My Plea To HR Expat and Global Mobility Managers
When push comes to shove, its the devil in the detail that may determine whether a assignment is financially beneficial or not.
As part of our daily routine we speak with both Australian expats and their respective HR and global mobility managers when an overseas assignment is about to occur or they are already overseas and wanting to review their financial circumstances.
We work closely with a number of large Australian companies that relocate employees overseas and our mission is to lift the level of financial literacy both at the corporate and employee level to ensure that all parties are aware of and understand the implications after they get on that plane. We also try and keep abreast of what is occurring on the HR side too (I'm looking forward to attending the Forum for Expatriate Management'sGlobal Mobility Conference later this month in Melbourne) because it is important for us to understand any changes that may affect the mobility of Australians going forward.
When such a large move is to occur, or has already occurred, there are many moving parts that need to be taken into account - accommodation, tax, schooling, health insurance, visas etc - and by and large these are handled very well by the respective specialists however we keep coming across gaps, sometimes quite large ones, in the advice process that may leave these employees exposed, especially financially.
A couple of cases that we have come across this week alone are:
- An employee was relocated to Singapore by her company and even though they were told that the Life and TPD insurance that was inside their employee superannuation would cover them whilst they are overseas a quick review of the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) for that fund clearly stated the moment they became a non-resident for tax purposes then their insurance was void, even if they still continued to pay the premiums.
- An employee who was relocated to the United States received a nasty surprise whenhis global assets suddenly became assessable under the US IRS' FATCA and FBAR tax reporting regimes and their investments in Australia were heavily taxed because they weren't structured to take into account the IRS' heavy handedness towards Passive Foreign Investment Company's (PFIC).
Whilst the tax reports that are prepared for employees by the large accounting firms are useful they don't go far enough. A three page letter on what the tax implications for the move only scratches the surface and even though all the responsibility shouldn't be shouldered by companies, and that employees certainly need to do their own homework as well, I think Australian companies need to do more for their employees.
So much is invested by the company when relocating staff members overseas that a little extra effort can increase the chances of a successful placement. I also think theupcoming HECS/HELP debt repayment changes for non-residents will either be a great opportunity for companies to shine (for those who put the necessary steps in place) or will create a lot of angst for companies who don't get on the front foot and leave their employees to figure it out themselves.
Brett Evans is the founder and Managing Director of Atlas Wealth Management, the first financial services firm in Australia to purely service Australian expats. First becoming an expat himself at the age of 6 months, Atlas Wealth Management provides financial planning and wealth management advice to Aussie expats in over 18 countries.