By Sean Trotman, Principal, Deloitte Tax LLP – December 6, 2011
As the new year approaches, I hear more and more frequently from client company employees with urgent requests for clarification of employee compensation reporting requirements for stock-based awards. In the U.S., as we enter the period that most people consider “the holidays,” the hours spent in the office by payroll, tax, benefits, and other human resource personnel usually grows precipitously as the days grow shorter, as they work to collect, reconcile, and adjust compensation data on a massive scale in order to meet deadlines for reporting of income within the calendar year. Then, soon after in January, the race is on to quickly produce and send W-2 forms to employees by January 31.
Beyond U.S. borders, the “year-end” compensation reporting season can extend well beyond the end of the calendar year, even where a country uses the calendar year as the tax year for individuals. Many countries are more generous than the U.S. in allowing time after the year’s end for the completion of annual compensation statements that are similar to Form W-2. For example, Ireland’s Form P60 is due by February 15, Canada’s T-4s are due by the end of February, and Belgium’s 281.10/20s are due by the end of March.
Another factor that keeps the global year-end tax reporting calendar rolling is the fact that the UK and other members of the British Commonwealth have non-calendar tax years. The UK itself leads the field in quirkiness with a counter-intuitive year-end of April 5, whereas other such countries, such as South Africa (February 28), India (March 31), and Australia (June 30), have chosen a month-end to close out their tax year. While the UK offers approximately eight post-year-end weeks, until May 31, for a company to produce the P60 End of Year Certificate, Australia only allows a miserly two weeks after year-end for a company to provide its employees with an employee share scheme statement (which reports only stock-based compensation details) and a PAYG withholding payment summary (for cash compensation). In addition to income reporting to employees, companies should make sure to file the annual UK plan summary reporting forms, such as Form 42 for a UK nonqualified plan and Form 35 for a UK tax-preferred Company Share Option Plan for the tax year ending April 5 with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs before July 7.
An additional dimension that needs to be tracked by U.S. parent companies is the specific taxable or reportable events for stock-based compensation and local valuation rules in non-U.S. locations, where they have employees participating in the stock compensation programs. The data needs of local payroll groups for year-end reporting are by no means uniform. In Belgium, the local employer will need to report a deemed value in the year of grant for stock options that have been offered by the company and accepted by the employee within sixty days. Australian rules for stock-based compensation are now so convoluted that possible taxation events include the full spectrum of typical possibilities: grant and vesting of awards, acquisition of shares, and sale of shares, depending on facts that need to be carefully reviewed. In Italy, stock compensation is measured by “normal value,” which, for a publicly traded stock, is an average of the closing stock prices in the one month leading up to and including the stock acquisition date. Despite its successful efforts to integrate itself in the global economy, for shares that are not listed on an Indian stock exchange, India apparently does not place faith in the value-setting role of global stock exchanges and instead requires that stock compensation be valued by a certain category of domestic Merchant Banker.
Even when a company carefully plans out its processes and regular data needs for year-end reporting for its typical employee population well in advance, it will need to review and account for employees who change work locations (with or without a shift in payroll location). A wide variety of data may be needed for each mobile employee who has performed services in multiple taxing jurisdictions (countries, states, provinces, cities). Citizenship, permanent residence, visa type, employee transfer or change of residence dates, and daily work location are among the data points that may need to be gathered and analyzed to determine whether and how much compensation should be reported and potentially subjected to tax withholding in two or more tax jurisdictions before the end of the tax year.
Oftentimes, far removed from the loci of employee compensation concerns in human resources and payroll groups, the corporate tax department may have decided during the year that it wants to generate corporate tax deductions by implementing cost recharge arrangements between the U.S. parent and the non-U.S. subsidiaries. In many countries, especially in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Asia, cost recharges can create new local employer payroll obligations for reporting and tax withholding, and even new tax liabilities. For example, when a recharge arrangement is in place with a Brazilian employer company, employee and employer social taxes and employer tax reporting and withholding obligations apply where they may not otherwise exist. Similarly, in South Korea, a recharge of costs results in new employer reporting and withholding obligations, but generally does not result in new tax liabilities. Because recharge arrangements can have these potentially unintended consequences, payroll groups need to stay informed of changes in company policies for recharge arrangements.
In summary, the global year-end stock compensation reporting process requires attention throughout the year. The companies that are most successful in this important area not only check off the required deadline-driven “to-dos” but also make the effort to further develop the process schedule, data requirements and responsibilities documentation for the next annual cycle. With some advance planning and attention throughout the year, it is possible for company personnel involved in annual stock compensation reporting to achieve a happier condition for the holidays.