‘Tax Explainer: Hiring workers overseas’
The US taxes foreign workers' income, but there are exceptions.
5 min read

Education

22 January 2024

Tax Explainer: Hiring workers overseas

Angie M Grainger

Summary Explanation to Client on U.S. Taxes for Foreign Virtual Assistants (VAs) from India and the Philippines

The U.S. taxes foreign workers and VAs from around the world, but these VAs can be exempt from U.S. taxation if they meet certain criteria. The most common outsourcing countries are India and the Philippines.

U.S. Tax Obligations for Hiring Foreign VAs: When you hire VAs from outside the U.S., including those from India and the Philippines, the U.S. tax system generally requires you to withhold taxes on payments made to them. The standard withholding rate is 30% for payments made to foreign individuals for services rendered. However, this can vary depending on specific circumstances and existing tax treaties.

Tax Treaty Exemptions: Both India and the Philippines have tax treaties with the U.S. that can provide exemptions or reduced tax rates under certain conditions. These treaties are designed to prevent double taxation and can significantly impact how much tax, if any, needs to be withheld from payments to VAs.

Conditions for Exemption:

  1. No Physical Presence in the U.S.: If your VA from India or the Philippines performs all services outside the U.S. and has no physical presence in the U.S., their income is generally not considered U.S. sourced, and thus not subject to U.S. withholding tax.

  2. Limited Duration of Stay: There are specific rules about the duration of stay in the U.S. For instance, under the U.S.-India tax treaty, services performed in the U.S. are exempt from U.S. tax if the individual is in the U.S. for less than 89 days in a fiscal year, among other conditions.

  3. Payment Source: The income must not be paid by or on behalf of a U.S. resident or borne by a U.S. permanent establishment.

Importance of Form W-8BEN: To claim these exemptions, it is essential for your VA to complete Form W-8BEN, "Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding and Reporting (Individuals)." This form allows them to certify their foreign status and claim any treaty benefits. It is critical for compliance and ensuring the correct withholding rate is applied.

Your Responsibility as an Employer: As an employer, it's your responsibility to obtain and keep the completed W-8BEN form from your foreign VAs. This form will guide you on the appropriate rate of withholding tax (if any) that applies to the payments you make to them.

Conclusion: Employing VAs from India and the Philippines can offer tax advantages under the respective U.S. tax treaties. However, it is crucial to understand and comply with the specific requirements to benefit from these exemptions. Always keep updated Form W-8BENs for each VA, and consult with a tax professional for personalized advice and to ensure compliance with all relevant tax laws and treaty provisions.

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