Collecting in the USA - Payment Culture
The payment culture of US domestic companies is becoming increasingly uncertain and, in the absence of a clear framework on late payments, payment terms remain more of a contractual issue. Days Sales Outstanding (DSO), the term we use to explain the likely receipt of payment, is not as bad as in some other countries. Payments in the US normally take place within 28 days, though delays of 5 to 10 days tend to be increasingly imposed by large companies who may negotiate agreements on their terms, rather than yours.
The court system is complicated in that it has a county, state and federal structure where protection methods are not recognised. No simplified proceedings are available to settle the simplest case. As a result, significant delays and costs have to be expected, while actually enforcing a payment may be difficult.
When the debtor becomes insolvent, collecting debt becomes a complex task. The bankruptcy system remains pro-debtor and making a company insolvent is not generally a way to obtain payment. In practice, bankruptcy reorganisation is resource-draining and rarely results in general unsecured creditors receiving any money.
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Availability of financial information
Obtaining financial information on private companies is a difficult and costly exercise in the US. It is possible to purchase financial information from specialised providers, but it is also recommended to obtain a detailed credit application, and if possible a personal guarantee when granting credit in the United States.
The United States has a federal structure consisting of fifty states and one federal district (Washington, D.C.), each characterised by specific rules and specific courts. Disputes are normally settled at the state level through State and County Courts of general jurisdiction, but Federal District and Regional Courts would have exclusive jurisdiction over matters falling under the scope of application of federal law (international trade, federal claims), or when the dispute involves parties located in different states and a balance of over USD 50,000.
Read our full report to better understand the nature of collecting payments in the United States.
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