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Do U.S. company locations allow USVI citizens to work for them remotely?

 
Joey*
(@joey)
New Member

Curious if anyone is aware of issues trying to live in the USVI and working for a U.S. company location?  Example: USVI resident applies for employment at a U.S. company.  Are U.S. companies capable of allowing this? 

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Topic starter Posted : November 3, 2020 5:29 pm
Gator's Mom
(@gators_mom)
Trusted Member

Lots of people in the VI work remotely for companies all over the US. 

But first read this and IRS Publication 570 about Bona Fide residency and tax home.

https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/individuals-living-or-working-in-us-possessions

The USVI is part of the US and you legally can work full-time from the USVI. however your employer may not agree to this if you start using a VI mailing address. Many corporate HR wonks are going to want to set you up as working from another state and that just isn't possible since the VI is its own tax jurisdiction and fully separate from the IRS. So they will knee jerk and say no.

Interstate taxation is a complicated issue for many companies. My guess is that the cost for a company to set up a tax withholding relationship and maintain it with any given state could cost $15K though that does seem high. A traveling employee could theoretically owe state income taxes in every jurisdiction to which he/she travels.

What's different about the VI is it's a territory and not a state. The IRS Bona Fide residency policy, in most cases, would remove the employer's responsibility to set up any type of formal relationship with the VI BIR. Your tax home would be where your employer is located by definition of tax home and your responsibility is to pay taxes to the IRS but would have no state tax to pay - or be forced to pay state/local taxes where your employer is located, which would be your tax home. 

The complication would be an accountant wanting to withhold taxes on behalf of the VI like he/she would for a state which would be impossible and not required. Easier to say no than to figure it out.

I am a remote worker moving between FL and the VI. My tax home is FL where my employer is located and I use a FL address for HR purposes. FL is easy because there is no state income taxes to gum up the works. 

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Posted : November 3, 2020 6:13 pm
jaldeborgh
(@jaldeborgh)
Advanced Member
Posted by: @joey

Example: USVI resident applies for employment at a U.S. company. 

I would think this is up to the prospective employer to decide and put any needed processes in place to support an employee in the USVI.  My company/employer has employees in many states and over 30 countries around the world.  Setting up any legal entities is mostly a one time cost and rarely a roadblock to hiring needed talent (good people).

I’m retiring early next year but have worked out an arrangement to consult for 5 hours a week for about 18 months, strictly to help assure a smooth transition, as I hold a fairly senior level position in our company.  My consulting results in my “tax home” still being outside the USVI and I still have a residence in New England, so it’s impossible for me to be considered a Bona Fide resident of the USVI, even though there is a good chance I’ll meet the 183 day requirement.

Bottom line to me is seek out job opportunities anywhere in the US where you can work remotely from the USVI, just make your residence clear from the beginning and it won’t be an issue.

This is the wave of the future, it’s only going to become more common and easier for companies to allow.  All three of my daughters, their husbands an/or boyfriends are working remotely.  They have no allegiance as to where they live, it’s remarkable to watch.  In my case over 2/3’s of our roughly 1000 employees have been working remotely since March with no apparent loss in productivity or any lost business.  We don’t expect this to change until roughly June of 2021 and even then many employees will be allowed to work remotely indefinitely.  The world is changing rapidly and COVID-19 has only served to accelerate the trend of working remotely.  From an HR or recruiting perspective this is a great thing as the population of perspective candidates is no longer limited to those willing to live in a specific area.

Best of luck in your search.

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Posted : November 3, 2020 10:09 pm
Gator's Mom
(@gators_mom)
Trusted Member

There are a plethora of posts by individuals who have negotiated living in the VI and working for a US company. Some companies' HR systems will look at the VI as a foreign country rather than US territory.  Just like FEDEX and UPS do in delivering to the VI.

As jaldeborgh stated, working remotely is becoming a new norm. Understanding tax home vs. residency and being able to share this info with a future employer may be a key to happily working remotely from the VI. My (very large) FL-based employer knows I'm moving full-time to the VI early next year - but I've been encouraged to use a friend's FL address to simplify things. 

There are the issues of electricity, broadband service, mobile phone service and health care/insurance. As a long-time telecommuter here are my observations.

Electricity - WAPA is the government owned electric company in the VI. They have a notorious reputation of having one of the most expensive residential rates in the US if not the world. In addition, they're also extremely unreliable particularly on STX. STT/STJ has newer generation so power outages don't occur as often there. What that means for a homeworker is you'll need a plan for backup power for when you're on a project deadline or important zoom call and you lose power. We all figure it out but if you're reliant on the internet to work as most of us are, it can be a problem to anticipate. Also, power surges can burn up your electronics so plugging into a surge protector/battery back up block is critical. There is a coconut telegraph rumor on STX that power generation outages are going to increase - and routine brownouts may start occurring in the coming months. The darkest rumor is that the power plant on STX is doomed to fail completely - I'm not inclined to believe this but there is that worst case.

Internet - There are two main providers of internet/broadband service in the VI. VIYA is the local cable company and it can provide adequate and dependable service but at slow speeds if you're used to FIOS or similar. Broadband VI uses radio frequency to deliver its broadband to you - quite innovative but still even their best offering is slow compared to cities on the US mainland. Some satellite internet options may be on the horizon. Right now, I use Broadband VI and it works admirably well but I will need to increase my plan when I'm on STX working full time. As my backup I use the ATT (now liberty) WiFi hotspot on my iphone - this can sustain me through a power or internet outage of limited duration.

Cell phone - Even though service continues to improve, there are times and places on the islands when you just can't receive calls. Texts usually get through. There are backups - such as devices from your cell provider. I make sure my phone and service provider support WiFi calling that allows me to make and receive calls through a WiFi connection - I just turn it on on my phone when I need it. I've already checked that Liberty will continue this service. I have found that ATT/now Liberty service is the most reliable. Some say T-Mobile works as well. Verizon not so much unless things have changed drastically. There are landline options, too.

Health care/insurance - Hopefully, your future employer will provide health insurance but many group plans are geographically limited. Meaning your group health insurance may not work in the VI except for emergencies. Making it worse, there are NO ACA individual health insurance plans available in the VI - though I think some of the new-fangled association plans like through your college alumni association might provide coverage for you. The hospitals on both STX and STT were wrecked in the hurricanes of 2017. There are s-l-o-w steps to improve them but it will be many years in the future to reach a first world acceptability of service. Doctors are OK though. Med evac insurance is available to fly you off island for a reasonable annual premium.

Best of luck - living in the VI is a daily adventure. 

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Posted : November 4, 2020 11:50 am
Exit Zero
(@exit-zero)
Trusted Member Registered

Gator's Mom wrote:

Best of luck - living in the VI is a daily adventure. 

What could be a better testamonial for the USVI Moving Center! ?

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Posted : November 4, 2020 5:37 pm
jaldeborgh
(@jaldeborgh)
Advanced Member

We've been using Broadband VI with good success.  At one point this summer we had 5 people all telecommuting at once, including a steady stream of Zoom meetings, SKYPE calling as well as regular email traffic and never once had an issue.  I give them high marks, even though the bandwidth isn't very big compared to the mainland.  We do have solar with battery storage so WAPA isn't the typical wildcard.  I noticed our internet generally stays up even if the WAPA power goes out.

I did mention on a different thread that T-Mobile isn't great where we live (east of Christiansted) but you may be able to install what's called a LTE CellSpot that will allow T-Mobile to work great in your house.  Our family is a long time T-Mobile customer.

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Posted : November 4, 2020 8:36 pm
NorthsideKevin
(@northsidekevin)
Advanced Member

LL Frijole' says NO for home-based online service employees.  Relative works for them in the States, can't move  back here and continue.  Not sure why other than maybe the taxation issue and the possible necessity of having to file and pay gross receipts as well as IRB income taxes.

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Posted : November 17, 2020 10:15 am
Gator's Mom
(@gators_mom)
Trusted Member
Posted by: @northsidekevin

LL Frijole' says NO for home-based online service employees.  Relative works for them in the States, can't move  back here and continue.  Not sure why other than maybe the taxation issue and the possible necessity of having to file and pay gross receipts as well as IRB income taxes.

Your relative's tax home would be where the company's headquarters is located if he/she is an employee (W-2). The company would have no responsibility for having a relationship with the IRB or gross receipts taxes in the VI. If your relative is a contractor (1099), those taxing relationships are different - but how and where taxes are filed is his/her responsibility as a self-employed person. 

If your relative can find a sympathetic corporate person, share this with them (maybe someone in HR).

https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/individuals-living-or-working-in-us-possessions

The company also may have issues with your relative attending meetings in person at HQ and attempting to charge travel expenses. They also may have other issues related to other expenses such as office, internet, phone, etc. Your relative may be able to work this out.

 

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Posted : November 17, 2020 12:35 pm
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