What is a 'Trust Receipt'

A trust receipt is a notice of the release of merchandise to a buyer from a bank, with the bank retaining the ownership title of the released assets. In an arrangement involving a trust receipt, the bank remains the owner of the merchandise, but the buyer is allowed to hold the merchandise in trust for the bank, for manufacturing or sales purposes.

BREAKING DOWN 'Trust Receipt'

In the normal course of running a trade business, companies purchase goods for their inventories from vendors or wholesalers to resell to consumers or to manufacture goods. These goods may either be purchased locally or imported from other companies. When these companies receive the merchandise, they are also billed by the seller or exporter for the goods purchased. In the event that the firm does not have the required cash on hand to settle the bill, it may obtain financing from a bank by filling out a document known as a trust receipt.

A trust receipt is a financial document attended to by a bank and a business who has received delivery of the goods, but cannot pay for the purchase until after the inventory is sold. In most cases, the company's cash flow and working capital may be tied up in other projects and business operations. The trust receipt serves as a promissory note to the bank that the loan amount will be repaid upon sale of the goods. The bank pays the exporter on its end or issues the seller (or seller’s bank) a letter of credit guaranteeing payment for the merchandise. The lender, however, retains the title to the merchandise as security. The customer or borrower is required to keep the goods separate from its other inventory and, in effect, holds and sells the goods as a trustee for the bank.

Although the bank has a security interest in the goods under the standard terms of a trust receipt, the customer takes possession of the goods and may do what he wants with them as long as he does not violate the terms of his contract with the bank. If he decides to terminate the bank’s security interest and tie to the inventory, he may tender the amount advanced on the goods, giving him total ownership of the goods.

Extending short-term financing through a trust receipt requires the customer or borrower to be in good standing with the bank. The bank and the customer also have to agree to the terms of the trust receipt, including such conditions as the maturity date, interest charge, and financing amount. Maturity dates under trust receipts are short-term and range from 30 to 180 days. At the time of maturity, the customer must repay the loan to the lender with interest stipulated under the terms of the trust receipt. The bank must be repaid at the time of maturity or after the sale of the goods, whichever comes earlier. If after the maturity date, no payment has been received by the bank or the customer defaults in paying its advances, the bank could repossess and dispose of the merchandise.

Under a typical trust receipt transaction, the importer or business has little to nothing of its own assets invested in the particular goods financed. The bank bears the majority of the credit risk prevalent in the transaction. The business keeps any profits made from the resale of the goods, but also bears the business risk. If the goods get damaged, lost, or deteriorate in quality or value, the loss is solely the burden of the customer and he remains personally liable for repaying the full loan amount to the bank. In addition, any business expense, such as manufacturing costs, freight, custom dues, storage, etc., is the responsibility of the customer, not the lending institution.

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