The Taxing of Remittances in the US

Georgia & Iowa move to leverage a tax on remittances – Financial Institutions are reacting

In a previous blog (in Spanish), posted in the midst of the many reporter calls, especially from Latinamerica (driven by the anxiety over the migration policies of the new US Trump administration), I mentioned the US legislators drive to tax remittances in the US. The State of Oklahoma is taxing remittances for some years now ($5 up to $500 and 1% after that). Several other States such as Georgia and Iowa are moving on this direction and the industry is watching. In the federal level there are also some initiatives being proposed. in an effort to fund the border wall.

The shifting views on family remittances

After a series of media interviews a couple of weeks ago, in a trip to Guatemala, I realized in a moment that I was witnessing a change in the public perception of remittances that I had not grasped before. Answering one by one journalist questions, it was unquestionable that I was witnessing a shift that I had not noticed before. After thinking about it, I could say that the shift is global although that doesn’t mean that a shift is happening in the same way or at the same time in every region or country in the world. Having been a part of the remittance industry for three decades I suddenly saw it very clearly. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself so let’s back up a little.

Las amenazas de Trump – Remesas, impuestos, migración, deportaciones y la construcción del muro

Remesas, impuestos, migración, deportaciones y la construcción del muro

Durante las primarias presidenciales republicanas del año pasado, Donald Trump expuso su propuesta de cómo forzar a México a pagar por el muro de 1,000 millas en la frontera entre Estados Unidos y este país. Los periodistas Bob Woodward y Robert Costa del Washington Post publicaron en Abril 5 de 2016 la noticia (http://wapo.st/2jbWHFn) en la cual Trump manifestaba su intención de amenazar a México con “cortar el suministro de remesas”. Trump envió en esta ocasión un memorando de dos páginas…

INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION OF MONEY TRANSFER ASSOCIATIONS

On December 12 in São Paulo, Brazil at the 2nd ABRACAM COMPLIANCE DAY an International Commission of Associations of Money Transfers Companies, Non-Bank Financial Services Companies, Foreign Exchange Firms and their Agents, was formed to make a public statement, signed by all the Associations, voicing their extreme concern regarding the negative impacts of “DE-RISKING” in the economic, financial e social areas of several countries in the region. They had met previously in November 11th, as part of IMTC WORLD 2016DE-RISKING & BANK DISCONTINUANCE FORUM” that discussed the impact of this practice in the Money Transfer, Remittance and Payment Industry. The termination of correspondent accounts of foreign financial institutions (FFIs) by US Commercial Banks as well as some these US Banks forcing local bank account closures by their corresponding banks in many countries in the region was also discussed at IMTC WORLD in an afternoon round table on Nov. 10, moderated by Daniel Trias.

Recent News about De-Risking, Financial Exclusion and Bank Discontinuance

On November 11th, as part of IMTC WORLD 2016 we will be having a “DE-RISKING & BANK DISCONTINUANCE FORUM” to discuss the impact of this practice in the Money Transfer, Remittance and Payment Industry as well as the U.S. depository institutions termination of correspondent accounts of foreign financial institutions (FFIs) as well as some US Banks forcing local bank account closures by their corresponding banks in many countries in the world.

Commonwealth’s De-Risking Meeting in London

As we informed all our special Friday Newsletter to subscribers in the UK, the Commonwealth Secretariat invited the International Money Transfer & Payments Industry to the “Disconnecting from Global Finance: A Conversation on De-Risking” meeting that was programmed this past Thursday, August 10th at Marlborough House in London. The meeting was called following the release of the Commonwealth’s report “Disconnecting from Global Finance: The Impact of AML/CFT Regulations in Commonwealth Developing Countries”. Passions ran high at the meeting as money transfer businesses and smaller financial institutions complained about the “detrimental” decline in international banking for many businesses and individuals.

The Money Services Banking Crisis

To show how critical MSBs are to the functioning of the U.S. financial system, a 2013 Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. survey found 9.6 million U.S. households did not have bank accounts and 24.8 million households — 20 percent of the U.S. population — were underbanked, meaning they had bank accounts but also used alternative financial services outside of the banking system

Today, MSBs worldwide are caught in a banking crisis showing no signs of relenting. Based on real and imagined enforcement risks, most banks have categorically decided against providing accounts to MSBs, while others have been ordered by regulators to stop serving MSBs. This process of “de-risking,” by which banks terminate relationships with “high-risk” customers, has been brutal for the MSB industry and resulted in unforeseen consequences, including:

The US CSBS & the MTRA Report on the State of MSBs Regulation & Supervision

The Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) and the Money Transmitter Regulators Association (MTRA) released an important report on the state of the industry that is a must read for anyone in the industry and a report that all US Money Transmitters should be sending to their banks. The report is entitled “The state of state money services businesses regulation & supervision” and it examines the non-bank financial sector in the US and the bank discontinuance and de-risking challenges the industry faces. But the main objective is to let the banks know of the strict regulations and close supervision the state regulators have on all licensed MSBs.

Our industry, our image, our trade groups…

As I leave Barcelona after IMTC EMEA 2016 this past May 18-20 and I reflect on the industry, I can’t help but feel proud of the work we do at IMTC and the people we serve. Even talking with long-time industry warriors who are tired of the increasing complexity of the sector, I am a positive person and I can’t help but look back on where we started, around 30-35 years ago, and where we are now. Yes, we face many problems: bank discontinuance, regulatory inconsistency, a somewhat tainted image, weak trade groups, just to name a few. But we are a strong and growing sector with new products and services, new client sectors and technology developments that are impressive. Let’s take a partial look at ourselves…

The Best Bank De-Risking Metaphor

In the past IMTC BRASIL 2016 in Sao Paulo, Leonardo Costa made a presentation available in our Download Section entitled Nueva Guia GAFI Prestadores Servicios Transferencia Dinero Valores about the FATF – GAFI February 2016 document on the GUIDANCE FOR A RISK-BASED APPROACH for MONEY OR VALUE TRANSFER SERVICES. The Guidance in Page 46 (#125) urges the Banks to “not resort to the wholesale termination or exclusion of customer relationships within the MVTS (money or value transfer services) sector”.

Commenting on this Guidance and De-Risking and Bank Discontinuance problem – that is now extending as US Commercial Banks force local banks to close accounts of local MVTS companies – Leonardo use this great metaphor: