debt collectors handbook

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  • Debt collectorstrust accounting: A reference manual

    Government of Western AustraliaDepartment of CommerceConsumer Protection

  • Table of contentsIntroduction 1Using this booklet 1Additional copies 1Glossary 2

    Part 1. Trust money and accounts 31.1 What is trust money? 31.2 Titling of trust accounts 31.3 Receiving and depositing trust money 3 Receiving payments via instalments 41.4 Opening and amending trust accounts 41.5 Paying the creditor 41.6 Withdrawing from the trust account 4

    Part 2. Recordkeeping 52.1 Duties of debt collectors in relation to recordkeeping 52.2 How long must trust records be retained? 52.3 Balancing the trust account 62.4 Preparing a bank reconciliation 62.5 The steps in balancing a trust account 7 Balance as per bank statement 7 Add outstanding deposits 7 Less unpresented cheques 7 Balance as per trust records 82.6 Steps for an overdrawn trust account 92.7 Unclaimed monies 9

    Part 3. Investigation of trust accounts 103.1 Inspection of records 103.2 Inspection of bank records 11

    Part 4. Preventing theft and fraud 124.1 Early indicators of theft and fraud 124.2 Actions for theft and fraud 13

    Part 5. Conduct when carrying out collection activities 14Further information and assistance 14

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    This manual is designed to assist debt collectors to establish and maintain a trust account recording system that complies with the Debt Collectors Licensing Act 1964 and the Debt Collectors Licensing Regulations 1964.

    This manual is not intended to be a comprehensive trust accounting text for debt collectors and in setting up any trust accounting system, whether manual or computerised, debt collectors should seek advice from an accountant or taxation adviser.

    Using this booklet

    Part One answers general questions about trust money and accounts.

    Part Two outlines the duties of debt collectors in relation to recordkeeping and briefly explains how to balance trust accounts.

    Part Three discusses the investigative powers of the Minister for Commerce and other authorised people to inspect trust accounts and associated records.

    Part Four looks at recommended practices for reducing theft and fraud.

    Part Five reminds debt collectors of their conduct obligations when collecting a debt.

    Note that while this manual refers to relevant legislation, it does not include a complete reproduction of any legislative provisions. Copies of the Act and Regulations can be downloaded from State Law Publisher at

    Additional copies

    Additional copies of this booklet can be downloaded free of charge from the Consumer Protection section of the Department of Commerce website

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    ActThe Debt Collectors Licensing Act 1964.

    Authorised personA person who has been authorised in writing by the Minister for Commerce.

    Client A creditor that has retained the services of a debt collector.

    CommissionerThe Commissioner for Consumer Protection.

    CreditorA person to whom a debt is owed.

    Debt collectorA person carrying on the business of collecting, requesting or demanding the payment of debts on behalf of another person. This business must be carried out in return for a fee or reward.

    DebtorA person who owes a debt.

    Minister for CommerceA reference to the Minister for Commerce includes any Minister by whatever name who was previously responsible for the Act.

    MoneyAny form of payment which can be deposited into a bank account such as cash or cheque.

    RegulationsThe Debt Collectors Licensing Regulations 1964.

    Trust accountThe bank account in which trust money is kept.

    Trust money

    Any money collected or received by a debt collector acting on behalf of another person.

    Also refer to sections 3 and 4 of the Act for more definitions of terms used in the legislation.

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    1.1 What is trust money?

    Trust money is defined in the Act as any money collected or received by a person in the capacity of debt collector as agent for another person. Trust monies must be kept and accounted separately to the debt collectors general business funds at all times.

    Trust monies do not include monies received directly from your clients, ie creditors, with respect to fees and commissions.

    The custody of trust money places debt collectors in a position of control over other peoples money. It therefore requires careful monitoring of all withdrawals and deposits. There are generally accepted trust accounting practices that need to be adhered to in order to prevent misappropriation of trust funds.

    1.2 Titling of trust accounts

    A debt collector who receives and holds monies must maintain a trust account. The title of this trust account to correctly account for trust monies must be in the form of: Trust Account of (your name). For example: Trust Account of XYZ Debt Management Services.

    Refer: section 3 of the Act

    1.3 Receiving and depositing trust money

    A debt collector who receives an amount of trust money from a debtor must do two things before close of business on the following business day:

    pay the whole amount collected into the trust account; and

    record the amount collected in their trust account separately from other monies held in that account. This can be achieved through journal entries or similar accounting records of the monies received.

    Money received from debtors that is held in a trust account must be kept separate from all other money eg personal monies or monies received from creditors such as fees or commissions.

    Refer: section 15(1) of the Act

    Part one. Trust money and accounts

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    Receiving payments via instalments

    Where a debtor pays by instalments, the debt collector can charge a fee of 50 cents or 2.5 per cent of the amount of debt outstanding, whichever is the greater amount.

    Refer: regulation 13

    1.4 Opening and amending trust accounts

    The Commissioner for Consumer Protection must be notified in writing within 14 days when:

    the debt collector opens a trust account (the name of the trust account and the name and address of the bank where it is held must be supplied); or

    changes are made to the name of the trust account, or the bank where it is held.

    Refer: section 15(4) of the Act

    1.5 Paying the creditor

    Within 45 days of receiving the trust money from the debtor, the debt collector must pay the money to the creditor, unless the creditor has agreed in writing to a longer time. A creditor can request in writing that;

    the money be paid to them within 14 days; or

    the money be paid to a third party.

    Refer: section 15(2) of the Act

    1.6 Withdrawing from the trust account

    The debt collector is not permitted to withdraw any other trust money from the trust account unless it is for the purpose of paying either:

    expenses, commission, fees and other charges incidental to the collection service; or

    money which the creditor owes to the debt collector. The debt collector must be lawfully entitled to withdraw this money.

    Refer: section 15(1) of the Act

    Note: The trust account should never be overdrawn (see section 2.6)

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    2.1 Duties of debt collectors in relation to recordkeeping

    The Act requires debt collectors to keep full and accurate records of trust accounts, including the particulars of any trust money received from a debtor, paid out to a creditor, or withdrawn from the trust account whether by the debt collector or by someone employed by them.

    Trust documents and/or electronic records may include:

    a record of money received for or on behalf of any other person such as trust receipts books;

    records of trust money payments such as trust journals, trust ledgers and trust cheque books;

    reconciliation statements of the trust account; and

    any other accounts, books or records kept by the debt collector relating to the trust money, such as bank statements.

    These records must be kept in such a way that they can be conveniently and properly audited, and must be correctly balanced at the end of each month. See 2.3 Balancing the trust account.

    It is also useful to establish procedures for the timely follow-up of outstanding monies such as unpresented cheques, any unidentified monies and unclaimed monies. See 2.7 Unclaimed monies.

    If a debt collector fails to maintain full and accurate records of their trust account, they will be guilty of an offence under the Act.

    Refer section 17 of the Act

    2.2 How long must trust records be retained?

    Although the Act does not specify a set period for retaining trust records, income tax legislation generally requires debt collectors to keep business records for a minimum of five years.

    Part two. Recordkeeping

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    2.3 Balancing the trust account

    The Act requires that records of accounts are correctly balanced at the end of each month. This ensures that debt collectors are informed of the status of each account, and that any discrepancies in the balance are dealt with at this time.

    It is expected that the trust account is balanced through the use of a Bank Reconciliation Statement, either through a manual or computerised accounting system. More information about Bank Reconc


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