As a global payroll professional, do you ever find yourself confused when trying to decipher international acronyms, comprehend obscure terminology and decode jargon?  You’re not alone. Add a different language to the mix and understanding payroll can be downright exhausting.

Luckily, there are a few helpful resources.

Knowing global payroll terms may not make you the most interesting person in the room, but it will allow you to be a great resource in your company and among colleagues.

Take our quiz to improve your global payroll prowess and then familiarize yourself with the resources we’ve compiled. How many terms can you get right?


  1. Salary sacrifice
    a) The reduction in salary for a voluntary absence from work of a week or more.
    b) A short-term sacrifice of salary for the promise of higher salary later.
    c) Inclusion of employee benefits in an employee remuneration package in exchange for giving up part of monetary salary.
    d) A ceremony where your boss takes away your salary, striking fear into the heart of your co-workers, who will work doubly hard to ensure this doesn’t happen to them.
  2. Salaire brut
    a) A dry Champagne shared by miners around Easter in the salt-mines of Brittany in northern France.
    b) Net salary or the compensation received by an employee after taxes, deductions, insurance premiums or other withholdings.
    c) Gross salary or the compensation received by an employee before taxes, deductions, insurance premiums or other withholdings.
    d) The median biweekly salary received by employees in a certain job.
  3. Aguinaldo
    a) An annual Christmas bonus that businesses are required by law to pay to employees.
    b) Someone who performs work for cash wages.
    c) Someone who is subject to register with the social security office.
    d) Number of normal hours and overtime worked by employees.
  4. Redundancy
    a) When an employee is fired for underperforming.
    b) When an employer doesn’t need an employee’s job to be done by anyone.
    c) The transfer of an employee from one position to another position.
    d) When an employee is fired for repeating the definition of redundancy over and over and over.
  5. Lakh
     a) A unit equal to 100,000.
     b) A unit equal to 10 million.
     c) The second most common currency in Bangladesh.
     d) A large freshwater lake in the Scottish Highlands.



  1. C. Also known as salary packaging or salary exchange. The term is commonly used in countries like Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
  2. C. Common term In French. Used in countries like Canada, France, Belgium and Luxembourg. Salaire net, or net salary, is defined as income after deductions or answer B.
  3. A. Countries like Mexico, Uruguay, Argentina, Costa Rica and Brazil all require a Christmas bonus, called aguinaldo.
  4. B. While not especially common in the U.S., the term is widely used in countries like Australia, Ireland, Sweden, Hong Kong, Sierra Leone and the U.K.
  5. A. A lakh is a unit equal to 100,000 and is commonly used in countries like Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. A crore is a unit equal to 10 million, or answer B.

    These questions and answers highlight several international payroll terms that may confound a payroll novice or U.S. payroll professional, but there are countless others.

    For example, acronyms run amok in the global payroll arena. Here are some popular acronyms:

    COLA: Cost-of-living adjustment used for international compensation provided to expatriate employees to cover the excess cost of everyday living expenses in a foreign location. 

    CPP: Canada Pension Plan. Employers must withhold CPP contributions for employees ages 18 to 70, who are in pensionable employment and not disabled, and remit them to the Canada Revenue Agency. Employers also must contribute an amount equal to their employees.

    FICA: Federal Insurance Contributions Act. A law that requires employers to withhold taxes from wages paid to employees. U.S. citizens or resident aliens who work abroad may be required to pay FICA taxes under the laws of the country where they work.

    HMRC: Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the U.K. authority that is responsible for the collection of income tax and national insurance contributions. The department also is responsible for enforcing the national minimum wage. 

    NICs: National Insurance Contributions. These social insurance contributions are paid in the U.K. by employees and employers on earnings. Contributions are collected by the HMRC through the Pay As You Earn system.

    WPS: Wage Protection System. An electronic salary-transfer system that allows institutions to pay wages through  banks that are authorized to provide the service. Used in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

    Don’t see a term here that you need help with? Try researching payroll terms in French, Spanish and Chinese

    You also can find payroll terms in English in the Bloomberg BNA Decision Support Network’s Glossary of Payroll Terms

    If you’re still stumped by an international payroll term or acronym, drop us a line. We’re all always looking to making payroll easier to understand.  

Take a free trial to Bloomberg BNA’s  International Payroll Decision Support Network, your one-stop resource for reliable, up-to-date guidance and analysis in every area of payroll administration and compliance.      

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Follow Molly Ward on Twitter at @mollyalisonward.