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Global Payroll Compliance: How to Avoid the Risks

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Compliance is critical to managing global payroll for international employees—especially because payroll regulations vary worldwide. Employers who violate these regulations risk penalties that may hurt their bottom line and business reputation.

Fortunately, maintaining global payroll compliance doesn't have to be complicated with the right solution. Read our guide to learn the common risks associated with global payroll compliance and how to avoid them.

What is global payroll?

First, let’s define global payroll. Global payroll refers to the management of all payroll operations for employees in multiple countries. Companies with employees overseas must abide by each jurisdiction’s employment and payroll regulations regarding, but not limited to:

A global payroll solution consolidates and standardizes payroll streams into a centralized platform to simplify reporting, ensure compliance, and make it easier for employers to pay talent in multiple countries accurately and on time.

Learn more in our complete guide to global payroll.

What is payroll compliance?

Payroll compliance means following all government laws that dictate how employees receive pay. Employers who violate these payroll regulations may face fines and other legal consequences.

The complexity of payroll compliance compounds with every new market a company enters since payroll requirements vary by country. Employers must also keep up with evolving regulations in each location, such as minimum wage increases, payroll tax rate adjustments, and changes to statutory benefits.

5 global payroll compliance risks to avoid

Companies interested in hiring and paying international employees should understand the compliance challenges of administering payroll in multiple countries. Learn five common compliance risks of running global payroll below.

1. Global payroll processing errors

Administering global payroll requires managing numerous data points in multiple countries. Beyond processing payments and taxes, payroll teams must also handle time and expense reports, calculate bonus data benefits packages, and keep up with earnings and tax changes.

To process payroll for employees in multiple countries, companies may choose to invest in in-house payroll teams in each country or outsource payroll to several in-country partners. These options may cause payroll data to become siloed over several disparate systems and formats, negatively impacting transparency, reporting efficiencies, and data security.

2. Employment law variance by country

Because payroll compliance varies by country, companies must understand and abide by local payroll and employment laws in each target market. These laws typically cover requirements for minimum wage, paid leave, tax contributions, and statutory benefits.

Some examples of employment laws in different countries include:

  • The European Union Working Time Directive (WTD). This legislation protects employee health and safety. It limits working hours and overtime and establishes break and paid leave standards. The WTD is enforced differently in each member nation.
  • The Labor Law of the People’s Republic of China. This legislation regulates the number of hours employees in China work and provides guidelines on employment contracts, wages, labor disputes, working conditions, welfare, and overtime.
  • Mandatory 13th-month pay in the Philippines. Filipino employees are entitled to an annual 13th-month pay, which amounts to one-twelfth of the employee’s base annual income. Other countries that require employers to provide 13th-month pay include Indonesia, Greece, Mexico, Brazil, and Spain.

Read also: Our Complete Guide to Payroll Tax + How to Calculate

3. Employee and contractor misclassification

Worker classification determines whether or not a working individual has taxes withheld from their pay. For example, full-time employees have necessary taxes withheld from their base pay by their employer, while contractors pay self-employment tax.

Worker classification depends on factors like the worker’s financial relationship with the company and the degree of control over their work. Additionally, classification laws vary between countries, and the distinction isn't always easy to determine.

If employers misclassify their employees as contractors, they are liable for unpaid taxes, employee back pay or retro pay, and other legal fines. Even if employers unintentionally misclassify their workers, they still face similar consequences.

4. Permanent establishment risk

When a business has a stable presence in a country outside of its home country and is creating revenue, they trigger permanent establishment. If a company creates a permanent establishment in another country, they are subject to local corporate taxes and could end up paying taxes twice on the same income.

5. Data privacy and security

Data privacy and security laws protect sensitive employee data gathered for payroll. Payroll teams must comply with data security laws to ensure secure and compliant data management in every country they have employees. If a company does not follow proper payroll data security protocols, they risk exposure to cyber-hacking and severe financial penalties.

For example, the Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) standardizes data privacy laws across the European Union (EU). The GDPR laws apply to any organization that processes personal data for EU citizens, even if it’s not located in the EU. The GDPR issues harsh fines and penalties against organizations that violate their privacy and security standards.

Reduce compliance risks by outsourcing global payroll

The easiest and most cost-effective way to avoid the risks of global payroll compliance is to outsource payroll operations to a global payroll partner like an employer of record (EOR).

Partnering with an EOR provides companies with an all-in-one solution for hiring and paying international talent while bypassing the need for local entities in each target market.

An EOR serves as the legal employer of your global talent and handles hiring, onboarding, payroll, benefits administration, and compliance for your international workforce while you control all day-to-day responsibilities.

The benefits of partnering with an EOR for global payroll administration include:

  • Accurate, on-time payments to your global talent
  • Centralized, standardized platform for payroll data and reporting
  • Compliance with local payroll and employment regulations
  • Secure data privacy and protection
  • Time and cost savings
  • Increased productivity
  • Local HR and finance support in each market

Learn more: What Is an Employer of Record (EOR)?

Ensure global payroll compliance after entity establishment

What if your company has already established legal entities in various markets? Your company can outsource a multi-country payroll provider to streamline local payroll for your employees. This solution strictly processes payroll for your distributed workforce through one vendor without the additional employment, benefits, or immigration solutions offered through an EOR.

Compliantly hire and pay talent in 185+ countries with Velocity Global

Working with an experienced and trustworthy partner is vital to ensuring global payroll compliance. Overcome borders and simplify global payroll administration by partnering with Velocity Global.

Our Global Employer of Record (EOR) solution helps businesses confidently and compliantly hire and pay their workforce in 185+ countries without the burden of entity establishment or navigating complex labor and payroll laws.

For companies with international entities, our Multi-Country Payroll platform automates accurate, compliant payments for your global workforce, no matter their location.

Contact Velocity Global today to learn how we can help you quickly hire and pay global talent while maintaining full compliance.


Disclaimer: The intent of this document is solely to provide general and preliminary information for private use. Do not rely on it as an alternative to legal, financial, taxation, or accountancy advice from an appropriately qualified professional. © 2023 Velocity Global, LLC. All rights reserved.

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