Work from Anywhere Policies: State Tax Compliance Issues
Telecommuting or the new Work from Anywhere policies are not a new concept. With traditional Work from Home policies, employees are typically within commuting distance of their office. In recent years, Work from Anywhere policies have begun to emerge. Under this type of arrangement, employees have greater flexibility to choose where they live and work.
 
COVID-19 Pandemic Accelerates Work from Anywhere Policies
 
While the number of employees working remotely has been growing at a steady pace over the past several years, the COVID-19 pandemic has now pushed this issue to the forefront and more companies are considering Work from Anywhere policies that allow employees to live and work in any location. While this type of policy is very attractive to both the company and employee, this type of policy can trigger new tax compliance issues for both parties.
 
GMS spoke with Erika Beddow, Business Development Manager at Global Mobility Tax, LLP (GMT). Erika has over 20 years of experience in public accounting and in the global mobility industry. She has worked on an array of multi-national clients throughout her career and enjoys navigating complex situations while prudently mitigating risks, identifying value creation opportunities, and building strategic partnerships. Erika agreed to share her expert guidance on this issue.
 
What is Important to Know about Work from Anywhere Policies?
 
Erika notes that as with domestic business travel planning, it is important to note that each US state has its own unique laws and reporting requirements. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees have been telecommuting in states other than where they typically work due to stay at home orders and quarantine. These employees can unknowingly trigger state and local tax issues for the company as well as payroll obligations in the state in which they are working.
 
State Guidance Lacking Regarding Issues Relating to Work from Anywhere Policies
 
Currently, Erika reports that only a few states have provided guidance and certain relief for companies and individuals who are working in their state temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding how many states will tax these individuals and businesses.
 
Possible Triggers for State Nexus and Payroll Withholding Requirements
 
As the globe recovers from the pandemic and employees continue to work remotely, Erika strongly believes that companies will need to consider the remote worker implications to avoid unknowingly trigger state “nexus” and payroll withholding requirements. (Nexus is the term used to describe a company being recognized as an entity in a particular state or jurisdiction.)
 
Additionally, businesses may face penalties and interest for failing to withhold state income taxes, while employees may have an increased tax filing obligation.
 
Work from Anywhere Policies: Benefits Versus Potential Cost Increases
 
Some benefits to Work from Anywhere policies are that they provide the employee more flexibility in where they live and work and the hours in which they work. However, Erika believes that companies need to be aware of the possible increase in costs to the organization. She notes that some increases can include administrative costs, payroll obligations, and tax implications for this type of policy.
 
According to Erika, while putting in place Work from Anywhere policies, companies will need to consider the following important points:
  • Understand corporate and payroll tax compliance obligations, not only in the location where the company operates, but also where their employees are living and working.
  • Monitor and track the location of where their employees are working.
  • Determine whether the employee’s work location has triggered corporate tax responsibilities due to state nexus.
  • Report employee income correctly and withhold appropriate taxes based off where they are tax resident as well as working.
  • Educate employees on state filing requirements and residency rules and provide tax assistance if necessary.
  • Provide guidelines for states the company can comply with versus states that may be too expensive due to payroll complexities and state nexus.
States are Increasing Their Ability to Track Remote Workers and Business Travelers
 
Many states have already been stepping up their ability to track remote workers and frequent business travelers prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. With COVID-19 putting pressure on state budgets, many states will likely increase their review of a company’s payroll filings and corporate nexus as more employees start working and living in different states than the employer.
 
How Work from Anywhere Policies May Lead to Non-Compliance
 
Companies can easily fall out of compliance if they are not tracking where their employees are working from and reporting the income and withholding taxes in the other state. Non-compliance can lead to unexpected tax implications for both the employer and employee, including fines and penalties.
 
If a company is considering implementing Work from Anywhere policies, each employee’s situation should be carefully reviewed. Erika states it is important for companies to determine whether any employee working in a different state has triggered state nexus, and to review the specific payroll tax withholding obligations in that state.
 
GMT Service Solution to Help Companies Considering Work from Anywhere Policies
 
GMT has put together a service solution to assist companies in evaluating and analyzing these issues.
 
This solution helps companies by: 
  1. Implementing the GMT 2020 State Tax Compliance Solution
    1. Ensuring payroll compliance and tax withholding
    2. Advising employees on state residency and state tax filing requirements
    3. Providing individual state tax services for your employees
  2. Identify an quantify the risks state to state for remote workers
  3. Discuss and draft an action plan for monitoring employees
  4. Help find the stakeholders and create reports to support the action plan
  5. Assist with systems integration to automate the process
  6. Analyze and assist with state trailing liabilities from equity awards
Conclusion
 
GMS’ team of domestic relocation experts has helped thousands of our clients learn about important issues such as tax compliance for their organization. Our mobility consulting team can help your company understand how to implement Work from Anywhere policies. We can also help your company to understand issues of compliance and non-compliance to state tax requirements with the expert assistance of Global Mobility Tax, LLP.
 
GMS was the first relocation company to register as a .com. The company also created the first online interactive tools and calculators, and revolutionized the entire relocation industry. GMS continues to set the industry pace as the pioneer in innovation and technology solutions with its proprietary MyRelocation® technology platform.
 
Contact our experts online to learn more about Work from Anywhere policies and state tax compliance versus non-compliance issues, or give us a call at 800.617.1904 or 480.922.0700 today.
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