International secondments

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This topic contains 10 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  IanFromHKG 21 Jul 2018
at 11:38

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  • Marc_ACB

    I have been asked to head to Hong Kong and run our office out there for a few months (3-6 months), its something I’ve wanted to do for a while, will enhance my CV and afford a new challenge. It does involve leaving my OH in London for that time due to their work commitments.

    I am busy negotiating the package and was wondering if there are any things I should be trying to add? I’m cheeky enough to say if I don’t ask, I wont get? Any reasonable ideas?


    There is one large issue that you are probably aware of already but here goes – the high cost of rented accommodation and the cost of getting a flat including rent in advance, deposit, and estate agency fees – check this out carefully if you need to. (Another large issue is education for school-age children, but I won’t say more because it seems from your post that this will not apply to you, correct me if I’m wrong). I lived for very many years in Hong Kong till recently.

    Good luck, it’s a wonderful place to live in my opinion.

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    Make sure that you have a private heathcare package that works for you and also a reasonable number of return flights to see your other half (or vv, if appropriate).

    Good luck and enjoy.

    Also (and you didn’t ask, so this is unsolicited), ensure that you are au fait with the tax situation, going, there and returning.

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    My contribution to this thread, ex-pats on secondment need to ensure there pension contributions are not affected. Depending whether the ex-pat on secondment is employed or self employed & how income is paid (i.e. from the UK or HKG), advice should be taken to ensure retirement contributions are not affected.

    One piece of direct advice – most ex pats in Asia (especially new expats) will be pounced upon by Financial Advisers, most of whom left the UK as they couldn’t get qualified, claiming to be independent (which they are not) and offering all kinds of incentives to listen to presentations how “offshore pension schemes” are so much better, than UK schemes.

    Easier to cut the calls than accept a meeting. Part of my work in the Far East is trying to repair the damage caused the rouge financial advisors…

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    the high cost of rented accommodation and the cost of getting a flat including rent in advance, deposit, and estate agency fees

    I’d further emphasise what GivingUpBa says and say the company should find you suitable accommodation and pay the landlord directly, thus absolving you of any headaches or liabilities in that regard – not to mention the time it can take to find suitable accomodation.

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    I am doing something similar in USA and have agreed company will pay for ‘Tax equalisation’. They will pay for preparation of tax returns for U.K. and US and cover any additional liability resulting from the time spent overseas so I am covered if there is an unforeseen additional tax liability.

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    Be sure you (and your family) have the proper level of travel and life insurance.

    You should ensure you get a serviced apartment in HK, and if possible one that’s roomy enough to accommodate your family when they visit.

    If you need a tailor, avoid the eg Sam’s of this world and try W.W Chan.

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    Thanks everyone, much appreciated, and also reassuring that I have things in hand (fortunately I’m an accountant and my company is great with pension schemes – we are still on a final salary pension), but will make the necessary enquiries re tax.

    Negotiating on flights to and from HK for me on a regular basis, I will still look after a small team in the UK, so that should be a given, and think I may get flights for the OH (no kids here) to join me for Christmas and New Year in Hong Kong (or else where in SE Asia, fortunately he is understanding me being out of the country for our wedding anniversary.

    Exciting times! and from reading everyone’s experiences of overseas postings – there are some serious positives to it.

    Thanks again.


    I’d add one more consideration on the point of accommodation……. Dependant on your personality Hong Kong can have many distractions . Choosing carefully where you stay will determine how close at hand these temptations might be …..

    If you’re within walking distance of say Soho /LKF then it’ll be easier to succumb to its daily delights.

    For me, I’d choose to stay a ferry ride away, allowing you to escape the frenzy of now look and central

    Having said that my comments are from a frequent visitors perspective, however the caveat is that I do interact with workers who seem to see their secondment as an opportunity to enjoy Hong Kong to its fullest.


    Make sure you have a very generous housing allowance – a nice place to go home to is important somewhere as crowded as HK
    Many employers pay utilities too – those aircon bills can be high.As other stated good medical package – when I was there these could be bought from one of the practices directly by your employer. Car – even with the good public transport I enjoyed having a car there. Paid trips home, depending on how long your secondment will be – be sure to stipulate class of travel. ? Domestic help, even part time – some employers do pay for this.

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    I’d be less fussed about a car – public transport here is so cheap and efficient that for a short stint (during which you may not learn the very confusing road system) it probably isn’t worth it.

    Tax equalisation isn’t very efficient when going from a high tax to low tax jurisdiction, but this will depend on whether you are out of the UK long enough to be non-tax-resident for all or part of a tax year. If you remain UK tax-resident, ensure you get a tax indemnity – you should be able to offset any HK tax against UK tax (I think, although I’m not certain), but you should get an indemnity against the possibility that you suffer additional tax liability. If you can become non-UK tax resident for a period, that’s excellent since HK tax rates are much lower (salaries tax caps out at 15% and the effective rate is lower than this) but there are a few tricks. As mentioned above, have your employer pay for your accommodation. Even if you can’t get extra money for this, ensure that part of your remuneration is structured as a housing allowance. This is because the “benefit in kind” (to use a UK term) value of employer-provided accommodation, provided it doesn’t exceed half your basic cash-paid salary, is capped out at 10% of that cash salary. Since I realise that’s not easy to follow, let me give an example. If you receive $100,000 in cash and your employer pays an additional $50,000 for accommodation (which doesn’t exceed 50% of the cash element), then you will be taxed in Hong Kong on the cash element, and also on the housing allowance, but the taxable “value” of the housing allowance will be capped at 10% of the cash ie $10,000. So you will be taxed on $110,000, not on $150,000.

    Good health insurance is a must. The government hospitals in HK are excellent, but queues are long, and while there are many local clinics there isn’t the same sort of government-funded GP system as the UK. Private doctors (and hospitals) are superb but eye-wateringly expensive. Most of the time, if you know what medicine you need, you are better going off to a local pharmacy (not one of the chains like Mannings, but a LOCAL pharmacy, which can easily be found anywhere) and buy whatever you want. Attitudes to prescriptions here are quite relaxed. Provided you don’t want a controlled drug, most pharmacists will give you whatever you want (including antibiotics). All registered pharmacists in HK speak English.

    If your employers are the generous type, you might ask for a club membership. Outfits with large and longstanding local operations may have club debentures (which allow them to nominate employees as members) you can access, but even without that several clubs offer short-term memberships. Bearing in mind that (unless you are living somewhere a long way out OR your housing allowance is very high) you are unlikely to have access to much in the way of outdoor space. Clubs provide that, plus leisure facilities, and the opportunity to meet people (and usually relatively inexpensive food and drink). Even if your employers won’t run to a club membership (you might consider that yourself though) then perhaps a gym membership?

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