A global mobility program can offer significant value to a company, not only because of the business opportunities it presents, but also because it helps to attract and retain quality talent. However, to remain in compliance with the rules and regulations of various countries, a well-run global mobility program needs accurate, timely administration and bookkeeping. Working with a global compensation services provider offers companies a cost-effective way to gain access to the expertise, manpower and resources needed to maintain centralized, organized payroll and tax reporting.
Today is Part 2 in our series of posts about the services offered by global compensation services providers. Keep checking back to learn more.
Certificate of Coverage
When an employee of a company is sent on an assignment to another country, he or she may be required to pay social security taxes both at the home and host locations—unless those countries have entered into totalization agreements. These are bilateral social security agreements that eliminate dual taxation by assigning coverage to only one of the countries, which is usually the one where the work is being performed. As a result, employees on global assignments and their employers are exempt from having to make social security payments in the other country. Currently, the U.S. has totalization agreements with 26 countries. The certificate of coverage is the document issued by the country that is assigned coverage of the employee’s work.
It’s important to understand social security coverage implications for global assignees. Employers need to be aware of the exact social security regulations of a country before sending employees on assignment, and if applicable, apply for a certificate of coverage before the assignment starts. This will protect both the company and its employees from dual taxation, preventing potential problems with employees who are relying on their employer to manage (or at least inform them about) these matters on their behalf. Moreover, it will safeguard the company from compliance issues.
In general, a certificate of coverage has a duration of five years. However, a country’s social security administration may grant extensions, although there is usually a processing period of four to six weeks involved. Compensation services providers can apply for certificates of coverage on behalf of their clients. In addition, they can help them track expiration dates so there isn’t a lapse of coverage.
For each global assignment, payroll instructions must be developed based on the financial data as detailed in the assignee’s letter of assignment and initial balance sheet. The first objective of these instructions is naturally to ensure that all elements of the assignee’s compensation are accurately incorporated into payroll. The second objective is to make sure that all components are accurately recorded and that necessary withholdings are made and the funds sent to the appropriate governmental bodies—something that can be extremely complicated, depending on the location.
The payroll departments both at home and in the host locations need to receive and understand each assignment's payroll instructions. Some compensation services providers not only prepare payroll instructions, they also provide training on what the content of payroll files should be, as well as what data will be needed for payroll file returns. Instructions regarding payroll reporting can be flexible, with companies receiving instructions for full payroll details per cycle or only updates about any applicable changes.
Payroll reconciliation is necessary to ensure that the payroll instructions are being carried out correctly. It verifies that the amounts are correct and for the appropriate time period, as well as that the monies are being directed to the correct accounts. When this is done by an external company, it’s an additional layer of protection against errors.
During payroll reconciliation, compensation services providers may also collect all payroll detail as a part of the compensation accumulation process.
Compensation accumulation is a critical component of a company’s global mobility reporting. Compensation accumulation is the collection of all assignment-related, off-payroll costs that are made to, or on behalf of, assignees through accounts payable (housing, for example) or finance (taxes). All reports are reconciled to the relevant assignee’s letter of assignment and balance sheet, as well as to company policy.
Compensation accumulation can be very challenging for companies that have assignees in multiple countries. Collecting the required data often involves interacting with multiple locations and departments. It can even involve interacting with service providers to whom a company has outsourced business processes. Nevertheless, it’s important to report all of these expenses accurately to remain compliant.
A compensation services provider collects the reconciled payroll data needed for compensation accumulation on a monthly basis and stores it in a central location. This keeps the process streamlined; plus, it organizes and eliminates the issues that can arise from decentralized, untimely data collection.
Check back next week for Part 3!