What you need to know about paying wages to overseas employees

Making the most of global talent

The world of remote work has brought companies access to a global talent pool – but many don’t know the ins and outs of paying wages to overseas employees. What payroll changes should they make? Do they need to have an international entity set-up?

In a growing trend, 32 per cent of companies now hire on skills rather than proximity to their office. This has opened up opportunities for new and current workers to live overseas. When paying remote workers abroad, companies need to plan and manage their international payroll to comply with local laws, maximise efficiency, and protect their employees.

What options are there for paying employees abroad?

In today’s working world, companies look to overseas talent to increase hiring opportunities, find skills, and get ahead of the competition. But global payroll can bring challenges.

The most crucial aspect to get right is compliance. You need to make sure to comply with all local legislation and payroll onboarding processes – many countries have unique laws to navigate. For example, annual salaries in Spain are split into 14 instalments, while Dutch employees receive a 13th-month salary each year.

Failing to meet these requirements can bring severe penalties. So, what are the options for paying overseas employees?

Register a local legal entity

The first solution on our list is for a company to register a local legal entity. Simply put, they open an arm of their business in the foreign country where workers are based.

This is often the most comprehensive option, but is not without its complexities. It’s usually opted for by large international companies looking to hire many employees in that country – with the resources to handle any administrative obstacles along the way.

A company registering a local legal entity will need to:

  • Open bank accounts in the new country
  • Open the entity according to all local rules and regulations
  • Check their existing payroll system is usable for that country – if not, set up a new one
  • Hire local staff – and fully register new and existing worker(s) on the company’s payroll

This option can give companies a permanent, established presence. For companies just starting to hire in foreign markets, this is likely to be complex. That’s especially true if you only intend on hiring a small number of overseas employees in that country. In that case, you might turn to an expansion expert for local guidance.

Use an employer of record

To build a global team without the hassle, many companies turn to an Employer of Record (EoR). An EoR is a partner with an established presence across many countries. They comply with local laws and understand the unique challenges in each country. When working with an EOR, companies take advantage of their local knowledge of employment legislation, payroll, and HR compliance.

The EoR can employ local talent on your behalf – allowing you to employ workers internationally before setting up your own legal entity in that country. No local knowledge required, no red tape. Not only is using an EoR usually the most time and cost-effective choice, but it also gives you access to local experts who comply with all applicable regulations.

Use independent contractors

The third option is to hire independent contractors instead of full-time employees. This can be the simplest solution, if the circumstances are right, allowing you to agree a fee with a worker and pay them per project. Be careful that you have correctly classified the employee – hiring full-time employees as independent contractors can have serious consequences in many countries.

When working with contractors, you receive flexibility in return for limited control. This is a good option for small companies looking for casual or infrequent overseas workers – there’s no employment relationship, so both sides have minimum protections and maximum flexibility.

Which option is the best for me?

Every business has its own unique circumstances and there will be pros and cons for each potential option – this should be considered carefully on a case-by-case basis.

  • Opening a legal entity is often a great option for large businesses looking to establish a presence in a country while hiring many workers. Different countries bring different challenges, so this may be easier in some places over others. It should be seen as part of a global expansion project rather than a quick way to pay employees abroad. Smaller businesses can also reap the benefits of opening their own entity if they use the services of a global expansion provider.
  • Working with an EoR ican benefit small-medium businesses looking to hire international employees, especially those lacking the local knowledge or time to carry out necessary administrative tasks. However, it can suit businesses of any size depending on the circumstances. It’s suitable for companies hiring in new markets, looking for quick onboarding, and aiming to keep things simple.
  • Using independent contractors is usually best for very casual working relationships. This might be a temporary or freelance position, typically paid by the day or hour. When hiring contractors, you should be careful not to accidentally stray into a relationship that could construe the worker as a full-time employee.

Each of these arrangements places different responsibilities on the business and it’s advisable to get professional advice when making a decision.

How do overseas employees pay tax?

Tax laws vary. In some countries, employees are responsible for declaring and paying their own taxes. In others, the company will deduct and manage taxes before they pay employees.

How do I pay an overseas employee?

The best way to pay overseas workers depends on your requirements. To create the proper structure, you can follow these steps.

1. Decide on your international payroll model

Does a legal entity, EoR, or contractor arrangement work best for you? Once you’ve assessed your model, you’ll have an idea of how to pay overseas employees.

2. Classify your employees correctly

Misclassification of employees can bring massive consequences – so make sure that any arrangements you make with employees are suitable. It’s especially important to do this with contractors as the legislation of many countries, such as the UK’s IR35 law, distinguishes strongly between contractors and employees.

3. Look after employees

The wellbeing of your overseas employees is always paramount. Make sure they receive payments correctly and, on time. Always communicate clearly any changes to their expectations – if they’re unhappy or worse off than they would be on a home-country payroll, they may begin to look elsewhere.

4. Ensure ongoing compliance with local laws

Once your plan is established, you should continue to comply on an ongoing basis with all laws. When paying international employees, keep a constant eye on any developments to local employment laws and adjust your payroll processes accordingly.

Simplify the overseas payroll process

When paying wages to overseas employees, you have various options. If the conditions are right, you can open a legal entity in that country, work with an experienced local partner, or use contractors. Companies looking to grow their international team without the hassle should consider working with an established EoR. Contact Mauve today to learn more about paying employees abroad simply and quickly.

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