Across the globe, the spread of the coronavirus is having a significant humanitarian impact and increasingly, an economic impact from stock markets to global supply chains. As governments move rapidly to contain the spread of the virus, global employers are also working to address how to manage employees in affected areas while continuing business operations.
Travel Restrictions in Times of Corona
(current as of 1 April, 2020)
Border Controls at Borders to Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Slovenia and Hungary
In Austria, the Federal Ministry of the Interior has introduced, until further notice, internal border controls with Italy (since 11 March 2020), Switzerland and Liechtenstein (since 14 March), and Germany, Slovenia and Hungary (since 19 March). At the moment, the entry from these states is only permitted at certain border crossings.
Austrian officials carry out strict controls at the open border crossings, including health checks and the checking of medical certificates. As a prerequisite for entering Austria from the above-mentioned countries, travelers must hold a medical certificate confirming the negative result of a molecular biological test for SARS-CoV-2 that has been taken. The medical certificate must not be older than four days. If this confirmation cannot be presented, entry would currently be denied.
There are extensive exceptions to this general rule:
- Austrian citizens and persons with an Austrian (main or secondary) residence or habitual abode: Upon entry, these persons must undergo a self-monitored 14-day home quarantine without delay. This obligation must be accepted by personal signature.
- Transit through Austria without stops in Austria is permitted, if exiting is ensured.
- Freight transports, commercial transports with the exception of commercial passenger transports and commuting for work are not affected by the restrictions (proof of travelling purpose must be provided upon request). The driving personnel and the operating personnel are, however, upon order of the health authorities required to undergo a medical examination with regard to any suspicions of COVID-19.
- Emergency vehicles and public service vehicles are not affected by the measures.
Austrian citizens as well as foreigners with Austrian residence permits are obliged to undergo a 14-day self-monitored home quarantine immediately after entering the country, except in cases of immediate departure. The acceptance of this obligation must be confirmed by personal signature.
Third-country nationals without a residence permit in Austria are currently prohibited from entering Austria by air. Diplomatic personnel, employees of international organizations and their family members living in the same household as well as humanitarian aid workers are exempt from this restriction. Furthermore, nursing and health care personnel, transit passengers and persons employed in freight transport are excluded from the restriction as well.
Third-country nationals who are not covered by an exemption are only allowed to enter Austria by air if they present a health certificate in German or English language confirming that their molecular biological test for SARS-CoV-2 is negative. The certificate must not be older than four days. If the health certificate cannot be presented upon entry, these persons will be accommodated for 14 days in suitable accommodation, which they may not leave for this period unless immediate departure is ensured.
Passenger air traffic from the People's Republic of China, the Republic of Korea, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Italy, Switzerland, France, Spain, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, the Russian Federation and Ukraine has been completely suspended (until 13 April 2020 at least). This does not apply to cargo flights, mission flights, ambulance/rescue flights, repatriation flights or transfer flights. Train services to Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Spain and France have been discontinued as well.
The European Union has decided on 17 March 2020 to close its external borders for an initial period of 30 days for unnecessary entries from third countries. Several individual states have closed some of their external borders as well.
Please click on the links below for templates for the medical certificate of the SARS-CoV-2 test in German, English, Italian, French, Slovenian and Hungarian:
- Ärztliches Zeugnis (DE)
- Medical Certificate (EN)
- Attestation Médicale (FR)
- Certificato medico (IT)
- Zdravniško potrdilo (SI)
- Orvosi tanúsítvány (HU)
Temporary suspension of visa issuance
All Austrian embassies and consulates have suspended visa issuance with immediate effect from 13 March 2020. This includes the submission of applications and the issuance of visas already applied for. The only exceptions concern close relatives of Austrian or EU citizens living in the same household in Austria and diplomats travelling to Austria on official missions.
Stay-At-Home Order in Austria
(current as of 1 April 2020)
Exit restrictions have been in force in Austria since 16 March 2020, for the time being up to and including 13 April 2020. Since then, leaving the home is only permitted in order to avert immediate danger to life, limb and property, for urgent professional work that cannot be postponed (confirmation from the employer is urgently recommended), to cover the basic needs of daily life (in particular food and medicine, urgent medical treatment) and to provide assistance to other people. Gatherings of more than five people are prohibited. In supermarkets and drug stores of 400 m2 or more, there will be an obligation as of April 6th, 2020, to wear mouth-nose protection masks, whereby the shops will distribute the masks to their customers. If available, the masks should be already worn in supermarkets and drug stores as of April 1st, 2020.
If necessary, short walks or outdoor exercise (alone or with people living in the same household and pets) are expressly permitted. A distance of at least one meter to other people must be maintained at all times when leaving the home.
Restaurants, cafés, bars and shops have been shut down for the time being. However, drugstores, supermarkets, pharmacies, banks, post offices, petrol stations and pet food shops in particular may remain open to ensure the necessary supplies. Violations of the restrictions are subject to heavy fines.
In the province of Tyrol, stricter quarantine regulations apply to Galtür, Ischgl, See and Kappl in the Paznaun valley and to St. Anton am Arlberg in Tyrol. In the province of Salzburg, quarantine measures have been taken regarding the municipality of Bad Gastein, Bad Hofgastein, Dorfgastein, Grossarl, Hüttschlag, Flachau, Altenmarkt, Zell am See and Saalbach, as well as for Gasteiner valley (measures are valid until 13 April 2020 at least).
Entry Restrictions to China
(current as of 1 April, 2020)
China has issued a limitation for most foreigners regarding the entry into China, as of March 28th, 2020. Please find below the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Announcement of March 26th, 2020.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China National Immigration Administration Announcement on the Temporary Suspension of Entry by Foreign Nationals Holding Valid Chinese Visas or Residence Permits
In view of the rapid spread of COVID-19 across the world, China has decided to temporarily suspend the entry into China by foreign nationals holding visas or residence permits still valid to the time of this announcement, effective from 0 a.m., 28 march 2020. Entry by foreign nationals with APEC Business Travel Cards will be suspended as well. Policies including port visas, 24/72/144-hour visa-free transit policy, Hainan 30-day visa-free policy, 15-day visa-free policy specified for foreign cruise-group-tour through Shanghai Port, Guangdong 144-hour visa-free policy specified for foreign tour groups from Hong Kong or Macao SAR, and Guangxi 15-day visa-free policy specified for foreign tour groups of ASEAN countries will also be temporarily suspended. Entry with diplomatic, service, courtesy or C visas will not be affected. Foreign nationals coming to China for necessary economic, trade, scientific or technological activities or out of emergency humanitarian needs may apply for visas at Chinese embassies or consulates. Entry by foreign nationals with visas issued after this announcement will not be affected.
The suspension is a temporary measure that China is compelled to take in light of the outbreak situation and the practices of other countries. China will stay in close touch with all sides and properly handle personnel exchanges with the rest of the world under the special circumstances. The above-mentioned measures will be calibrated in light of the evolving situation and announced accordingly.
If you need up-to-date information from other countries, we will gladly put you in contact with our member companies worldwide:
Tax effects of the Corona crisis on multinational corporations
The daily developments in the spread of the virus have prompted the U.S. Center for Disease Control to note that the need to contain its advance could cause serious disruptions in work for employees. For multinational companies with global operations, the increased potential for employees to relocate across international borders, whether as part of business continuity strategies or for personal reasons, presents a range of unexpected tax issues to also address.
By reviewing how governments are responding relating to individual tax compliance, employers can understand and address the tax risk areas they should consider as they formulate policies for working arrangements during the coming months.
The Austrian government has adopted various tax and economic support measures:
Current tax measures from other countries can be found here:
The mobility landscape during coronavirus
Many employers have or are likely to announce changes in working arrangements over the coming months. Initiatives being deployed by multinationals include allowing employees to work remotely from home, limiting business travel domestically and internationally, cancelling events and relocating employees to new international locations. The increased flexibility has the potential to create new challenges for mobility professionals, expanding their responsibilities and increasing the complexity of managing tax risks during the coronavirus response.
Finding and managing ‘stealth expats’
Outside a company’s formal employee mobility program, multinational companies had already seen that employees will sometimes choose to relocate themselves and their families in “response-based” events. Not surprisingly, employees in both China and in other Asia-Pacific nations have moved out ahead of the virus to less-affected countries. Taking the “work-from-home” policy beyond its intended result, employees may take precautions with little or no visibility to their employers, particularly where travel is arranged outside corporate travel booking systems.
Mobility professionals will need to work closely with human resources business partners and business units to find and manage employees who move without authorization to a new country to work. While businesses are responding to the virus with their own travel guidelines, employees may move without formal approval. :
- Risk of a Permanent Establishment: Where employees work from a country remotely or in a country in which the company does not have an existing corporate entity, they put the business at risk of creating a corporate taxable presence in that country. This may result in the profits of the employing company being pulled into corporate taxes in the country where that employee relocates. The facts and circumstances of each situation should be reviewed in turn, but where an employee is located in a country outside where he or she is employed for a long-term period may create a permanent establishment there as a de facto fixed place of business or based on the role they are performing in the country.
While many double-tax treaties provide protection, where there is no treaty or there are longer-term relocations, it will be important to review whether these “stealth expats” are creating corporate tax risks and, if so, to determine how business should prepare to take appropriate mitigating action. This may involve relocating the employee or even requiring a leave of absence in some cases.
- Individual tax: When employees relocate to a new country in response to the spread of the virus, they may also trigger personal income tax liabilities. Employees will need to understand the individual tax implications of their presence in a new country, whether they can plan travel to mitigate taxation under a double-tax treaty. For stealth expats, multinational companies may want to extend tax assistance to these new expats where it helps manage tax compliance.
- Payroll withholding and reporting: Employers may also find they have payroll reporting and tax withholding obligations for these employees, whether through a local entity or as a non-resident employer. The associated obligations that fall on the business need to be understood to ensure continuing global compliance, but they could result in additional complexities and tax costs, particularly where local employment tax liabilities are considered.
- Social security: While many countries have an extensive double-tax treaty network, most have a more limited number of bilateral “’totalization” agreements that allow for employer and employee social security to be made only in an employee’s home country. Employees working in new country locations may therefore trigger additional social security liabilities for themselves and their employer, which can be very high.
- Double taxation: Employees should also be mindful of the law of the country they relocate to or from. Some countries, Brazil and China for example, may regard locally paid income as wholly taxable in that country, irrespective of where the individual physically works. To the extent a stealth expat becomes taxable in another country, that employee may face complexities and unexpectedly higher tax burdens. A company needs to determine what support, if any, these types of situations warrant.
Multinational companies should be reviewing the impact of the virus on their business, their suppliers and their customers. It may be advisable to relocate teams of employees in strategically important roles in out-of-risk areas, or to keep them in place for a longer than expected period of time. Formal assignments may increase as a result of these relocations, for some employers, resulting in assignments arising that do not fit the parameters and intention of a company’s mobility policy. Agile and proactive actions will be useful to identify the appropriate benefits employees and their families should receive, to determine the range of tax and payroll issues at stake and to effectively manage these assignments over an unknown period of time.
The role of mobility professionals
Human resources leaders play a critical role in ensuring businesses execute their global growth strategy. Accordingly, these professionals increasingly having a seat at the C-suite table. For mobility professionals, too, global growth requires strategic engagement with the business to enable talent to deliver globally. The coronavirus outbreak presents a range of unique and complex challenges to businesses -- from the wellbeing of employees to their benefits and taxes. With proactive engagement with the business, mobility professionals can help navigate the uncertain path ahead as U.S. companies plan and act -- identifying tax risk, managing complexity and cost, and enabling employees to continue working wherever they are located when possible.