Tax mistakes working remotely in 2021

Rock legend Gene Simmons not too long ago KISSed California goodbye in a means that no distant employee ought to ever copy. “I’m executed,” he told the New York Put up in March. “There are earthquakes, fires and pandemics yearly.” 

How leaving California will spare Simmons from “pandemics” is unclear, however he has one other motive. He additionally instructed the New York Put up that California had grow to be “uninhabitable” attributable to excessive taxes. In the meantime, he listed his Beverly Hills property for $22 million, raised the asking value to $25 million, and moved right into a 12,000 sq. foot mansion on the Nevada aspect of Lake Tahoe.

I wager The Demon, supposedly worth $400 million, has a brand new fan base: tax auditors. Their job could be a lot simpler if everybody had been as delicate as Simmons. Auditors would know precisely which excessive internet price people are trying to decrease their tax invoice by relocating and due to this fact who’s ripe for a residency audit.


You won’t be Gene Simmons, however for those who labored remotely throughout state or nation borders, or have relocated in the course of the pandemic, you—and your employer—could be focused by revenue-hungry auditors as nicely.

In the event you’re working remotely, these are the three greatest tax mistakes you may make.

Ignore state and metropolis tax legal guidelines

My firm, Topia, wished to understand how many individuals had labored from “anyplace” throughout COVID-19, so we requested 1,250 staff from the U.S. and UK about it in our annual Adapt survey. Twenty-eight p.c of staff stated that they had labored outdoors their residence state or nation, however 40% had no thought there have been tax implications that got here with doing so. 

What implications, you ask? In case you have labored remotely in one or a number of U.S. states completely different from the one the place your workplace is (or was) positioned, it’s possible you’ll be on the hook for payroll and state earnings taxes in these locations. If, for instance, you make over $3,500 someplace in California however nonetheless think about your self a Chicago resident, you’re anticipated to pay state earnings tax on the cash you made in California. 

The money and time thresholds for every state are completely different, so do your homework and paperwork. Both learn up on the tax legal guidelines the place you propose work or rent skilled assist. In the event you depart a high-tax jurisdiction like San Francisco for Boise, Idaho, you and your employer may need a decrease tax burden—for those who can doc that you just carried out your work in Idaho. In any other case, San Francisco and California will count on their taxes, and so would possibly Idaho.

Work overseas illegally

Earlier than the pandemic, digital nomads globe-trotted from place to position, taking footage of themselves on seashores whereas they pretend-worked on laptops. In actuality, lots of them violated immigration guidelines whereas documenting the proof for all to see. Most checked the “trip” or “tourism” field on their passport management varieties and by no means instructed the authorities they’d work in the course of the journey. In any other case, the host international locations would count on taxes from the nomad and their employer (if that they had one).


In the event you work for your self and aren’t a multimillion rock star, the percentages of entering into hassle for telecommuting whereas overseas are slim, so long as you don’t e-book a visit lasting longer than 30 days. In case you have a multinational employer, nonetheless, the percentages of hassle are larger. In your employer’s sake, test in along with your HR staff to find out what it’ll take to work legally at your vacation spot. 

Some international locations have so-called “nomad visas” to accommodate distant employees. However whereas Germany’s nomad visa covers self-employed and freelance employees, it doesn’t cowl staff of companies. Your employer could be anticipated to pay taxes. And in case your finance division will get a shock letter from German authorities demanding fee, it’s possible you’ll get fired for violating the phrases of your employment contract.

Fail to report your areas to HR

Many firms don’t practice staff to report their work areas to HR, even when they’re touring for enterprise. Thus, a majority of distant work is unknown to HR and finance, which suggests they will’t adjust to tax withholding necessities.

In our Adapt survey, my staff discovered that 93% of HR professionals are assured they know the place nearly all of their staff are working, and 78% are assured their staff self-report when working in one other state or nation. In actuality, simply one-third of staff report all these days, and roughly 1 / 4 report no days in any respect. 

You could be reluctant to share your location. Some firms will down-adjust your wage to market charge for those who transfer completely from a high-cost metropolis like New York to a extra reasonably priced one like Knoxville, Tennessee. Nonetheless, to keep away from a state of affairs the place you get fired for breaking your employment contract and/or want a tax lawyer, report your location to HR. Inform them the place you’ll be working and for a way lengthy. 

Your organization could have a authorized entity in that state and be geared up to satisfy payroll withholdings and labor laws. The idea of “asking for forgiveness reasonably than begging for permission” would possibly fly with HR, nevertheless it received’t get both of you far with a tax auditor.  

Don’t be a goal

Don’t paint a bullseye in your again, like Gene Simmons. Don’t be a goal for state tax auditors desperate to generate income in a tough yr. Don’t destroy your nomadic work trip in France by getting deported or by chance making a French entity on your firm. Play by the tax guidelines and revel in your freedom. 

Steve Black is the cofounder and chief technique officer at Topia.