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2 min read

Expense reimbursement for international contractors

expense reimbursement for international contractors

Key Takeaways

  • A clear, written expense reimbursement policy is crucial for efficiently managing expenses for international contractors.
  • Pre-approval of expenses, requesting detailed receipts, and streamlining the reimbursement process can help prevent misunderstandings and ensure timely payments.
  • Compliance with local tax laws, consideration of cultural differences, and the use of technology can further enhance the effectiveness of expense reimbursement management.

Navigating expense reimbursement for international contractors can be challenging, but understanding the process is crucial for avoiding financial burdens and misunderstandings. Here’s a step-by-step guide to efficiently managing expense reimbursement for your international contractors.

Step 1: Create a Comprehensive Expense Reimbursement Policy

First and foremost, develop a clear, written expense reimbursement policy that outlines eligible expenses, the submission process, reimbursement time frames, and other relevant information.

For example, you may cover travel, accommodations, and meals for a contractor attending a conference on your company’s behalf, but not personal equipment or home office expenses.

Step 2: Communicate Your Policy Clearly

Ensure your international contractors understand your policy, which may involve translating it into their native language or having detailed discussions to address questions or concerns.

For instance, a contractor in France may require a translated policy and a video call to discuss the details.

Step 3: Implement Pre-Approval for Expenses

Pre-approve all expenses to prevent misunderstandings or unexpected costs. Require contractors to submit estimates or quotes before incurring expenses, allowing both parties to agree on the cost and necessity beforehand.

For example, a contractor in Japan should provide travel cost estimates for pre-approval before attending a meeting.

Step 4: Request Detailed Receipts

Keep track of expenses by requiring detailed receipts that include the date, total cost, and description of the expense.

For instance, a contractor in Canada should submit a receipt for a client meal that includes the date, total cost, and a note about the meeting purpose.

Step 5: Streamline the Reimbursement Process

Establish a consistent reimbursement process to minimize confusion and ensure timely payments. This may include using specific forms or software, setting standard time frames, and using a consistent payment method.

Benefits of Expense Management Software
Benefits of Expense Management Software

For example, consider using a cloud-based expense management system where contractors can upload receipts and complete standard forms, with reimbursements processed within 30 days of submission.

Step 6: Comply with Local Tax Laws

Understand and follow local tax laws regarding expense reimbursements, as these can vary significantly between countries. Consult with a tax professional to ensure compliance.

For instance, some Australian travel expenses may be considered taxable fringe benefits, while reimbursed business expenses in the United States are usually not taxable income.

Step 7: Regularly Review and Update Your Policy

Review and update your expense reimbursement policy as needed, considering changes in tax laws, business operations, or contractor relationships.

Additional Tips for Effective Expense Reimbursement Management

Consider Exchange Rates: Account for currency exchange rates when reimbursing international contractors. Use a consistent exchange rate or an established financial service to manage fluctuations.

Be Mindful of Cultural Differences: Understand cultural nuances, such as Japan’s tradition of conducting business over meals, which may result in higher meal expense claims.

Embrace Technology: Utilize expense management software to streamline the reimbursement process, track expenses, approve or deny claims, and handle currency conversions.

Maintain Open Communication: Keep communication channels open with contractors, discussing policy changes or denying expense claims promptly and clearly.


Managing expense reimbursement for international contractors may seem complex, but with a clear policy and process in place, it can be efficient and effective. Establish clear guidelines, maintain open communication, and consider the specific needs and circumstances of your international contractors to create a fair and efficient reimbursement process.

At RemotePad, Lech draws on his professional experience to write about employment taxes and payroll (both remote, and in-office). Lech holds a Bachelors’ degree from the University of Kent, a Master of Arts (MA) from Kings College London, and professional payroll and tax qualifications. He has 20 years experience advising on all manner of tax and business planning matters.