The Secret Diary of a Global Mobility Manager – you call that a short term assignment?

by Gina Tonic

Expat Academy The Secret Diary of a Global Mobility Manager - you call that a short term assignment?

Dear Diary

Another busy week in the world of Global Mobility. I was working away minding my own business when an individual I didn’t recognise appeared at my desk with a blue folder and a rather sheepish expression.

He had been advised to come and speak with me as it was intended that he was going to transfer from a part of our UK business (which has often been known to do things in an unconventional way) to our Group business. This was all pretty reasonable, but his strong US accent set alarm bells immediately ringing.

So, I set aside the task I was on and settled in to hear the full story. It transpired he had come over to the UK from our US business on a short-term project…….. 5 years previously (and well before my time)! His name was not on any report or listing I had ever seen.

Now to unravel the paper trail

My first concern was his immigration position. However, he produced from his blue folder copies off all his UK visa documentation covering the period, which was a major relief as someone had obviously been involved in his “assignment”.  He also mentioned how he had a company car and an apartment paid for by the business and pulled the details out of the folder. But, there was something missing – any reference to UK taxation, Payroll, P11ds etc.

My heart sunk as it dawned on me this was going to turn into a long and painful discussion.

When asked whether he had paid any UK income tax or NI since his arrival 5 years ago his answer was simple but frightening “No, but I pay in the US so that’s fine isn’t it?” Apparently, he had been told that as it was a less than 6-month project role there were no tax implications in the UK, so he could just carry on as normal. Of course, when he was still in the UK beyond 6 months neither he nor anyone else in the UK business thought to ask any questions.

So much data to find, so little time

Needless to say, the next few weeks included a painful addition to the already full diary with compensation data collection going back 5 years, correspondence with tax providers and HMRC to ensure the appropriate disclosure was filed and tax paid over. Plus, amendments made in the USA to recover double tax under the UK: USA treaty.

They say every cloud has a silver lining and the one good thing to come out of this sorry episode is that it has given me a very useful foot in the door to HR leadership team meetings which were previously closed off. I have now been invited to leadership meetings and will certainly be rolling out this case to reinforce the importance of sharing information and getting the Global Mobility team involved in any project that involves international mobility.

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