The Best Guide to Global Expatriate Payroll Management

The Best Guide to Global Expatriate Payroll Management

The Best Guide to Global Expatriate Payroll Management

March 6, 2023


Picture of INS Global



Picture of INS Global



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Key Takeaways

  1. Expat employees tend to cost companies more than regular employees
  2. The payroll for expat employees must be compliant with employment laws in both the home and host country
  3. To avoid double taxation, companies should make sure there are existing tax treaties between the countries involved


Global expansion has become essential for any company that wants to keep up with the competition in today’s fast-paced markets. Having expat employees can give you a foothold abroad while allowing you to maintain a base of operations in your home country.

Payroll regulations and tax liabilities around expat employees are typically different than those at home. Thus, it’s essential to manage your expat employees’ global payroll correctly to avoid making any costly errors.

In this article, we highlight the best way to process payroll for your expat employees. This way you can ensure your employees receive their salaries in a legally compliant manner.


What is an Expat Employee?


An expat, or expatriate employee, is an individual living or working in a country outside their home country. An expat employee typically works overseas on a short-term basis.

You may also hire foreign employees to your company’s workforce. These also count as expats for the sake of taxation. This distinction is important to remember.

A company may send an employee to a new market for many reasons. These include:

  • setting up a new company branch
  • completing a specific project or assignment
  • supervising operations in that location
  • building connections with local clients and businesses

When choosing to assign or reassign an employee to a position abroad, it’s vital to consider a relocation package with additional payroll expenses. Moving to a new country is expensive and stressful. Especially if the employee is moving with family members, it can be a long and complex process. These workers expect practical and monetary assistance at every step.

Of course, there are many benefits to expat employees. Typically, they include drastically improving your client relations, setting up the groundwork for company expansion to the new market, and allowing your company’s image and reputation to reach a much wider audience.


Expat Payroll Processing: How Does it Work?


As mentioned above, expat employee payroll costs tend to be higher than those for local employees. As well as relocation compensation, you will also need to adhere to local employment and minimum wage laws. These costs may be higher than those in your home base country. There may also be a cost-of-living differential. Unless you provide a competitive package that recognizes these differences, it can be hard to convince employees to relocate.

Generally speaking, expat employees should receive their salaries in the currency of the country they are living and working in. Typically, this means finding the right method to pay them without incurring high transfer and exchange rate fees.

When managing payroll for expats, compliance assurance becomes even more important. Minor errors with things like federal income taxes, security and medicare taxes, calculating payroll, and guaranteeing national minimum employee benefits, could all mean serious fines or fees.


How a Payroll Outsourcing Partner Can Help with Expatriate Payroll Management


Partnering with a third-party organization like a PEO (Professional Employer Organization) or EOR (Employer of Record) can save you on banking and setup expenses. A PEO or EOR has an international payroll system already set up. This guarantees that your employees receive their salary effectively each pay period.

Expat employee payroll involves more than just salary payments, though. The tax requirements for expat employees are not the same as for local employees.


The Essential Facts to Know for Expat Payroll Taxation


Expatriate payroll processing can be quite complicated to get right. Some potential risks include double taxation, missed payments, and failure to comply with local taxation laws.

The first step is to research the tax rates and laws of the home country and the host country. The key here is to see if there are treaties preventing double taxation. For example, an American expat employee in Canada must pay taxes in both the USA and Canada. However, the IRS allows expat employees to deduct foreign tax amounts to avoid double taxation.

Most EU countries have pre-existing tax agreements that don’t require expat employees to pay taxes in both countries.

Alternatively, some countries may have different rules for taxing separated or combined income.

Next, you need to make sure that you are withholding the correct amount of social security taxes. This way, the expat employee receives social security and medicare benefits in the country they’re living in. As an overseas company, you will need to pay differing amounts of employer and employee contributions.

This step may also involve filing forms with the home country and registering correctly in the host country. Any mistakes during this procedure can result in your company paying additional fees or fines.


What are the Key Terms to Understand When Dealing with Expat Payroll Management?


There are several different aspects of tax liabilities an expat employee must consider, including:

Country of residence: National taxes are typically paid in the country the employee is currently located in.

Source country: This refers to taxes in whatever location income is earned in.

World Income: When an employee works in two or more countries, taxes may be paid in the country of residence as well as their home country. World income refers to the income an employee earns in every country.

Territoriality: Sometimes, payroll may require partial tax payments in each country where income is earned.

Whichever method is the most effective for you depends location, the employee’s duration overseas, and the potential for existing tax treaties between home and host countries.


What is Shadow Payroll and How Does It Affect Employment Taxes?


Employees, while abroad, may still have to pay taxes in their home country. Alternately, they may pay in their host country to benefit from social security during their posting. This can be difficult while your company’s payroll structure remains purely local.

A shadow payroll arrangement refers to one in which payroll calculations are made in multiple countries at once without the employee’s full salary being overtaxed.

This is typically done through a third-party service provider who can process payroll in another country on your behalf. It requires a clear understanding of tax treaties existing between each countries, as well as how to make use of tax credits and processes.


global expatriate payroll management


Handle Expat Employees Easily with INS Global


Providing safe and speedy payroll for your expat employees doesn’t have to be a convoluted and arduous process. With INS Global you can have a professional team of legal advisors at your side to ensure payroll tax compliance in every country. We keep track of any new developments so that you don’t miss any essential updates or bills passed in your country of operation.

Our PEO and global Employer of Record services are fully equipped to make global expansion easier and safer than ever before. We offer services in more than 80 countries worldwide, and our recruitment, payroll, and HR management will help you enter markets much faster than traditional methods.

Contact us here today for more information.


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