Thinking beyond borders
Extended business travelers are likely to be taxed on employment income relating to their Swedish working days, provided the stay in Sweden exceeds 183 days in a 12-month period.
A person’s liability for Swedish tax is determined by residence status for tax purposes. A person can be a resident or a non-resident for Swedish tax purposes.
A resident of Sweden is generally an individual who spends more than six consecutive months in Sweden. A non-resident of Sweden is generally someone who spends less than six consecutive months in Sweden or someone whose stay is longer than six months but is not considered as consecutive. Two days or more presence in Sweden on a regular basis is likely to be sufficient for the stay to be considered consecutive.
A person who is a resident of Sweden is taxed on the individual’s worldwide income. Non-residents are taxed on income derived from sources in Sweden. Extended business travelers are likely to be considered non-residents of Sweden for tax purposes if their stay in Sweden does not exceed six months.
Technically, there is no threshold/minimum number of days that exempts the employee from the requirements to pay tax in Sweden. If the individual qualifies for relief in terms of the dependent personal services article of the applicable tax treaty, there will be no tax liability.
Also, under the 183-day rule in the Swedish domestic Special Income Tax Act for Non-residents (SINK), a non-resident individual will not be subject to Swedish income tax, provided the individual’s income is paid by a non-Swedish employer with no permanent establishment (PE) in Sweden and that the stay in Sweden does not exceed 183 days in a 12-month period. Please note that Sweden does not apply the economic employer concept.
For extended business travelers, the types of income that are generally taxed are employment income, Swedish-sourced income, and gains from the sale of taxable Swedish assets (such as real estate). Fringe benefits are generally taxable.
Tax residents are taxed at graduated rates ranging from approximately 30 percent to 60 percent (the rate varies between different municipalities). Non-residents taxed under SINK are taxed at a flat rate of 20 percent.
The Swedish social security scheme is divided into a residence-based insurance that covers minimum basic payments and allowances and a work-related insurance covering loss of income.
Anyone residing in Sweden is covered by the residence-based insurance. Individuals coming to Sweden are deemed to be a resident if it can be assumed the stay will exceed 12 months. Residents leaving Sweden are still regarded as residents if it can be assumed their stay abroad will not exceed 12 months.
The work-based scheme covers employees, contractors, and self-employed.
All people working in Sweden are covered by the work-based scheme. Work performed outside of Sweden for an employer resident in Sweden is also deemed as work in Sweden if the assignment period is assumed to be 12 months or less. Equally, work is not deemed as work in Sweden when an individual is assigned to Sweden by a foreign employer and the assignment period is assumed to be 12 months or less. In this respect, a foreign employer is an entity without a PE in Sweden.
The Swedish social security system is financed by social security contributions. The employer social security contributions is 31.42 percent. The base for the contributions is the employees’ salary. The contribution includes pension contributions to the public pension system, healthcare, etc. In addition, the employee pays seven percent in pension contributions to the public system, with a cap at an annual income of 496,305, Swedish krona (SEK). Thus, the maximum employee contribution is SEK 34,741. The employee’s contributions are fully credited against income tax.
Extended business travelers employed by an employer located in a European Economic Area (EEA) member state or Switzerland, can, in most cases, remain subject to their home countries’ social security schemes. The exemption from paying Swedish social security contributions is due to the EU regulation 883/2004 about posting and/or simultaneous employment. Extended business travelers with employers outside the EEA area or Switzerland, may obtain exemptions from paying Swedish social security contributions and stay in their home countries’ social security systems due to the totalization agreements signed between their home countries and Sweden. If it is not possible to stay in the home country social security coverage and no subsequent exemption from social security contributions are available under EU regulation 883/2004, totalization agreements or Swedish domestic rules, an extended business traveler will be subject to Swedish social security.
Individual income tax returns are due by 2 May following the tax year-end, which is 31 December. Extension to file the tax return on 31 May might be possible. A non-resident taxed under SINK should not file a tax return, although an application for SINK is required.
If an individual is taxable on employment income, the employer has a withholding requirement. No withholding applies, however, where the employer is a non-resident with no permanent establishment in Sweden.
Depending on nationality, a visa must be applied for before the individual enters Sweden. The type of visa required will depend on the purpose of the individual’s entry. Visas are not required for European Union (EU) nationals and several other nationals. A work permit is required for non-EU nationals.
From July 1, 2013 foreign employers are required to report employees stationed in Sweden to the Swedish Work Environment Authority when the posting is longer than five days. The foreign employer should report information about the company, the employees and designate and register a contact person in Sweden to the Swedish Work Environment Authority.
In addition to Swedish domestic arrangements that provide relief from international double taxation, Sweden has entered into double taxation treaties with more than 60 countries to prevent double taxation and allow cooperation between Sweden and other tax authorities in enforcing their respective tax laws.
There is a risk that a PE could be created as a result of extended business travel, but this would depend on the type of services performed and the level of authority the employee has.
Sweden applies value-added tax (VAT). The general rate is 25 percent. Different rates apply on certain goods and services.
Sweden has a transfer pricing regime. A transfer pricing implication could arise to the extent that the employee is being paid by an entity in one jurisdiction but performing services for the benefit of the entity in another jurisdiction, in other words, a cross-border benefit is being provided. This would also be dependent on the nature and complexity of the services performed.
Sweden has data privacy laws.
Sweden does not restrict the flow of Swedish or foreign currency into or out of the country. Certain reporting obligations, however, are imposed to control tax evasion and money laundering. All currency transfers made by any person into or out of Sweden of EUR 10,000 or more in value must be reported by the transferring bank to the Swedish Customs.
Generally, private living expenses are not deductible. In regard to employment income, the tax allowable items include expenses for travel between home and office to the extent that such expenses exceed SEK 11,000 and certain criteria are fulfilled. Increased cost of living during business trips and temporary assignments are allowable for deductions, but are subject to certain restrictions. Foreign employee social security contributions within the EU are also deductible.
As businesses become increasingly global, we have witnessed a dramatic rise in the number of business travelers now working in foreign jurisdictions.