Among the greatest challenges facing managers of mobile employees and business travelers, three stand tall: remaining compliant with ever-changing visa/immigration laws, accurately tracking days in specific locations for tax purposes, and the ability to contact expatriate employees in the event of emergency. We are proud to announce the first app to simplify and streamline all three, the Weichert Global Organizer.
This app improves visa/tax compliance by tracking time in each location, alerting the employee and HR of pending tax or immigration events—such as visa renewal or days in a certain jurisdiction triggering tax liability. These features allow HR managers to be proactive, rather than reactive, to any concerns. Further, at tax time, all of the critical data that the employee and company need for filing and reporting is easily accessible in one place.
Additionally, in the event of an emergency, the app empowers HR managers to instantly locate their employees at any point on the globe, alert them to danger and, if necessary, evacuate them to a place of safety.
The Weichert Global Organizer represents a quantum improvement in managing these processes for today’s companies, many of which rely on a corporate travel agent or a tax provider for this information. But these solutions have limitations; travel agency data merely suggests that someone bought a ticket, not that they actually traveled, nor does it indicate a traveler’s precise location. This would not meet the IRS’s requirement that companies have an adequate process to track their employees. Likewise, Big Four firms usually bundle their trackers with larger advisory services and they do not include integrated immigration or duty of care.
Simply put, today’s companies need a better way to keep track of their entire globally mobile population, where they are going and what they are doing. That’s why we developed the Weichert Global Organizer. In detail, here’s what it tracks:
global taxation: through direct link to their phones’ GPS system, the app tracks the time employees spend in country and monitors it against local, federal and state compliance requirements, and provides alerts to potential compliance issues.
visa/immigration: the app monitors employees’ time in country against visa and immigration requirements, providing renewal reminders and live alerts of potential infringements.
emergency communication: when emergencies unfold, the app instantly pinpoints your global assignees and travelers and allows you to transmit instant safety alerts.
Commuter assignments have grown dramatically as the speed of business accelerates. Although these assignments offer greater agility in meeting the talent needs of the organization, they are not without some challenges that should be considered when implementing or developing a policy to manage mobility in this way.
Stress and fatigue suffered by the employee and the strain on personal relationships are cited as the top disadvantages to this variety of assignment, as are lost productivity and travel time. These may be particularly acute in the United States and Asia where the distances to the assigned location are great.
Alarmingly, despite their more widespread use, most companies do not have a policy for commuter assignments. Experience indicates that without a policy and ownership of that policy, there is little tracking done and, therefore, significant compliance risks associated with the tax and immigration issues. With employees crossing back and forth between borders, companies need to ensure that the proper tax procedure is in place, and that each jurisdiction is paid its appropriate taxes. In addition, employers must guarantee that employees have the appropriate work permits.
Weichert Relocation Resources is surveying corporate relocation and HR professionals to learn how they are using alternatives to traditional international assignments, identify best practices around these alternatives, and provide valuable data that companies can use to benchmark their own programs and optimize effectiveness of their workforce mobility strategies. Over 120 companies from across the world have offered their insight to this landmark study–and there’s still time to add yours!
Our preliminary results indicate that:
• 74% of respondents say they use alternative assignments because they allow them to respond quickly to the needs of business units, which typically want their talent in place “yesterday.” 56% say they let them address the talent needs around specific projects. And 44% say they support company-specific objectives. Only 34% indicate that they are using alternative assignments to “accommodate employee-specific situations.”
Results of our 2011 Mobility and the Current Real Estate Market survey indicate that more companies are providing alternatives to home sale for employees who are reluctant or can’t afford to relocate due to significant potential loss-on-sale or negative equity. One such option is a commuter assignment.
Of course, commuter assignments bring a host of questions. For one thing, if a candidate decides to retain her departure residence and commute, it’s fair to ask exactly how vested she is in the new opportunity and what (if any) additional costs may be incurred to retain/maintain her home. Additionally, long term commuters may experience significant “qualify of life” issues that could lead to increased turnover or impact productivity. And if the employee changes his or her primary residence (i.e., by renting the departure home), there will be tax implications.
That said, many companies are accommodating the most desired candidates by offering commuter packages. In these situations, a lump sum in lieu of traditional benefits (i.e., a one time lump sum of $4,500) will help the employee cover tax ramifications, property management and/or commuting costs. The employee would retain “homeowner” status for his or her next relocation(assuming there is a difference between renter and homeowner benefits) and be eligible for home sale benefits on that move (when the market improves and they can recoup their desired sales price).
As examples, one company we researched will, on an exception basis, provide a rental subsidy—-up to three years and in lieu of any homesale benefits—-if the employee chooses not to sell at this time (because of negative equity/loss on sale). The amount of this allowance is based on corporate housing/temporary living costs at the new location. Another company lets employees retain their old home and rent in the new location but doesn’t subsidize duplicate housing or rental costs. This company has a select group of employees (mostly field salespeople from PA to CA) for whom they pay the difference between the old home mortgage and new home rent over 3 years at 90%, 80% and 60%.
We also uncovered a few examples of a “Living Away From Home Allowance” (LAHA). One is used as an alternative to a reimbursement situation and the allowance is created individually based on the demographics and destination of the assignment. The other provides an additional LAHA allowance to offset some of the costs of maintaining the departure residence, assuming there will be additional expenses incurred while the assignee is on assignment (i.e., lawn care, snow removal, trash pick up, etc).
For more information on Commuter Assignments and LAHA, feel free to contact our consulting group.