The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency on Wednesday made it easier for national banks to acquire personal property for leasing.

In a rule effective Jan. 17, the agency is allowing banks to acquire personal property for leasing before the bank enters into or arranges a specific leasing transaction.

A national bank is allowed to buy and then lease personal property such as cars, tractors, airplanes, and factory equipment. Before Wednesday's rule, however, the bank was required to have entered a lease agreement before purchasing the equipment.

The agency did place two restrictions on this change. The amount of personal property that may be acquired under the rule is capped at 15% of a bank's capital and surplus. In addition, the acquisitions must be consistent with the bank's existing leasing business.

In the final rule, the agency also decided against easing another restriction.

The OCC lets national banks purchase and lease personal property only if they expect to recover the full cost of buying and financing it during the course of the lease. In figuring out how costs will be recovered, the bank counts lease payments and tax advantages. It may also count up to 25% of the original value of the equipment.

The agency decided not to lift this 25% cap because few banks bump into this limit.

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