The expatriate experience is wide and varied. While some people seem to be perfectly built for optimal performance in their assignment location, others struggle and fail. For a long time, companies have looked for ways to better support expat employees — and their families — as they sought to elevate the ROI on that assignment.
Then comes the coronavirus and it's trail of extenuating and impactful circumstances. Travel bans, embassy closures, immigration regulations, shelter-in-place orders, temporary business shutdowns, pay cuts, furloughs and terminations have all combined to create pandemic-related chaos around the world. This blog post from Outten & Golden LLP (Expats and COVID-19: Global Employees at Rick and in Limbo) points out that:
"Many expats are trying to plan for the worst and get ahead of a potential job loss, relocation hurdles, insufficient health insurance, and work visa issues. Although some nations will still accept citizens returning home despite the travel bans, other countries are not allowing any non-essential travelers to enter even if they were willing to face the risk of infection while in transit."
In considering whether to sit tight in the host country location, return home early to the home location or head to a nearby safer third country, companies and expatriates have had to evaluate a lot of information in a short period of time as things quickly developed and changed.
For remote workers "stuck" in a country that is not their normal country of employment, tax becomes a key element to consider, evaluate and address. In GTN's Mobility Tax Checklist, items Nos. 9 and 10 specifically call out a couple of key points related to these remote workers:
- For employees “stuck” in a country other than their normal country of employment, develop a company policy regarding whether employees will be allowed to work remotely, or be required to use PTO/unpaid leave.
- For employees working remotely from a country other than their normal country of employment, review income tax, payroll, and social security tax implications with your mobility tax services provider.
As we all struggle to keep up with the impact of COVID-19, the changing rules, and the lack of guidelines, we wanted to share a few tips that have been beneficial for our clients with mobility programs. Here is a mobility tax checklist of considerations to think about as you work to determine next steps for your mobility program and your mobile employees.