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5 Questions to Ask Yourself to Ensure You're Working with the Right Mobility Tax Provider

    

Employees working together

It happens all the time. Your company has a mobile workforce spread out over multiple jurisdictions, and you realize you need help with the mobility tax complexities that come with having employees working outside their usual work location. So, you reach out to a well-known large accounting firm offering an impressive list of services, technology, and experts, and who may already be doing your corporate tax work. You know they can handle the number of mobile employees you have, and you’re pretty sure they won’t mess things up because they’ve been doing this for decades. But somewhere along the line you realize this provider may be a bit too big for you and you aren’t getting the high-level of service you expected.

It’s not unusual for a company with a small or mid-sized mobility program to feel like they are “a small fish in a big pond.” That’s because they often are. Large firms providing mobility tax services tend to prioritize their largest clients, which often means clients with smaller programs don’t receive the timely and proactive attention they need to successfully manage their mobile workforce on a daily basis.

Do you receive the responsive, actionable advice you need to quickly respond to the complexities your company is facing? Do you receive proactive guidance for issues you didn’t know you had? Do you wish you were receiving a more personalized approach to your specific mobility situations? The answers to these questions should help you determine if you really are a small fish in too large of a pond.

Are you getting the actionable advice you deserve?

Situation: Many providers tend to take a “we’ve seen it all before” approach when it comes to offering advice to their small to mid-sized mobility clients. They have a bundle of standard services that they offer other companies in your situation, and they may not look at the unique challenges you are facing. While this “cookie-cutter approach” can provide a quick solve for typical challenges seen within mobility tax programs, it can also create gaps within your specific program and leave you with many unanswered questions.

Oftentimes it also leads to your provider being unfamiliar with your needs and unengaged at a time when you need answers quickly. You shouldn’t have to chase down answers to your questions and concerns; your tax services provider should anticipate the difficulties you might face and be ready with timely solutions to help
mitigate risks.

Right-Fit Solution: Instead, what you need is a mobility tax provider that is the right fit for your company and will act as your partner and as an extension of your mobility team. One that is actively looking to simplify your mobility program and keep you in the loop when it comes to decision-making. This allows you and your company to act with confidence when addressing the tax issues that inevitably arise when you have a mobile or remote workforce, and to have answers ready when upper management questions why a course of action was chosen.

Most mobility tax providers will keep on top of the compliance issues you face and be ready to help. However, finding a firm that takes the time to explain those issues and provide the steps you should take to address those challenges comes only with finding a provider that is the right fit for your mobility program. One that is willing to take that extra time to be your guide and walk you through how each challenge directly affects your program and mobile employees.

Are your compliance teams and program managers working together?

Situation: Some large mobility tax providers outsource tasks, such as the processing of tax returns for mobile employees, to service centers in places like India. While this often reduces the quoted cost for tax returns, it also leaves a disconnect between your mobile employees and the team that is processing their returns. If special circumstances arise, your employees may not be able to directly contact the team processing their returns.

Another issue created by international outsourcing is that it often leaves you in a different time zone from your compliance team. This means any requests you make are unlikely to garner a same-day response. Matters requiring back-and-forth discussions can take several days to resolve and will usually require multiple touch points on the provider side.

Right-Fit Solution: Utilizing a mobility tax provider that doesn’t outsource the compliance process gives your company the benefit of working with a single team in one location who fully understands the specific tax situations faced by both your company and your mobile employees. They will provide you with a single point of contact who can address all issues that might come up.

Working with a single team that handles both tax return compliance and program management ensures your mobility tax provider understands the intricacies of your program and allows them the ability to provide you with cost saving ideas based on your unique situations. It also provides you and your mobile employees a better overall experience through timely and actionable guidance that helps ease confusion.

Are your issues being resolved in a timely manner?

Situation: When you have a mobility tax question, it may take days to get an answer from a large provider. Why? Your main point of contact may simply not have the depth of knowledge and experience to provide you with an answer without going to their superiors. Often, the main point of contact is an associate with only 3-4 years of experience, and they likely need to request the insight of their senior supervisor who may not know the intricacies of your program. This takes time to get them up to speed so they can provide the answers and guidance you need.

Does your provider spend valuable time getting others on their team up to speed with your company and tax situation? Are there delays because junior staff members need upper management to sign off on advice? Do you find yourself constantly chasing your tax contact to respond? You are paying a lot of money for services, and you deserve timely and actionable responses to your questions.

Right-Fit Solution: Working with a mobility tax provider that is the right fit for your company, one that assigns you experienced professionals and a dedicated team, ensures you will receive actionable advice in a timely manner. This also ensures their entire team will be well versed in the specifics of your situation, minimizing downtime when your contacts are out of the office. This allows for more timely responses when it comes to providing your company with the technical expertise and practical advice to address your issues.

Are all of your mobility providers working together?

Situation: Your mobility program, no matter the size, requires more than just mobility tax assistance. It requires the support and services from relocation providers, immigration firms, payroll providers, and other strategic vendors. And while these service providers handle different aspects of your mobility program, they are all interlinked. However, many times a large-scale mobility tax services provider doesn’t try to collaborate with your other vendors to find solutions best suited for your program. Does your provider work with your relocation management company to try to come up with cost saving ideas for your program? Do they work with your payroll provider on best ways to handle certain situations?

Right-Fit Solution: A mobility tax provider should not only address your tax issues but should also help you come up with ways to reduce costs and act as your educator for other challenges that can arise in your mobility program. You will realize many benefits by working with a provider that actively collaborates with your extended vendor team, including cost saving initiatives in different aspects of your program, reduced time in explaining the same information across multiple vendors, and strategic guidance and best practice ideas for ways to handle different areas of your program. The right provider should operate as an extension of your mobility team to help resolve problems and guide decisions.

Does your mobility tax services firm give actionable advice, or simply provide reports?

Situation: Large accounting firms come with large-scale technology platforms. These platforms have powerful analytics and software solutions that seemingly provide you with the most up-to-date information in a variety of formats. But how much of that information do you need? How much of it do you use? Does the ability to quickly look at a report provide you with the actionable advice that you need to become compliant, or does it become just one more weekly report that gets filed away?

While technology and information are certainly needed, large-scale technology platforms don’t always fit the actual requirements of some mobility programs. Additionally, such technology solutions can be cost-prohibitive for companies with a smaller population of mobile employees.

Right-Fit Solution: Your mobility tax provider should use technology to help guide you in making the right decisions for your mobility program. What good is a multi-page report of analytics if you don’t know what to do with the information? Make sure your provider has a technology platform robust enough to support your mobility program, but one that will also provide meaningful results and actionable guidance to support you and your mobile employees. You should never need to worry that your provider is trying to upsell you on technology you don’t need and won’t use.

Is it time to look for a new mobility tax services provider?

If you recognize your situation in some of the illustrations above, it might be time to find your company a new mobility tax services provider—one that is responsive to your questions and concerns and offers solutions addressing the specific needs of your company. Look for a provider that will act as an extension of your mobility team. You and your company deserve to be treated better than “a small fish in a large pond.”

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Author Mark Tirpak

 
Mark is Managing Director for GTN's South region. He has over 20 years of professional experience in advising multinational companies on global mobility related issues, including expatriate taxation, payroll, equity compensation planning, international assignment policy review, and program administration. Having been an expat himself enhanced his desire to assist and help simplify the process for assignees who are overseas. +1.713.244.5020 | mtirpak@gtn.com
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