AIRINC’s most recent policy and practice benchmark on Short-term Assignments explored various themes, including the critical issue of cost management. Despite the advantages offered by short-term assignments (STAs), organizations continue to grapple with the challenge of effectively managing and reducing costs, as noted by 45% of the survey respondents. This statistic underscores the imperative for strategic planning and cost-effective deployment to extract maximum value from STAs.

One notable cost-related challenge faced by many organizations pertains to income tax issues, ranking third among the reported challenges with 43% of participating organizations expressing concerns. Navigating the intricate landscape of tax regulations across borders poses a complex task, underscoring the proactive need for companies to address tax-related challenges within their short-term assignment policies. Moreover, dealing with taxes between certain countries can lead to substantial financial implications for companies that equalize the employee’s taxes.

However, STAs can still be harnessed as a potent cost-saving tool. With proper planning, tax costs can be eliminated or minimized for short-term assignments.  This requires an understanding of tax treaties, which can eliminate host tax obligations if certain conditions are met. Generally, there are 3 basic criteria under most income tax treaties allowing the STA’s compensation to be exempt from taxation in the host country:

Present in the host country for 183 days or less – within a tax year, or more commonly, within any 12-month period, and

  1. The employee is not on the host country payroll, and
  2. The costs of the employee’s compensation is not charged back to the host country employer.
  3. The application of the tax treaty rules is complex and requires a sound understanding of the company’s tax situation as well as the employee’s time spent in the host country.  It is important to manage assignment extensions, as assignments beyond 183 days may result in unexpected host tax costs.

In addition, totalization agreements between countries can allow for employee to stay in their home country social security scheme, further limiting the cost by eliminating any host social security or pension contributions. For these cost-saving cases, it's paramount that organizations adhere to assignment lengths, as extensions beyond certain durations can trigger undesired tax ramifications. By judiciously leveraging tax data and information, companies can not only save money but also strategically deploy talent, highlighting the financial advantages inherent in a well-thought-out short-term assignment program.

AIRINC's comprehensive benchmark underscores the pivotal role of cost management in the realm of short-term assignments. As organizations navigate the complexities of income tax challenges, strategic planning, and adherence to assignment lengths, they may be able to reap the financial benefits of a well-orchestrated short-term assignment program that allows them to deploy talent efficiently while mitigating cost-related hurdles.


2023 AIRINC STA Survey Highlights


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