Getting International Growth Right

BLOG13th Sep 2018


The global economic landscape is constantly changing. A rapid growth of global export of goods and services and foreign direct investment has changed how and where we do business and technology has played a critical role in getting us there.

International growth is exciting for business and employees, but all too often, the eagerness to chase the growth can detract from the importance of getting the right advice that capitalises on the commercials of the opportunity.

Just as technology is helping businesses grow, it is also helping international governments know exactly who is operating in their country. Businesses will be all too aware that when it was a short project in country, quite often an under the radar, “in and out” approach was taken. The phrase “we were there for less than 183 days” can be heard ringing out in tax advisors’ offices across the world!

However, overseas tax authorities are also aware of the potential tax they have lost over the years and so have invested heavily in their own technology, linking the information on international arrivals with tax filings, social security exemptions and business registrations.

Permanent Establishment, VAT and Customs, immigration risks, employment tax, government regulations, individual traveller expenses, mobility policies and BEPS – there’s an incredible amount of information to manage when it comes to growing globally.

This much complexity often results in businesses doing one of two things. Either they block and tackle immediate threats as they arise, or they succumb to information overload and do nothing.

However, the importance in getting things right from the outset is critical in securing value from the project. Whilst international opportunities come with complexities, these complexities should not be blockers to growth. For example, understanding all of the tax implications and the costs of compliance of a project at the outset will be the difference between making profit or not. Surely it is better to have it built into the margin than deal with it when the tax authorities eventually come knocking for their share, when it becomes a sunk cost?

Failure to be compliant will have implications. We have all heard of employees stopped at immigration and not allowed to enter the country because the business hasn’t filed the appropriate tax returns and met their compliance obligations. Nobody wants to make that phone call to their client to tell them they can’t deliver the project and cause undue damage to your relationship and reputation.

What about the business who is looking to be compliant though? They need to get in to country quickly, source the easiest visa for their employees and then they will deal with the compliance after, an honest approach.  What about when the visa is the trigger to being able to be compliant though? Take working in the Gulf of Mexico for example, the wrong visa means employees can’t be added to a US payroll and taxes paid properly.

Then we have the business where the international growth has been so rapid, they don’t know which jurisdictions they are operating in or where their people are, and consequently where they may be triggering compliance obligations.

In any of the above scenarios, having an advisor who is a partner to your business and understands the importance of providing practical advice in a tight timescale, along with providing you with the right tools to monitor your compliance risks and track your people will make sure that you win the opportunity at the right margin and the right cost.

For more information please contact Helen Brown ( or your usual AAB contact.

To find out more about Helen and the International Tax team, please click here