Faculty and Staff Working Overseas

Columbia faculty and employees normally based in New York may desire to work on a project overseas while retaining their university appointment, compensation, and benefits. These arrangements require careful review from a tax, labor, and regulatory standpoint, driven primarily by the laws of the local country, which can differ widely. Columbia travel to another country for more than a brief duration can trigger an overseas host country’s tax and regulatory regimes for both the individual traveler and Columbia. Also, multiple, nonconsecutive trips to the same destination during the course of a year may be treated in the aggregate for purposes of visa needs, work authorizations, and taxes. Issues to consider include:

→ Does the host country require Columbia to register with local authorities as a condition for an assignment overseas? If so, will the University be exposed to overseas taxation and other regulatory requirements?

→ Depending on the duration and nature of the overseas assignment, does the host country require Columbia to withhold and pay local income tax and social benefit contributions, based on U.S. compensation? How will the University meet this requirement as a U.S.-based institution? 

→ What are the mechanics for paying the individual, and are there cross-border restrictions on moving currency from country to country? 

→ What impact will the overseas assignment have on Columbia’s provision of benefits to the individual?

→ Does the host country limit the number of “expatriates” working for a particular employer?

→ What are standards in the host country regarding “permanent establishment,” under which the University itself becomes subject to taxation in the country? Depending on the circumstances and local law and practices, tax authorities in another country may assert that Columbia employees working in the country are equivalent to Columbia itself operating in the country, making the university subject to tax filing obligations.

→ Do the individuals understand the impact on their personal income tax obligations that might arise from the overseas assignment?   

→ Are the individuals able to obtain any required travel authorizations, visas, and other governmental approvals?

Advantages: Columbia can be confident in the quality and performance of its faculty, researches and other staff (assuming sometimes those overseas might be administrators or other). The University retains direct oversight of its research and academic activities.

Disadvantages: Compliance with host-county regulatory and tax requirements can be complex and expensive to meet.

For additional details, please refer to the Policy on Faculty and Staff Working Overseas.

Should you have questions, please email globalsupport@columbia.edu.

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