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Global payroll management for mobile employees

Building a strong international payroll foundation from the ground up

One of the many challenges facing companies as they work to create the organization of the future is how to structure and manage the payroll function for an increasingly global and mobile workforce. We outline five steps for achieving this critical goal.

Global payroll challenges for a mobile workforce

Payroll reporting and delivery is one of the most visible and complex operational processes for global organizations, and staying on top of international payroll laws is an ongoing challenge. As companies move towards a more mobile workforce, the complexities of managing an international payroll are further compounded, including:

  • Ever-changing, external global payroll and tax, and payroll compliance environment
  • Organizational operational efficiency to achieve cost optimization
  • Varying human resource information systems (HRIS)/payroll technology platforms and capabilities around the world
  • Increased demand for centralized financial transparency by the business
  • A cultural shift toward enhancing the employee experience

Adding to the argument for planning and acting now is a concept that is growing in popularity and likely here to stay: the “point of no return” in which countries are moving away from traditional annual tax returns in favor of real-time payroll reporting. And let’s not forget the passage of US tax reform legislation. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act repeals, replaces, and alters a number of longstanding provisions for employers, creating a host of new issues as employees work to understand, evaluate, and comply with new tax law.

Steps for building an international payroll model

In this perspective, we share some of the key strategic challenges organizations may face in designing an effective mobile payroll operational model and propose strategies for addressing them. We break the process down into five essential steps and then tackle each one by focusing on the three I’s: issue, impact, and idea.

Laying a strong foundation for a mobile international payroll

Rather than spending time and money on cleanup, corrections, and noise control, global organizations need to design a comprehensive mobile employee payroll model that focuses on minimizing the downstream impacts like payroll compliance risk, increased operational spend, and lack of transparency.

In subsequent installments of our mobile employee payroll operations series, we’ll talk more about preparing your organization for the “point of no return” through vehicles such as cooperative compliance agreements. And we’ll examine the future possibilities in a digital payroll world—cognitive technologies, robotics, artificial intelligence, and more—and the potential implications on organizations and their mobile employees.


Meet the authors

Katie Heath
Tax managing director
Global Employer Services
Laura Edell
Tax principal
Global Employer Services


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