Bank Guarantees or Retentions

To ensure that a Contractor in the Building and Construction Industry performs in accordance with the signed Contract, the Principal typically requests an appropriate form of guarantee from the Contractor or they deduct monies from the payments they make.

The forms of guarantee that are most common are Retentions and Bank Guarantees. The Bank Guarantee or Security option requires the subcontractor to have equity in property that they are prepared to provide to their Bank so that a security amount typically equal to 5% of the Contract Sum is held as security in two equal parts.

A Retention (or Retaining as they are sometimes called) refers to the money construction companies withhold from the progress payments made to the Contractor. The total Retention would equal a percentage of the Contract Sum – again, normally not exceeding 5%.

In fact the rates are more usually described as “10% to 5%” as there is a loading on the early payments made to Subcontractors to help build a Retention reserve. So the Retention is calculated at 10% of each progress payment until the total retained is equal to 5% of the Contract Sum.

Bank Guarantees are better for Subcontractors while a Retention is more beneficial for the Construction Company – the reason is cash-flow. (Muli Users can see a sample Bank Guarantee in the secured INDUSTRY DOCUMENTATION SECTION of this website)

The Principal’s right to retain amounts from progress payments, and the Contractor’s entitlement to the release of their money is generally outlined in the agreement between the parties. A Contractor may be entitled to the release of part of the retention amounts held upon practical completion of the construction, and the release of the balance upon expiration of a defects liability period.

Most agreements allow the Principal recourse to the retention monies in the event that the Contractor is liable to the Principal for a default under the contract. The Contractor may default by failing to complete work to a required standard or by failing to rectify defects.

Retention amounts may therefore be used to offset the liability of the Contractor. As such the Contractor may not receive the full amount retained from the progress payments. For example, if a Contractor fails to rectify certain defects, the Principal may pay a third party to do so, using part of the retained amounts.

Standard Retention Rates

Muli Software is supplied with a pre-loaded Rate table that can be modified by the user. The standard data has 12 rates and covers all possibilities. There are the common percentage rates and it even includes codes for “No Retentions” and “Bank Guarantee”.

The table allows for a Maximum Rate % and a Maximum Retention %. The ten percentage rates that are included start with “2.5%”, “5% to 2.5%”, “5%”, “7.5% to 5%” etc, plus of course the most commonly employed rate of “10% to 5%”.

Muli will automatically apply the rate selected in a subcontract and calculate the deduction required when processing a progress claim. If an amendment is made to the total contract sum then Muli will take this into account when next calculating the retention.


The following example shows the calculation of Subcontractor deductions and the appropriate GST:-

A builder may engage an air-conditioning subcontractor to supply and install a system for a total of $200,000.

During the installation the subcontractor makes a progress claim of $50,000 based on an assessment of work to date. The builder agrees with the figure but contractually needs to retain 5% of the $200,000 against satisfactory completion.

The agreement quotes a retention rate of “10% to 5%” so to build a retention reserve the builder would retain 10% of the first claim. Therefore the builders records would show:

Invoice Value $50,000

Less Retention $ 5,000

Value approved for payment $45,000

Plus GST $ 4,500

Pay Amount $49,500

Liability on completion $ 5,000

(and the GST on this $ 5000 will be levied at some time in the future when the monies are released to the subcontractor)

Retentions Demonstration

28 minute video on Project Processes with:

  • Raising a subcontract with retentions
  • Processing subcontractor’s claim & producing the payment notice with retention summary
  • Preparing your progress claim for your client showing total retentions to-date

Watch In-Depth Demonstration