ social security numbers.

Though payroll has a valid reason to want to ensure employee’s social security numbers are accurate, there is a better and less risky way of doing so, the social security number verification service. This is a free internet based service provided by the IRS. Here is the link for more information and to register: Using this service will take the same amount of time as manually having to copy an ID and there’s less risk involved.


This entry was posted on Friday, February 24th, 2017 at 2:52 pm and is filed under
Human Resources Management.
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