How to Pay Overseas Employees in 2024: A Master Guide

How to Pay Overseas Employees in 2024: A Master Guide

How to Pay Overseas Employees in 2024: A Master Guide

November 26, 2023


Picture of INS Global



Picture of INS Global



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Key Takeaways

  1. Choosing to pay overseas employees domestically can be quick but often leads to serious fines or penalties
  2. Collaborating with local payroll entities or third parties in the countries where you operate can help ensure compliance with local regulations thanks to local expertise
  3. An Employer of Record works by becoming the legal employer for your overseas workers through their local structure, thereby providing the day-to-day HR and payroll functions needed to work overseas safely and effectively



Expanding your business internationally is an exciting next step, but it comes with its own unique set of challenges. This is never more true than when it comes to paying overseas employees. Understanding and navigating the intricacies of international salaries and payments can be daunting, but considering your options and working with the right partners can help to streamline the process.

It can be tempting to take the simplest solution in these cases, but without careful consideration, any mistakes can lead to serious fees or penalties, with every country requiring a unique approach. That’s why, in this guide, we will explore various methods for paying employees overseas and delve into the advantages and disadvantages of each.


4 Options for Paying Overseas Employees According to INS Global Payroll Experts


Including Global Employees on Your Domestic Payroll


Some companies choose to forgo the issue and instead include international employees on their domestic payroll. While this simplifies payroll management in the short term, it may not comply with local labor laws and could result in taxation issues, even for remote workers.

In general, this is a potential option only for short-term projects or situations where transferred employees will not be performing profit-making activities in their overseas country, and it’s unlikely this will allow you to pay local or overseas employees from your home country legally.

Long-term use of this option can lead to a range of potential issues, including currency differences affecting the accuracy of payments, having to pay overseas employees more if your domestic minimum wage is higher than that in your country of operation, or employees being subject to double taxation if they overstay tax residency periods.


Compensating Internationally Based Workers as Freelancers


One approach to paying overseas employees is treating them as freelancers. At first glance, this can appear very appealing, as it saves on many employee costs and simplifies the process by reducing it to making an independent contractor work agreement.

However, while this can offer speed and flexibility, it may just as quickly present a range of legal and tax complications.

This method possibly opens up your companies to serious risks if you’re found to have paid overseas employees as contractors. Even huge companies like Nike have been known to fall foul of this problem, being faced with more than half a billion dollars in penalties for potentially misclassifying workers in 2023.

At the same time, freelancers typically lack the benefits and protections that come with traditional employment, which can impact employee satisfaction and retention.


Collaborate with Local Entities or Third Parties for Payroll Integration


Collaborating with local payroll entities or third parties in the countries where you operate can help ensure compliance with local regulations thanks to local expertise. However, without other support this approach can be complex and may require significant coordination and oversight, and it may still not answer all your questions.

This will still typically require employees to be legally employed in the country where they are working, requiring you to go through the hassle of establishing a new company entity.

Even more problematically, mistakes in the process or trusting the wrong service provider can lead to serious data breaches or fines according to data protection laws, such as in the case of British Airways, which suffered serious penalties after their international payroll data was leaked thanks to a third-party provider’s lack of adequate protection. 


Opting for an International Payroll Service


International payroll service providers specialize in managing payments for overseas employees in different countries at once. This can be done in a number of ways, but in general, these services handle compliance, taxation, and currency conversion all through a specialized platform.

However, costs and the potential for miscommunication may be factors to consider. The exact costs and input required from your staff will vary according to the country and your needs, but often, a truly professional service provider can take on the entire range of your payroll functions, handling the entire process for you.

Whenever you are considering this option, taking the time to clearly and fully understand the service agreement is essential to understanding how your responsibilities as an employer may be affected.



Working with a Global Payroll Partner to Pay Overseas Employees in 3 Simple Steps


For companies seeking a comprehensive solution when it’s time to pay overseas employees, working with a global payroll partner can be a way to fulfill every need through a single guaranteed service. The process typically involves:




This step involves evaluating your international payroll needs, including the specific legal and tax considerations of your target country, as well as potential international payroll partners.

There are a number of companies out there who can help you, but taking the time to see their reviews and check their previous customer’s satisfaction rates is essential.




Collaborate with your chosen global payroll partner to come up with a plan that suits your unique needs. Once your global payroll partner understands your needs, they can set up the necessary tailored infrastructure for seamless payroll processing, either through a global PEO (Professional Employer Organisation) or EOR (Employer of Record) structure.


Ongoing Management


With a truly professional global payroll partner, there’s never any fear of changing regulations or scaling issues. Instead, you can benefit from ongoing support and continued finetuning that ensures compliance and accuracy in international payroll. The added protection this will give will have your overseas employees feeling secure and well taken care, boosting satisfaction and productivity.


The Pros and Cons of a Global Payroll Partner for Paying International Salaries




Compliance – Global payroll partners are typically well-versed in international labor laws and tax regulations, ensuring your company stays compliant. The best service providers will also continue to work with you and closely monitor legal changes over the course of your operations, allowing you to scale or pivot without problems.

Efficiency – Streamlined and professional quality processes and centralized management contribute to more efficient payroll operations. With overseas employees in multiple countries, payroll costs can quickly get out of hand. That’s why experienced advisors will also provide all the solutions necessary for overcoming common and uncommon challenges during international expansion.

Time and Cost Mitigation – International payroll services remove the need for local company incorporation, reducing the time to market by weeks or even months. A reliable partner can also help you identify and avoid risks associated with legal and regulatory challenges, meaning you can reduce the possibility of penalties for mistakes.




Cost – Engaging a global payroll partner may involve additional costs, which should be weighed against the benefits. With some service providers, there is also a risk of hidden or unclear fees, meaning it’s crucial that you are sure you’re receiving the right information.

Dependency – Relying on external support may mean less direct control over payroll processes. With the proliferation of new payroll service providers in recent years, this can be particularly dangerous if the service provider does not have the expertise or experience required to handle potential problems.