United States

What’s new in expatriate management?

Takeaways from the 2016 Forum for Expatriate Management Americas Summit


On May 4 and 5, the Forum for Expatriate Management (FEM) hosted its Americas Summit and Expatriate Management and Mobility Awards (EMMAs) in Philadelphia, PA. The event brought together 325+ professionals to discuss current and new prospects in the field of expatriate management and global mobility.

Hot topics included:

  • trends in immigrations regulation
  • tracking technology for business travelers and ways to keep them engaged
  • the use of inclusive and flexible employee benefit policies that also reduce exceptions and contain costs

Problems facing business travelers

RSM’s attendance at the FEM Summit allowed our international assignment services team to gain insights into the corporate approach to global mobility – what issues business travelers currently face, how companies track their expats and what makes a program successful. To improve our service to our clients, our team uses conferences like FEM to remain current on issues companies are facing and the methods that are being used so that we can anticipate questions and are able to provide recommended solutions for our clients.

An insightful and interactive panel discussion between representatives from MasterCard, Newland Chase, Computer Sciences Corporation, and Weatherford noted that ‘communication is key’ when preparing to send their employees abroad. Problems encountered by business travelers are largely due to a lack of knowledge of the immigration and tracking rules. Employees are not taking the time to understand that when faced with immigration issues, simply leaving one company and moving to another will not change the negative impact that might be tied to their relocation. Companies also discussed the issues associated with tracking costs for their travelers. The cost of tracking compensation, work days, etc. is outweighing the benefit and there was much discussion on what has been cut from tracking to reduce costs.  However, some of these items are important for individual tax filings. For example, it is important to track the compensation breakdown and the amount of time the individual works overseas because US tax liability can potentially be minimized by utilizing the foreign tax credit or the foreign earned income exclusion. 

Canada increases passport tracking

The myth of “soft touch” countries – Canada & Mexico – was debunked as representatives reported that travel in and out of our neighbors to the north and south is not as easy as people believe. Canadian border officials are now tracking entry and exit frequency to ensure visitors entering for business purposes are held accountable for tax compliance as well as their companies when the potential for permanent establishment arises.

Happy assignees choose their own secondment agreements

A highly attended session was led by Frank Shuitema, Director of Global Compensation for International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF) and focused on agile and cost efficient expat policies. He highlighted the secondment “buckets” that IFF allows their expats to pick from, including allowances (housing, additional housing, education, home leave trips, etc.) as part of their individual secondment agreement. This flexibility has helped the expats feel more in control of their assignment and made the process more attractive.

Happy family, happy employee

In addition to companies developing creative secondment options for their employees many companies are now taking a “holistic” approach by making sure their family members are also taken care of from assisting with job searches for partners to moving the family pet. Allison Eckhart, Manager, Global Client Services for NetExpat commented:

More and more, corporations are finding that the key to a successful assignment for their mobile employees hinges on whether or not an employee’s family members also feel a sense of purpose and belonging during their time in the host country. Family support programs are a relatively low-cost, yet long- term solution to develop trust from top talent and is a best practice when it comes to talent management in global mobility.

When discussing the importance of partner support due to the increasing number of dual income couples worldwide, one of our clients mentioned their philosophy on the topic and we find it to be a perfect mantra: “Happy family, happy employee.”   



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