The USA

Introduction

 

About The USA

The USA is currently the world's largest economy and is one of the two world powerhouses. The US dollar is the most used currency in international transactions and is the world's foremost reserve currency. Several countries also use the US currency as their domestic currency. The USA is the world's largest trading nation and the second largest manufacturer in the world, accounting for a fifth of global manufacturing output.

The USA offers economic freedom to its private sectors with minimal regulations and government involvement. Property rights are strongly protected as well. With its abundance of natural resources, skilled labour and the largest domestic consumer base in the world, the USA is often ranked highly in the Ease of Doing Business Index and is rated as the most competitive economy in the world in the Global Competitiveness Report 2018.

The USA has free-trade agreements with 20 countries and is also actively involved in regional trade agreements.

Its banking system is regulated by both federal and state governments, with five large multinational banks dominating the financial scene.

Although China has previously been an important trading partner for the USA—as its third-largest export partner and its largest supplier of goods and services—relations have been marred by the ongoing USA-China trade tensions, which have led to both countries imposing significant tariffs on the other’s products.

 

US Market Profile Infographic_small

What solutions are available in The USA?

Solution Description
Treasury Centres A centralised treasury is one way to reduce the tax burden, centralise risk management, improve liquidity and enhance yield on cash.
Interest Optimisation Maximise your interest yield from for your balances held with the bank.
Notional Pooling Cash balances in different accounts are notionally offset to derive the net balance, which is then used to calculate interest.
Sweeping/ Zero Balance Account (ZBA) ZBA are checking accounts with zero balances where funds are physically swept to eliminate excess balances and maintain greater control over disbursements.
Intercompany loans Similar to bank loans, intercompany loans refer to lending between entities within the same group.

Corporate Treasury in The USA

The US is the world’s largest economy and has the world’s biggest debt market. Here, we highlight some of the key benefits relevant to treasury and cash management in the US.

 

Financial Market Development

  • The World Economic Forum ranks the US first in the world for financial system development in The Global Competitiveness Report 2018.
  • It rates the US first in terms of access to financing for SMEs and venture capital availability and third for domestic credit to the private sector, although it comes in 18th for the soundness of its banks.
  • The US has excellent business infrastructure with a highly skilled workforce, strong rule of law and international regulatory standards. The Global Competitiveness Report 2018 ranks the US as the most competitive market in the world.
  • There are no restrictions on capital flows in and out of the US.

 

Sophistication of Banking Systems

  • There are more than 4,700 commercial banks in the US, the majority of which are small, local banks. The five largest banks hold 40% of all deposits.
  • The US banking industry is closely linked to the UK, with more US-owned banks operating branches in London than on Wall Street.
  • The US is the second-largest foreign-exchange market in the world (Bank for International Settlements triennial global survey 2019).
  • The US has the largest bond market in the world, with USD42,895.5 billion of outstanding government and corporate bonds as of the end of 2018.

 

Regulatory Bodies

  • Banks in the US are regulated at both a federal and state level. At a federal level they are regulated by the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Comptroller of the Currency as well as the National Credit Union Administration for certain financial institutions. State-level supervision is carried out by individual state bodies.
  • The Office of Foreign Assets Control enforces economic and trade sanctions, as well as overseeing financial transactions that pass through the Federal Reserve.

 

Tax

  • The corporate income tax for resident companies has been reduced from 35% to 21% for tax years beginning on or after 31 December 2017.
  • Resident companies are taxed on worldwide income. Foreign corporations are taxed on income derived from within the US. Companies are also taxed at a state and local level with rates generally ranging from 0% to 12%.
  • There is a 21% branch profits remittance tax on the remittance of profits to the head office by the branch of a foreign company.
  • There is a 30% branch profits tax on the US-branch earnings and profits that are connected with a US business of a foreign corporation that are not reinvested in branch assets.
  • Mandatory-deemed repatriation toll charges require resident companies to pay a one-off tax of between 8% (other than cash items) and 15.5% (cash items) on overseas earnings made since 1986 that remain offshore. After making this one-time payment, resident companies will not be taxed again when they repatriate the foreign dividend into the US.
  • Sales and use tax varies from state to state and ranges from 2.9% to 7.25%. Local jurisdictions, such as cities and counties, may impose their own sales and use tax on top of the rate prescribed by the state.
  • Resident companies can deduct 50% of dividends received from other resident companies from their taxable income.
  • Capital gains are generally assessed with ordinary income and subject to corporate income tax of 21%. Capital losses can only be offset against capital gains.
  • Withholding tax is charged at 30% on interest and dividends. Rates range from 5% to 30% on dividends and 0% and 30% on interest where a tax treaty is in place and the non-resident can provide the Certificate of Residence.
  • A tax deduction is allowed at federal, state and local levels for interest expenses incurred by companies in carrying out business activities.
  • For tax years up to 2021, no tax deduction will be granted on net business interest expenses in excess of 30% of a business’s adjusted taxable income computed without taking into account interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation. However, for tax years beginning after 1 January 2022, a business’s adjusted taxable income will take into account depreciation and amortisation. Any unused business interest expenses can be carried forward indefinitely. Certain exception(s) may apply.
  • On 22 December 2017, President Trump signed into law H.R.1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and some of the key changes introduced under this new law are as follows:
    • Reduction in corporate income tax for resident companies from 35% to 21%.
    • Repeal of corporate alternative minimum tax (AMT) and mechanism for prior-year corporate AMT credits to be refunded by the end of 2021.
    • New business interest expenses deduction rules from tax years after 31 December 2017 onwards (please refer to the preceding bullet point for details).
    • For taxpayers (other than property and casualty insurance companies which are subject to special rules), the new law eliminates carryback of tax losses and allows tax losses to be carried forward indefinitely, but limits carried forward tax losses to 80% of the taxable income from tax years after 31 December 2017 onwards.
    • Mandatory-deemed, one-time repatriation toll charges of 15.5% for cash items and 8% for non-cash items on overseas earnings left outside the US since 1986. Once these charges are paid, resident companies will not be taxed again on dividend repatriated into the US.
    • A minimum tax on “global intangible low-taxed income” (GILTI).
    • A new tax called Base Erosion Anti-Abuse Tax (BEAT) was introduced to impose a minimum tax on certain deductible payments made to foreign affiliates including royalties and management fee payments but excludes the cost of goods sold. This tax shall apply for tax years after 31 December 2017 onwards.  
  • The US has tax treaties with nearly 60 countries and territories.

 

Benefits for Regional Treasury Centres

  • The US has highly developed, liquid, and efficient financial markets.
  • It offers strong corporate governance.
  • The US time zones overlap with European trading hours.
  • Cash concentration services are available in the US on a domestic and cross-border basis, although cross-border cash concentration is not common among US companies.
  • Domestic notional pooling is restricted in the US due to regulations and tax perspectives. However, US companies are allowed to participate in notional pooling located outside the US.
 

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Banking

 

Banking System

  • There are 1,835 commercial banks and 5,129 credit unions, the latter of which are mostly small and local.
  • The large proliferation of small, local banks is mainly due to banking restrictions that limit bank holding companies from buying banks interstate.
  • The US’s 15 highest-ranking banks make up 53% of all bank deposits in the US.
  • The subprime crisis of 2007/08 had a major impact on the banking sector, leading to an estimated 500 banks failing. The Federal Reserve has since introduced financial regulations to strengthen banks and safeguard them from failure.

 

Bank Accounts

  • Residents: Foreign-exchange and domestic currency (USD) accounts are available both domestically and overseas. The foreign-exchange accounts are freely convertible.
  • Non-residents: Foreign-exchange and domestic currency accounts are available, however, foreign-exchange accounts are not commonly on offer, but when they are, they are freely convertible.
  • Interest: Available on corporate demand deposit accounts (known as DDAs or corporate checking accounts). Interest is also paid on idle funds, known as earnings credit, and this offsets and thus reduces bank service charges. The earnings credit rate is calculated daily and there is a fixed banking fee, therefore, large deposits and balances tend to have lower overall banking fees.
  • Banks may charge deposit insurance on customers’ accounts, which is related to the bank’s risk as assessed and charged by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). However, it is not a mandatory charge to the customer and it is not a requirement of the FDIC. 
  • Some banks offer corporations a choice of receiving earnings credit allowance and/or interest on balances.
  • At some international banks, multinational corporations can choose the option of a global earnings allowance to offset interest earned from foreign balances against US-based fees.

 

Legal and Regulatory

  • The Federal Reserve System (the Fed) is the US central bank. It is split up into 12 District Federal Reserve Banks, each with responsibility for overseeing banking activity in their district. Each financial institution has an individual nine-digit ABA routing number that is used as an identifier for all financial transactions. ABA numbers may vary within the same bank according to the payment method being used or where the account was opened.
  • As a federation of states, the US financial sector is supervised at federal and state levels. At federal level, bank supervision is carried out by the Fed, the FDIC and the US Treasury’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). Federal credit unions are supervised by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). State-level supervision is done by individual state bodies.
  • A resident company is one that was created or abides by the laws of any US state or the District of Columbia.
  • The US has anti-money-laundering and counterterrorism-financing legislation in place. It is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and has set up a financial intelligence unit called the Commissioner of Internal Revenue Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which is a member of the Egmont Group.
  • The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act 2010, enacted in response to the financial crisis of 2007-2009, was partially rolled back by the US Congress in May 2018. The most significant change taking effect under the new law is the threshold for heightened federal supervision of ‘systemically important’ midsize and large institutions. That threshold has been increased from USD50 billion to USD250 billion in assets.
  • Regulation of the fintech industry is underway, with a view to drawing up a series of national standards to relinquish the need for compliance with multiple state regulations.
  • Cryptocurrency markets are being regulated by a variety of government departments, depending on the respective areas of authority, and include: Securities and Exchange Commission (monitoring Initial Coin Offerings), Commodity Futures Trading Commission (derivatives market) and Treasury Department (fraud and money laundering). State banking regulators are also overseeing cryptocurrency platforms on behalf of consumers.
 

Payments

 

Payment Systems

Fedwire

Funds Transfer System

USA's Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system

  • Owned and operated by the Federal Reserve.
  • Connects the 12 Federal Reserve banks and depository institutions.
  • Processes high value and urgent domestic USD-denominated credit transfers (no value threshold).
  • Fedwire transactions fall into two categories: interbank and third-party transfers.
  • To participate, financial institutions must have an account with the Fed.
  • There are 7,866 participants.

 

CHIPS

(Clearing House Interbank Payment System)

 

Electronic clearing house database system

  • Operated by the New York Clearing House (privately owned). Unlike the Fedwire system (which is part of a regulatory body), CHIPS is owned by the financial institutions that use it.
  • CHIPS transfers are governed by Article 4A of the Uniform Commercial Code.
  • Payments cleared and settled in real time.
  • There are 49 participants.
  • Open to all US commercial banks, and foreign and private banks with branches in New York City, provided they satisfy specific state and federal requirements.
  • Mainly used for international USD-denominated credit transfers, but can be used to clear high-value interbank transfers (international and domestic)(no value threshold).
  • All CHIPS participants have a six-digit identifier code, the CHIPS UID (universal identifier), which contains all the information necessary to process transactions.
  • By 2015 it was settling well over USD1.5 trillion a day in around 250,000 interbank payments in cross-border and domestic transactions.
  • Together with the Fedwire Funds Service, CHIPS forms the primary US network for high-value domestic and international USD payments, of which it has a market share of around 96%.
  • For less time-sensitive payments, banks typically prefer to use CHIPS rather than Fedwire, as CHIPS is less expensive (both by charges and by funds required). This is partly due to the fact that Fedwire is a RTGS, while CHIPS allows payments to be netted.

 

ACH

(Automated Clearinghouse)

Electronic funds transfer system

  • ACH operators in the US are the Federal Reserve System (FedACH) and the Electronic Payments Network (EPN).
  • Processes low value and non-urgent credit and debit transfers (no value threshold).
  • Credits used for consumer, commercial and government payments and debits for consumer bill payments.
  • Approx. 20,000 participants
  • Available to commercial banks, savings and loan banks and credit unions.

NSS

(National Settlement Service)

Multilateral settlement system

  • Operated by the Federal Reserve.
  • Processes private sector clearing arrangements through master accounts held at the Federal Reserve.
  • Settles and exchanges transactions multilaterally.
  • System reduces settlement risk by processing settlement same day.
  • There are approximately 17 NSS arrangements.

 

 

Payment Instruments

 

Credit Transfers

  • ACH credits are used for regular payments, such as payroll, supplier and government bills, as well as one-off or irregular payments. These can be low- or high-value payments that are not urgent.
  • Fedwire is used for high value and time-critical electronic transactions, referred to as wire payments, mainly for domestic USD-denominated payments, while CHIPS is used for cross-border USD-denominated payments, both same day. This form of payment is commonly used for interbank transfers and large payments between commercial and financial institutions.

 

Direct Debits (auto debits)

  • Commonly used for low-value, regular payments such as utility bills.
  • Significant increase in the use of direct debit payments from the proliferation of cashless payments and online facilities.
  • Uses ACH debits to process with settlement next day.
  • FedACH SameDay Service allows the settlement of ACH debits on the same day.

 

Card Payments

  • The main credit cards in circulation are Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover and Diners Club.
  • Debit cards are either PIN-based (online) or signature-based (offline), although the latter is no longer adopted by the four main credit card providers. Most payments using debit cards are settled via Visa and MasterCard.
  • Payment cards are in the process of migrating from magnetic strip to the more secure chip card technology.
  • Limited-use proprietary cards are commonly used, and these are usually issued by retail or oil companies.
  • There are between 475,000 and 500,000 ATM terminals and 12.7 million POS terminals. There are a few national network ATM providers, including NYCE, Pulse and Star.

 

Online Payments

  • The US accounts for 47% of the global fintech market.
  • With the rollout of 5G technology this year and next, the US is primed for increased rates of both online banking and shopping.
  • Mobile banking has been steadily increasing in popularity since the advent of the smartphone, with more than half of bank account holders accessing mobile banking through apps as well as institutional websites thus far in 2018.
  • Reloadable mobile apps that hold credit and are used to make payments are growing in usage, especially with younger consumers and in the area of person-to-person payments. Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay are the most prominent mobile wallets in the US while retailers such as Starbucks and Target have developed systems exclusive to their stores.
  • Mobile shopping (m-commerce) is still in its early stages in the US, held back by technological problems such as the current limitations of Wi-Fi or 3G/4G reception. However, it is forecast to make up 45% of the e-commerce market by 2020. In 2017, 19% of all online retail sales were paid using mobile devices, and the share increased to over 39% in 2018.
  • Online payments are the main mode of payment online, with 84% of all online payments - whether retail purchases or monthly bills - made on a computer. This includes payments using credit and debit cards and third-party payment providers such as PayPal and Alipay.
  • Prepaid debit cards i.e. reloadable payment and/or gift cards are often linked to major financial institutions and are increasing in popularity. The most common in the US are American Express Serve®, Paypal™ Prepaid MasterCard® and KAIKU Visa Prepaid Card.

 

Digital Currencies

  • Cryptocurrencies, primarily bitcoin, have experienced considerable growth in the US, registering the second largest global volume - approximately 26% - of bitcoin transactions (Cryptocompare). This is partly due to the country’s established and sophisticated financial sector. 
  • The Treasury Department does not classify cryptocurrencies as legal tender, while other government departments differ as to whether cryptocurrencies should be considered securities, commodities or payments.
  • Exchanges are regulated at the state level and are legal in some states.
  • At the federal level, the SEC appears to be taking the lead in monitoring cryptocurrency activity, especially as related to ICOs and blockchain technology.

 

Cheques and Money Orders

  • Cheques are a common form of payment, but are increasingly being superseded by electronic payments for low- and high-value transactions.
  • Cheques are truncated before being processed and are settled either same day if they are ‘on us’ cheques (whereby the issue bank and deposit bank are the same) or up to five days if they are interbank.
  • Money orders are available through vendors such as the US Postal Service, Western Union and MoneyGram. Money can be received or sent domestically or internationally, either online or in person.

 

Cash Management

  • Notional pooling: Not available in the USA as from a tax and regulatory perspective it is regarded as the commingling of intercompany funds. However, US companies can participate in notional pooling in foreign countries.
  • Cash concentration: Resident and non-resident companies may carry out single and cross-currency cash concentration on a domestic and cross-border basis using one or multiple legal entities. Same-day funding usually defers to Fedwire and next-day funding, an ACH debit.
  • Collections:
    • Lockboxes – These are commonly used by companies for the countrywide collection of cash or cheque payments, in lieu of the popular use of cheques combined with a reliable, efficient post office service. The lockbox facility collects, processes and deposits payments for the company. Statements of all remittance information are passed onto the recipient company electronically, including electronic cheque images and returned items’ data, to be used in the receivables system. This service is offered by banks and non-bank institutions. Accounts Receivable Conversion (ARC) – This is a type of ACH transaction which involves converting a cheque collected in a lockbox into an ACH debit, given advanced notice to the recipient (although with an option to opt out). This practice is only used in the case of consumer bill payments. Back Office Conversion (BOC) – This is the conversion of cheques (maximum value of USD 25,000) into ACH debits by retailers and companies in their back offices from point of sale. Remote capture and deposit service – This involves the scanning of USD-denominated cheques and using the electronic images to use as substitute cheques to deposit funds into a US bank account. All major banks offer this facility and it is a method popular with retailers, brokerages and other types of companies.
    • Cross border: Cross-border payment instructions are usually delivered through SWIFT or CHIPS. There are several payment methods: International ACH Transaction (IAT) – The IAT Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) code and the National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA) rules require every ACH payment to enter or exit the US as an IAT and are therefore subject to US Office of Foreign Assets and Control (OFAC) screening. FedACH deals with ACH credits from the US to Canada, Mexico, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Panama, Switzerland and the UK. FedGlobal ACH Payments deals with ACH credit to 35 countries across Europe and Latin America. ACH payments with Canada are dealt with via a payments system developed by NACHA.
  • Short-term investments:
    • Time deposits – These are available with maturities from seven days to one year in USD with a maximum value of USD 150,000 per bank.
    • Commercial paper – These are available with maturities from one day to 270 days and an average term of 30 days in USD and with a minimum value of USD 100,000.
    • Certificates of deposit – These are available with maturities from seven days to over a year (typically three- to six-month terms) in USD and with a minimum value of USD 100,000.
    • Treasury bills and notes – These are issued by the US Treasury Bureau of Public Debt and must have a minimum value of USD 100.
    • Banker’s acceptances – These are a popular investment and have maturities from one day to six months.
    • Repurchase agreements – These are available overnight.
    • Money-market funds – These are available with a minimum value of USD 1,000.
  • Custody and securities settlement:
    • Depositories – There are two depositories in the US: the Depository Trust Company (DTC) and the Federal Reserve Bank. The DTC is the central securities depository subsidiary of the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation (DTCC), which is responsible for the settlement of all equity, corporate and municipal debt trades and money-market instruments. It also provides custody and asset servicing for securities from 131 countries and territories.
  • Central counterparties: The central counterparties in the US are:
    • National Securities Clearing Corporation (NSCC) – This is the central counterparty for equities, corporate and municipal debt, American depository receipts, exchange-traded funds and unit investment trusts.
    • Fixed Income Clearing Corporation (FICC) – This is also responsible for the Fixed Income Clearing Corporation Government Securities Division (US Treasury and agency securities) and the Fixed Income Clearing Corporation Mortgage-backed Securities Division (mortgage-backed securities).
    • LCH Clearnet LLC.
    • ICE Clear.
    • The Options Clearing Corporation.
    • Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc.
    • Minneapolis Grain Exchange Inc.
  • Settlement cycle:
    • T+2 for equities, corporate bonds and municipals. In 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission shortened the standard settlement cycle by one day, from T+3 to T+2.
    • T+0 or T+1 for money market instruments and government securities.

Demographics

The USA Treasury Management Market Profile Infographic

 

1 (Variable) depending on type of good or service and individual state and local authority

2 State and local corporate taxes may also apply

3 (Progressive) max rate for incomes (single-filers) over USD418,401

 

Recent developments

 

Real-time Payment Systems in the US

The US is lagging other countries in terms of the real-time payment systems it offers. The Clearing House RTP is currently the only real-time payment network available. The Federal Reserve has announced plans to launch its own system, the FedNow network, but has not yet given a launch date. By contrast, more than a quarter of payments in the UK are now processed through the real-time Faster Payments Service, while Sweden and Singapore both have similar systems.

Read more about the development here

 

Apple Dominates Mobile Wallet Scene

Apple is dominating the mobile wallet space in the US thanks to the popularity of its iPhone. Around half of US smartphones are Apple devices, rising to more than 80% among teenagers. All phones come with Apple Pay, the group’s mobile wallet, pre-installed. The tech giant also has an edge in terms of the near-field communication (NFC) technology used for contactless payments, as it prevents other companies and developers from using its NFC application programming interface for their own products, such as mobile wallets.

Read more about the development here.  

 

Mobile Payment Growth Slow

Mobile payments have been slow to take off in the US with just 10% of consumers using one of the apps, compared with more than 80% of consumers in China. The slow growth comes despite the fact that 81% of Americans now own a smart phone. Experts attribute the situation to issues with legacy financial systems, a lack of need for alternative payment options, and the dominance of rewards-based credit cards.

Read more about the development here

 

Cryptocurrencies Can Hedge Against Governments

Cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, can be used to hedge against bad governance, inflation, economic stress and even bad government due to the fact they are not tied to a physical government. This gives the currencies an edge over traditional hedging vehicles, such as the US dollar. Cryptocurrencies can still hold their value as a viable medium of exchange even in times of domestic troubles. As a result, they could potentially undermine the US dollar.

Read more about the development here

 

This Market Profile is brought to you by DBS. Get in touch with us for further insights on doing treasury in The USA and take advantage of our innovative solutions to empower your business. Click here to find out more.

 

 

Sources: World Economic Forum, PwC, International Monetary Fund, CIA World Factbook, Trading Economics, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Bank for International Settlements, Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, CPC Strategy, Federal Reserve, IBIS World, KPMG, PwC and DBS.

 

The information herein is published by DBS Bank Ltd. (“DBS Bank”) and is for information only. The information is assembled based on information available and accurate as at Oct 2019.

The information is not directed to, or intended for distribution to or use by, any person or entity who is a citizen or resident of or located in any locality, state, country or other jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, availability or use would be contrary to law or regulation.

The information herein may be incomplete or condensed. Any terms, conditions and opinions contained herein may have been obtained from various sources and neither DBS Bank, its subsidiaries/affiliates nor any of their respective directors or employees (collectively the “DBS Group”) make any warranty, expressed or implied, as to its accuracy or completeness and thus assume no responsibility of it. The information herein may be subject to further revision, verification and updating and DBS Group undertakes no responsibility thereof.

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