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A Substantial And Often Hidden Expense

Tax assistance is an expensive and sometimes hidden cost of corporate relocation programs. In fact, it’s the third most expensive benefit in a relocation program, on average, after home sale and household goods. More specifically, the 2008 Worldwide ERC® Transfer Volume and Cost Survey reported that it cost an average $76,600 to move an existing employee, of which more than 10% was spent on employee tax assistance benefits. It can cost more to provide tax assistance than to pay for an employee’s house hunting, temporary living and final trip expenses combined! Since relocation tax assistance is a corporate benefit and not a legal requirement, we often ask our clients if their company’s tax assistance policy is “one size fits all” or if their policy takes into consideration key factors such as employees’ unique tax profiles – such as annual salary, filing status, the number of dependents they have, and the ages of their dependents.

The Importance Of Proportional Relocation Compensation

Companies with a one-size-fits-all tax assistance policy apply the same tax rates to entry-level, middle management and executive transferees. This can result in paying an entry-level employee too much, which puts a burden on the company’s bottom line. Conversely, this approach can result in compensating an executive too little, which places a burden on human resources and payroll departments. While there’s no single correct way to calculate tax assistance, this is an area where employers can strive for a company policy that is accurate, fair and cost-effective while taking into consideration other important factors such as corporate culture, industry norms and budgetary issues. Generally speaking, the more accurate a tax assistance policy is, the more cost-effective it will be.

Minimizing Your Company’s Relocation Tax Exposure

Company-paid relocation is a substantial benefit for your employees on multiple levels – professional, personal and financial. But every benefit has a cost, and in the case of corporate relocation, these costs can be considerable. Although relocation tax costs are unavoidable, they can be minimized with a properly structured relocation policy and compliance with basic IRS guidelines.

Using Tax Laws To Reduce Moving Costs

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It’s a fact that tax assistance benefits cost an average 55-60 cents for every dollar of taxable relocation expense. In other words, a $10,000 lump sum payment could result in $5,500 to $6,000 of tax assistance costs. While potentially substantial, these charges can be mitigated: By properly structuring relocation benefits, taking advantage of relocation-friendly tax laws and customizing tax assistance policy to the needs of transferring employees, companies can control and potentially reduce tax assistance costs.

Closing Cost Reimbursement: An Easily Reduced Expense

While structured home sale programs have become the norm, many companies still take the more traditional approach of reimbursing their employees for closing costs after the home is sold. This is the most expensive – and most easily avoided – tax approach a company can take: Considering the average cost of tax assistance, a direct reimbursement program can result in $14,400 in unnecessary tax assistance benefits on the sale of a $300,000 home.

How Qualified Home Sale Programs Can Lower Unnecessary Tax Benefits

In November 2005, the IRS validated the long-held relocation industry position that qualified home sale programs result in no taxable income to relocating employees. However, this ruling came with 11 key elements that must be followed in order to qualify. Corporations can meet IRS guidelines for qualified home sales by using an agent to facilitate two separate and distinct real estate transactions that comply with the key elements addressed in the IRS ruling.

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