Mobility Year End Planning

Mobility Year-End Planning: Six Considerations for a Successful Process

For global mobility teams, the year-end process is both complex and critical. There are financial and compliance risks associated with the process that can have consequences to the business if global assignments’ financial records are not reported correctly. Without proper planning; teams can feel rushed and pressured, leading to long work hours, shortened deadlines and intensified scrutiny to ensure data accuracy. This article identifies six areas of consideration which companies can include in their preparation for a successful, streamlined and efficient year-end.

Establish a Calendar

Year-end reporting is a critical final component of the global mobility management cycle. A calendar is vital for everyone from the mobility team to the suppliers; and aligning on important dates and deadlines will keep everyone accountable. To start, determine the final date when assignment compensation data can be included in the payroll. The timeframe when payroll must close for the year can vary from one organization to the next.

From that date, work backwards in the calendar and establish the key milestones and timeframes. Account for the dates when key functions must be accomplished, and how much time will be needed to complete each task. The larger calendar can also become a collaborative effort once the major milestones and dates are added. Involving other players in the discussion will ensure everyone is aware of expectations and working together towards the same goal.

Items to consider:

  • When is the fiscal/tax year-end?
  • What milestones need to be represented on the calendar?
  • How much time does each milestone take?
  • Will an off-payroll payment “blackout” period be enforced?

Create a Checklist

A comprehensive checklist will help organize the team and ensure that the process goes smoothly. This will also help establish responsibilities for reporting all of the relevant compensation data, which might include income, assignment allowance benefits, equity, taxes, etc.

Items to consider:

  • Reflecting early cutoff dates
  • Identifying all employees who will receive tax services and cross referencing with employees for whom you have year-end data
  • Indicating all reporting and tax filing deadlines
  • Including any other verification steps

 Identify Changes

A lot can happen in a year, especially as mobility programs are constantly changing; making small policy adjustments, moving employees to new locations, and partnering with new vendors are just a few examples. It is crucial to account for these changes from the previous fiscal year as they may affect the year-end process. For example, policy changes may impact new assignment compensation elements, a change of payroll system can alter the configuration of electronic files, and local HR and/or payroll contacts in new global locations may not provide correct compensation data if not trained correctly. These changes can greatly impact compliance and a successful year-end process.

Items to consider:

  • Have new payroll codes been established?
  • Is a new HR or payroll system in the picture?
  • Have any new state or federal tax legislation gone into effect?
  • Did the company send expats to a new location for the first time?
  • Is the reporting process different from the previous year?

Define Roles and Responsibilities

Every mobility and talent management team is different, so it is important to ensure that all key stakeholders know what is expected of them to prepare for year-end reporting. The mobility team is best suited for this task as they oversee all pertinent relationships and understand the expectations of each vendor per their contracts. Take the time to clarify these responsibilities with all parties, which may include the tax provider, relocation management company, compensation teams, payroll, etc. Often a year-end “kick-off” meeting is best to bring all players together.

Items to consider:

  • Who is going to provide me with the data needed?
  • Who is providing the final compensation to payroll?
  • Who is responsible for calculating gross-ups?
  • Who triggers each step in the process?

Collect and Verify Data

Depending on the established roles and responsibilities, collect data from the appropriate channels. Be sure to audit the compiled reports and identify missing, duplicate, or odd items and verify their accuracy. Ensuring accurate data across all channels is essential for the success of year-end reporting, but should be maintained year-round to the highest level possible. Double-checking data is a necessary preventative task to avoid costly errors.

Items to consider:

  • What is the ideal frequency for collecting and reviewing assignment compensation data for your mobility program?
  • Who is responsible for reporting data (e.g. local payrolls, global HR, RMC, etc.)?
  • What controls are in place to ensure data is provided in a timely and accurate manner?

Look Ahead

The success of a year-end process is rooted in the team’s advance preparation. The areas of consideration mentioned above establish a great framework for preparation, but in reality, year-end planning for the coming year should begin just as soon as the current year has concluded. Once year-end reporting is complete, schedule a debrief call as soon as possible with everyone who supported the effort. Run through the entire calendar, review processes that went well and areas that need improvement for the next year. Incorporate these notes in a new calendar and checklist.

Items to consider:

  • Evaluate the calendar dates most recently used. Were any of the deadlines too aggressive – or not aggressive enough? Should any milestones be adjusted?
  • Is there room for enhanced documentation earlier in the process?
  • What went incredibly well?
  • Where should the team improve for the next year?

The earlier the team begins planning for year-end, the better the overall experience. Having a well-outlined and standard process in place for the year-end process will ensure compliance and peace of mind as December approaches.