3 Payroll Factors Are Critical For Overseas Assignments

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To successfully apply a payroll program for overseas employees, three primary assignment features need to be identified, said David Leboff, president of Expaticore, a third-party aggregator of expatriate and host-country payroll services.

The three features are the length of the assignment, the type of compensation policy to be applied and the appropriate payroll setup.

If the payroll component is incorrectly implemented, assignment costs can greatly outpace what it would cost to employ workers domestically, Leboff said April 21 at the Charm City Payroll Association's annual conference in Lithicum, Md. When managed correctly, employers should expect expenses for expatriates to be about double the expenses for domestic employees, he said.

Assignments may be grouped for those working overseas for up to three months, three months to a year, one year to three years and at least three years. Each group has unique requirements that need to be identified and applied for payroll, including treaty provisions; foreign-earned income credit; requirements for in-country benefits, such as housing; payments made via foreign exchange rates and ensuring that expatriates' net pay seems similar to net pay in the home country, Leboff said.

To succeed, appropriate program oversight is a team effort that should include the payroll department, Leboff said. Governance should deal with expatriate and tax policy development. If payroll is saddled with a policy issue, those in payroll should send the issue to the governance team for a solution, he said.

By Michael Baer