In my prior blog, I emphasised the criticality for mobility professionals to support the health and welfare of their mobile employees and accompanying dependents. Mobility must play a key role in crisis contingency planning and ensuring tools and procedures are in place to efficiently track, monitor and communicate.
Short term travel and new assignments may have virtually ground to a halt, but many organisations still have significant employee populations deployed overseas, waiting for better days and a semblance of normal life to return. Which is why duty of care remains top priority for many companies.
At the same time, it's critical that mobility remains focused on compliance outcomes - both in the near term, as well as preparing for greater scrutiny in the longer term, once the rebound comes.
Near-Term Compliance - Pragmatic Outcomes
These are unprecedented times and Governments are taking bold steps to protect individual's livelihoods and businesses. Pragmatic compliance measures have been introduced to automatically extend work and residence permits, tax filings, or payment deadlines. These are hugely welcomed and provide important relief in the near-term.
But a great number of new compliance challenges await. For example, assignees may now be triggering tax thresholds they otherwise wouldn't have, had they been able to return home when planned. Immigration visa extensions may be automatic today, but will the measures adopted by some organisations, such as wage reductions or applying furlough status, potentially impact their right to work status in the future?
The simple answer is that we just don't know how authorities across the world will address these matters when the time comes. It isn't their current focus - and rightly so - but it is critical to be on mobility's radar right so they're prepared when that time comes.
It is also important for mobility to track and maintain clear visibility of key expiry (or extended) dates - including:
- Work authorisation and residence permit coverage
- Social security exemption coverage
- Days spent in various countries or jurisdictions
- Sourcing of associated earnings
Capturing, retaining and making accessible this detail, along with supporting documentation will be important to the business or assignee to formally complete their compliance registrations or filing obligations that were paused during the shutdown, or, for example, to help justify individual case claims with the authorities. Mobility needs to prepare for the potential significant workload and advisory fees.
The Rebound - Compliance Revenues
Many national economies are still dealing with debt flowing from the 2008 financial crisis. 2020 will only significantly add to this burden. Ultimately the ‘books’ will need to be balanced. Levers on direct and indirect taxation will invariably play their part. Debate is already raging about which industries, sectors or highly paid professionals should be contributing to the funding crisis. When profits return, big businesses will likely come under scrutiny from political and / or public pressure.
Corporations will be expected to play their part more than ever before. Being diligent and fulfilling compliance obligations will be demanded. Fines and penalties for late or non-compliance will be easy revenue streams. In some countries, failure to register a posted worker for travel as short as 5 days can result in a fine of thousands of Euros. Trailing liabilities will be under greater scrutiny as well.
We have seen some authorities deploy simple yet highly effective tracking technologies to help map the spread of Covid-19, or to ensure individuals adhere to isolation or #StayHome guidance. Will these technologies become the new norm, making it easier to track and trace mobile employees and demand greater accountability of their employers and to collect associated revenues?
With images of near empty streets and fleets of grounded airplanes – it’s hard to contemplate packed airports and stations with thousands of business travellers, posted workers, commuters and families heading off on their assignments. But it will be more important than ever to ensure that when this time comes, we have the right tools and systems in place to track and support these populations and manage the compliance of all mobile employees and timely settle all liabilities.