The Definitive Online Guide to Evaluating Mobility Tax Providers

The globalization of businesses is continuing to grow, which is fueling the need for international talent.

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Global Expansion Demands
Tax Expertise in Mobility

Moving workers overseas comes with exponential requirements— including the need to address tax, legal, and immigration issues. Managing and addressing these requirements demands an intense focus on developing an international mobile employee program; however, building an effective and compliant program requires the help of a mobility tax provider with a unique combination of responsiveness, exceptional global expertise, and a practical approach to your business. Devising a mobility program that aligns with business policies and global expansion while managing exposure and risk is essential.

Mobility tax providers are experts who can help your business navigate the challenges and capitalize on the opportunities of having a global presence. No matter if you are at the beginning stages of expanding across borders or if you have a well-established program already in place, a mobility tax provider is essential for any multinational business. Such a provider can present ways to manage costs more efficiently and mitigate risks your company and employees are likely facing.

Evaluating various mobility tax providers and matching their qualifications with your business needs can be a challenging process. Beyond the fees on any request for proposal, you should assess the true value of your relationship with your global mobility provider—ultimately, how responsive is the provider to your business’s mobility needs and how much value can they provide your organization?

 

What to Look for When Evaluating
Global Mobility Tax Firms

There are many different types of firms that can help develop an organization’s mobility program. Finding one that is right for you and your mobile employees is essential to the success of your program.

Your provider should focus on giving personal attention to their clients—more specifically, responsive and highly experienced attention that provides actionable insights. Likewise, businesses should be wary about engaging tax firms that may not have the expertise and industry longevity to provide high value and the ability to mitigate the risks associated with a mobility tax program. If you’re looking for the right firm for your organization, consider the following suggestions for evaluating providers.

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Chapter 1

Ensure the Right Level of Global Coverage

Businesses with mobile employees should ensure their mobility tax firm is able to provide local, national, and global coverage by partnering with tax firms that meet your unique needs.

Many global networks have member firms that are strong in some countries, but not others. Your mobility tax firm should have the global reach you need and the flexibility to work with the tax vendor in each location that is right for you. A mobility tax firm that has the ability to work with foreign offices, regardless of their brand, has the added benefit of being able to choose which foreign office they work with based on your needs. This means that if you are not getting the level of service you expect from, for example, the Netherlands office, your provider can use a different office in the Netherlands to ensure you always get the level of service you need and deserve.

Ensure the provider you work with has experience in and access to offices in all the countries you operate or plan to operate in.

Chapter 2

Make Sure Your Business Needs Are the Priority

Your global mobility tax provider should have an approach that is tailored to your business and aligns with your specific needs.

Ask yourself these questions to determine how well your mobility tax provider aligns with your needs:

  • How responsive is my provider to my questions?
  • How quickly do they return phone calls and emails?
  • Is my account representative able to provide timely answers and guidance, or do they have to run my questions up the chain of command?

Some businesses find that working with a firm that focuses on clients with very large mobility programs results in those with smaller mobility programs taking a back seat, with those smaller program clients not receiving the attention and responsiveness that is required for them to be effective in their global operations.

Additionally, a mobility tax provider should be able to provide timely answers to your questions. They should be well versed in your account and know the specific details of your program—an experienced tax manager understands your challenges and questions and should provide you with both technical expertise and practical options for how to handle the situation.

If you get the feeling that you are a “small fish in a big pond,” or if you don’t get the level of proactive and personalized service you expect, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate your mobility tax provider and find one that aligns with your specific business needs.

Subpar attention to global mobility programs can be addressed by having another global mobility provider perform an independent program review. Using a holistic and comprehensive approach, they can review items including business traveler risk and trailing equity. By seeking out an independent review, your business receives a second opinion of the quality of services and level of value you are receiving from your current provider.

Chapter 3

Insist on Experience

Look for firms that offer accessible teams with senior experience.

Ensure your internal team members, both the professionals who run the program and the employees you are sending cross-borders, are provided with contacts who can quickly and easily answer any questions they have. GTN’s account managers, for example, generally have decades of industry experience—and many have foundational experience that was gained in earlier careers working at large firms.

"I have over 15 years of mobility tax experience in multiple countries serving many industries. The depth and breadth of my professional experience is not unique at Global Tax Network—diversity of thought and diversity of experience is common here. Many of our team leads have 15, 20, or more years of mobility tax experience and they are able to provide both the technical requirements as well as the practical guidance our clients expect."

- Mark Tirpak, GTN Managing Director

With this account structure, clients have direct access to experienced individuals who can provide insightful and actionable answers to their questions so they can get back to the many other tasks their job entails. If you find yourself waiting days or even weeks to get a response to seemingly simple questions, it may be because your main contact simply doesn’t have the depth of knowledge 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. Associates who do not have the experience or wherewithal to provide specific guidance to clients must request the insight of their senior supervisor. This takes time. Insist that your account manager has years of experience and can answer your questions without the need for multiple touchpoints or back-and-forth clarification.

Chapter 4

Have the Right Tools to Meet Your Business Goals

Make sure any firm you work with places emphasis on providing solutions rather than selling large-scale, high-priced technology platforms with features you may not need or use.

Look for a firm that leverages technology to fulfill business goals but also focuses on providing advice based on your specific business needs. Your organization may find value in a firm that is agile enough to work as an extension of your employees and other strategic vendors, providing tax services that take into consideration business implications beyond tax parameters.

Additionally, technology solutions are often cost-prohibitive for companies with small populations of mobile employees. These businesses would be best served by firms that provide value-added, efficient insight. Be cautious about trying to replace expert guidance and smart, efficient processes with flashy technology.

Technology is an important tool that can and should enhance your global mobility program, but don’t forget that simple human interaction is what provides you with the proactive, actionable advice that will keep you ahead of any issues.

Chapter 5

Look for Value, Not Just the Lowest Cost

Choose a global mobility tax firm that has the capacity and skill set to work as an extension of your mobility team.

This includes not only the mobility manager and mobile employees but also the extended vendor team, including payroll providers, relocation providers, and immigration firms. Clients face challenges along the global mobility journey that may be outside the scope of services one single vendor can manage. By working with a firm that works strategically with your other vendors, you can often realize additional cost savings and added value.

For example, your payroll department may face challenges with payroll tax for mobile employees, and they will require tax guidance. The right mobility tax provider will not only prepare tax returns but also act as an educator to help their clients navigate these peripheral challenges. They provide more value because they give actionable data and advice that can be used to make decisions. It is not just a matter of an organization making its decision based on the fees they pay for tax return preparation; it is much more beneficial to gauge the overall value received by working with a firm that will guide its clients through the entire process.

Additionally, be wary of firms that overemphasize low compliance fees. To understand your total actual costs, you need to understand the whole billing process—both compliance fees and rates for hourly consulting work. To offset artificially low compliance fees, some firms will charge significantly higher fees for consulting services, resulting in a higher overall cost to the client. When comparing fees for services, it is important to look at the cost of compliance items such as individual tax returns or obtaining a Certificate of Coverage, but it is equally important to understand the hourly rates that will be charged for consulting services because those fees can add up quickly. Request an estimate of the anticipated actual number of hours your program is likely to incur for consulting advisory work, and keep that number in mind when you evaluate firms.

Chapter 6

Require a Single Point of Contact

Don’t accept a provider that requires you to have a separate contact for each individual need you may have.

Why should companies with global employees have to have a separate contact that manages their equity or payroll needs? Clients should not be burdened with communicating the same message multiple times to their provider’s various departments.

A firm focused on mobility tax manages all of this on behalf of their clients, thus ensuring
a consistent and accurate flow of information. Companies with globally mobile employees should insist on this level of service.

Chapter 7

Watch out for Difficulties with Offshoring Tax Compliance Services

Large, corporate accounting firms generally offshore their tax preparation tasks to service centers in other countries, such as India.

Unfortunately, this results in the primary compliance team being unfamiliar and unengaged with the specific tax situations of its mobility clients. Response timeliness is also impacted because time zone differences between the compliance team and US coordination team cause unnecessary delays and an additional management burden. For example, rather than spending time on value-added client work, senior professionals may be compelled to address management tasks such as global coordination for the purpose of outsourcing compliance work.

Chapter 8

The Evaluation Process

Global expansion requires the evaluation and engagement of a global mobility tax provider.

The stakeholders involved in the decision-making process should include the team that manages the day-to-day development of policies, management, and reporting of mobile employees, and this often falls to the human resources department. As an organization moves forward with evaluating a global mobility tax partner, finance, payroll, equity, and corporate tax should also be brought in to validate and evaluate a provider. Before sending an employee on a cross-border assignment, download this checklist. It illustrates why hiring the right provider is essential for any mobility program, and it will help to identify many of the tasks that you need to think about as you start the evaluation process.

Businesses new to international expansion or those building up their mobility programs should consider the following when evaluating a mobility tax provider.

  • Does your organization have the internal skill set and capacity to run a successful mobility program?

  • Does your organization have internal resources with the knowledge, experience, and tools to effectively complete the specific tasks related to globally mobile employees?

  • If internal resources are available, do they have the time and capacity to handle the anticipated volume and workload?

  • Is the activity a strategic or critical business need that should not be handled by a third- party vendor? Would it be less expensive to hire additional internal resources than to outsource to a third-party vendor, considering salary, benefits, training, and other employee costs?

  • Could outsourcing negatively impact employee morale or company culture?

Chances are, unless you have a very large internal team dedicated specifically to your mobility tax program, you will find immediate and significant value in working with an outside mobility tax services firm.

Businesses that are not satisfied with their current global mobility provider should ask the following questions when evaluating a new provider:

  • What is the experience level of your primary day-to-day contact? It makes a significant difference to have access to seasoned providers who bring years of experience to the table when clients have questions and require a prompt response.

  • How responsive is your current provider? Do they respond to emails or voicemails within one business day? Two? More?

  • Does your day-to-day contact approach everything from a US-centric standpoint, or do they have a truly global mindset?

  • How many countries does your current provider work with? Have they dealt with other countries so they can address and handle questions rather than constantly reaching out to the foreign office, which slows response time?

  • What are your main business needs? Better customer experience? More transparent pricing? More experienced/responsive contacts? More reasonable technology? Make a list and ensure each of your main needs is being met.

Mobility tax providers are experts who will help your business navigate the challenges associated with your global mobility program. The mobility provider you ultimately select should enhance your mobility program by simplifying the process to ensure a seamless experience for you and your mobile employees.

Chapter 9

About Global Tax Network (GTN)

GTN provides mobility tax services and solutions.

We understand how difficult managing a global mobility program can be. You want to be confident and in control, and in order to do that, you need a trusted partner to help with the tax issues related to mobile employees and business travelers—both domestic and international. The problem is the complexity of global tax laws, which can leave you feeling stressed and overwhelmed. We believe you already have a lot on your plate and you shouldn’t have to become a global tax expert, which is why we help you navigate mobility tax laws in more than 100 countries.

Schedule a call so you can stop feeling overwhelmed and instead have peace of mind about your mobility tax program.

SCHEDULE A CALL

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