Global risks are on the rise for companies, and they are coming from new sources. Executives must respond to new uncertainties such as trade wars and emboldened regulatory authorities, and understand how these changes apply across a company’s workforce – sourcing talented people and deploying them in the right places has never been harder. Simply sending workers on business trips is more fraught than ever, and a careless approach could leave workers stranded and expose companies to reputational risks.
With these new challenges in mind, EY through SAP Concur now offers an end-to-end travel management solution to help corporations manage their business travel risks. Focused on user experience, our service provides real-time assessments of a business traveler’s tax, immigration and EU posted-worker obligations before they travel. We use a data-driven approach that leverages SAP Concur’s platform and EY’s tax, immigration and posted-worker technology. “A business traveler needs to focus on the purpose of the trip and not on the challenges,” said Simon Stanaway, an EY partner and Americas Global Mobility leader within its People Advisory Services practice. “We've designed this solution to help the traveler and the company do just that.”
Our data suggests that currently companies are aware of the problem and are managing risk for now by sending workers on shorter business trips. They are also, in something of a paradox, relying more on trips of a month or less, because formal overseas postings are expensive and more difficult to manage as more countries erect barriers to free movement. According to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), tax cuts on the scale just enacted in the U.S. in 2017 almost always lead to a surge in business travel, but that pattern may break this time.
How can we get back to an environment in which business travel requirements are no longer subjugated by external risks? The main risks cluster in three areas:
- Trade risks are primary. The GBTA considers the rise in worldwide protectionism the biggest single risk to business travel, SAP Concur data already show fewer travelers on key global pathways. Business trips from the U.S. to China are suppressed compared with from other key Western countries.
- Tax risks come as countries seek to maximize receipts from corporations. A total of 129 countries have pledged to implement the Organization for Economic Co-operation and development (OECD) Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Action Plan (BEPS) initiative, the biggest global rewrite of taxation laws and regulations in history. Expect more tax authorities to demand the creation of a permanent establishment (corporate tax presence), and more detailed verification processes.
- Talent risks come as countries seek to protect domestic workers. A recent example is the introduction of the posted-worker regulations within the European Union. Here, along with immigration and tax risks, the digitization of data boosts the risk profile. Digital records are easier to share across government agencies. In the U.S., the Internal Revenue Service now uses data from the Department of Homeland Security (Immigration) to check a company’s tax returns against those of its employees for potential inconsistencies. We’ve also seen similar approaches adopted in countries such as Canada, Singapore and Australia.
For some, a cautious approach may be the best response, but our data shows that a proactive approach can create more options, said Timothy Dalton, a San Jose-based EY People Advisory Services partner and Global SAP Concur Alliance Leader: “We can’t just keep doing things the usual way. But if you have the controls in place to identify the risks, the impact can be minimal. Data needs to be used and made available in an ecosystem in an efficient, intelligent, and automated fashion so companies can benefit from high levels of productivity. And if you can make the user experience easy, you can drive compliance.”