Top 5 payroll software for international employees

by Adarsh Raj Bhatt
desk globe on table

What is a 1099 employee?

1099 employees work as self-employed individuals -- also known as independent contractors. 

For tax purposes, Form 1099 reports the revenue that independent contractors earn during the year to the IRS.

This form substitutes the W-2, thus showing that:

  • The independent consultant is not an employee
  • No employer is liable for FICA taxes or withholding income tax
  • The independent contractor is accountable for self-employment taxes

People or professionals in an independent trade, industry, or occupation who provide their services to the public (rather than to just a single customer or employer) are considered 1099 “employees,” which include:

  • Doctors
  • Dentists
  • Veterinarians
  • Real Estate Agents
  • Lawyers
  • Accountants
  • Contractors

However, classifying 1099 employees isn't always this straightforward, and the factors that would influence classification might feel subjective.

low-angle photography of man in the middle of buidligns

How to hire an international contractor in the US?

Employers must pay special attention to how they construct contracts when recruiting foreign contractors in order to prevent potential court battles that are time-consuming and expensive.

Local laws would take precedence over any clauses in the contract that are based in the United States. 

Why does this matter?

All of the “at-will” jargon you used (or plan to use) in your contracts in the United States will not extend outside of its borders. In Brazil, for example, terminations are often restricted to cases of gross misconduct and do not include terminations for disappointing performances or economic reasons.

Here are five essential clauses to include in your international contractor offer letter:

Non-disclosure and/or confidentiality provisions

These provisions safeguard the startup's information from misappropriation by contractors.

Clauses of indemnity

These exclude the corporation from liability in the event of a contractor's breach or infringement.

Clauses regulating the transfer of intellectual property

These are clauses that move copyrights from the ownership of a contractor to that of the startup. 

Unless the rights to the work done or performed for the startup are transferred in writing in the United States, private contractors own the right to the work completed for the startup. Some IP rights remain with creators in some countries and cannot be transferred, except in writing.

Clause of notice 

Contractor agreements also often resemble at-will employment agreements, in which any party may leave at any time, with or without cause or warning. 

If the startup depends on contractors for critical tasks, this could cause business disruptions. It's a good idea to include a provision that allows either side to give the other party written notice before terminating a contact.

Clauses for resolving disputes

These are for settling conflicts as (and when) they occur. 

When there are many countries involved in a business partnership, choosing governing laws and a venue ahead of time will save a lot of time and money in future litigation.

group of people using laptop computer

Payroll for International Employees

Paying foreign employees differs from paying employees in your own country. You must pay employees according to their country's payroll and job standards, not yours. As a result, the best way to process payroll is to make sure you know and obey the applicable payroll and tax laws of the different countries you're operating - or/and hiring - in. 

That means understanding the national, state, and local laws in the areas where your startup operates, as well as the laws in the areas where your employees work. Although national laws will remain the same regardless of where you operate in the country, the regional (or provincial) and local laws will differ based on where you operate and where your team members work.


Even if the payroll requirements and tax laws are similar to those in your native country, they will not be identical. 

There might be differences in key elements like: 

  • Tax levels
  • Overtime 
  • Holiday pay 
  • Paid vacation
  • Leaves
  • Paycheck deductions
  • Timelines and due dates 

There might also be different rules from what you're used to when it comes to overtime, holiday pay, paid vacation, and leave. It is your duty to make sure that your international employees are well compensated. Tax evasion and irregular payment practices, such as misclassifying employees as contract employees and cutting checks before making the necessary deductions, submitting federal remittances, and filing the necessary documents, will get you in trouble. You might even be subjected to hefty fines and penalties.

assorted-color flags

How to make international compensation and payroll for an online business?

A U.S.-based startup or business might choose to hire someone from another country for a variety of reasons. 

This could be because: 

  • The job or role you need to hire for is less expensive outside of your country 
  • The skills needed are more difficult to find in your country
  • Your startup wants to build an international profile to sell or promote its product

Bottom line?

Whatever the cause, it's always a good idea to go into anything with your eyes wide open, which means -- in this case -- understanding that while processing local payroll can be a hassle at times, international payroll, which involves paying people in full compliance across several nations, could be much more complicated, time-consuming, and operationally intensive.

Paying the contractor upfront

Some independent contractors choose to be paid in full (or in part) up front. 

Even though this effectively reduces the chances of a contractor not being paid, it tends to increase the startup’s risk. It could be difficult to obtain a refund if the work provided is unfinished or if you are dissatisfied with the work, and you will almost certainly require legal assistance.

Paying upon project completion

In most cases, the best choice for the startup is to pay the independent consultant after the work is done, but this increases the risk for the contractor. The danger can be minimized by explicitly communicating the contract's terms of payment, including when and how the payment will be made, will the independent consultant receive an advance, and so on.

Down payment

If you're dealing with an independent contractor for the very first time, this is a great middle-ground option. Making a down-payment and paying for the project in installments ensures that the contractor is protected, encouraging them to perform excellent work on time.

Paying Hourly

You have the option of paying the independent contractor by the hour or on a defined payment plan. If the contract is long-term, it's a good idea to establish a payment schedule so that everybody knows when to anticipate money: weekly, daily, or semi-monthly.

International Payroll Services

It's vital that your payroll operation is under control and that your startup stays compliant, particularly when dealing with international payroll. Payroll mistakes are certainly possible, given the differences in taxation, regulations, and deadlines around the world. 

Payroll processing operations in multiple countries are managed by international payroll software. For a number of countries, these tools are used to build and enforce payroll processing laws. International payroll also aids startups in adhering to domestic laws as well as national and foreign payroll legislation. 

Multinational corporations' HR departments often use international payroll software to increase payroll efficiency across the organization. International payroll might be used as either a standalone product or as part of a human capital management or HR management suite.

International Payroll Processing

Startups and companies that fail to prioritize global payroll face a slew of issues like:

  • Inefficient procedures 
  • Noncompliance
  • Disgruntled employees who aren't compensated appropriately or on time. 

Handling international payroll processing presents a number of problems. The five main problems include:

#1 Managing compliance with international governments

It's important to stay up to date with all local payroll enforcement rules. For U.S. startups handling payroll in various nations, key areas such as payroll withholding laws and tax responsibilities should be a top priority.

#2 Obtaining accurate payroll statistics for employees

Multinationals must do everything possible to keep salaried and contract employees satisfied and efficient on the job. It's also important to get the numbers correct on paychecks if you want to keep your employees happy.

#3 Getting Payroll Right

What team members see on their final paychecks is influenced by a number of factors. A few of them include: 

  • Overtime
  • Tax deductions
  • Employee benefits 

All of these factors highlight the importance of reliable and automated payroll processing in order to generate accurate numbers in every payroll cycle and prepare for future payroll cycles.

#4 Assuring the accuracy of reporting

International payroll management reporting accuracy can be affected by a range of factors, including:

  • Retaining payroll taxes
  • Estimating payroll income
  • Adjusting for currency variations among employee populations

#5 Taking preventative measures to avoid processing errors

In a lot of cases, if a startup commits even a few (say, one or two) enforcement violations in a foreign country, it places itself on the regulatory radar of the country. 

Working together with your business and regulatory stakeholders on a constructive basis will help you not just improve your understanding of local payroll legislation but also promote a culture of education and leniency with regulatory authorities.

International Payroll Providers


Description: Fast, easy, and affordable global payroll in 120 currencies

Cost: Billing is monthly and you don’t need a credit card to sign up. You'll only be charged once you've paid your new team member. $49 per contractor per month. 

Coverage: International payroll, benefits, taxes, and compliance in 150 countries— all through one powerful dashboard.

Best for: Remote teams that are in need of a platform that offers localized compliance and automates payments in one system of record, as well as provides contracts and templates to be used for tax forms and localized contracts.


  • Deel is month-to-month. Cancel anytime.
  • Deel offers you localized contracts, compliance documents collection, invoice generation and tax forms. It keeps everything in one system of record.
  • For U.S. clients, Deel generates legal documents and tax forms such as W8, W9, 1099, and others.


  • They work in 150 countries. While that covers every major region, it does not cover the entire globe.


Description: With BambooHR managing the data you need to run payroll, you can feel confident that when you make an update, the right data automatically flows into payroll.

Cost: BambooHR offers two packages: Essentials and Advantage. It offers discounted prices to these two packages based on startup size. 

The Essentials package costs $6.19 per employee, per month. The Advantage package is $8.25 per employee, per month.


  • Applicant tracking system
  • Onboarding and offboarding
  • Training tracking
  • Advanced reporting
  • Tailored workflows and approvals
  • Custom access levels and email alerts
  • Startup branding
  • Custom tabs
  • Audit trail
  • Integrations via BambooHR Open API and BambooHR Marketplace
  • Phone support

Best for: Small and medium startups and people who work in them. 


  • Intuitive and easy to use
  • Benefit details
  • Good interface
  • Available mobile app
  • Easy to use


  • Custom checklist functionality could use improvement
  • Prorated vacation hours do not round up. Leaving fractions of an hour which would likely never be used


Description: Rippling syncs all your startup’s HR data with payroll, so you never have to use a calculator or manually enter data, like hours and deductions. 

Costs: Rippling starts at $8 a month, per user.

Coverage:  Easily manage your medical, dental, vision, 401K, and more in one place.

  • All 50 states and international regions
  • Direct deposit or check
  • Federal, state, and local tax filing
  • Workers comp and garnishments
  • W2, W4, 1099 & new hire filing
  • Job codes and multiple pay rates

Best for: Small- and mid=sized startups in a variety of industries, including retail, professional services, food service, manufacturing, and construction


  • Fast onboarding
  • Global payroll management
  • Comprehensive benefits management
  • Centralized employee database
  • Robust security measures


  • The only con with Rippling is that they do not have a customer service phone line to call. All inquiries are via email.


Description: Gusto is a cutting-edge online platform that has assisted over 100,000 small businesses in onboarding, paying, insuring, and engaging their employees. You get limitless payrolls at no extra charge with Gusto, and customer service is usually a breeze. Payroll taxes are also filed automatically.


  • Contractor

$6/mo per person

Plus $0/mo base price

  • Core

Smart, streamlined payroll and benefits built for smaller teams.

$6/mo per person

plus $39/mo base price

  • Complete

Better team tools so you can create a great place to work.

$12/mo per person

plus $39/mo base price

  • Concierge

Certified HR pros and resources are available for even greater peace of mind.

$12/mo per person

plus $149/mo base price

Best for: Small businesses


  • The user interface is intuitive and attractive
  • The setup process is painless and easy
  • It sends payroll and filing reminders to the inbox
  • It integrates well with Xero accounting software


  • Expensive
  • A U.S.-only service
  • No mobile app


Description: Paychex is a leading provider of integrated human capital management solutions for payroll, benefits, human resources, and insurance services.

Cost: Paychex Go (Price: $59/mo. + $4 per employee)

Coverage: Popular HR, accounting, point-of-sale, and productivity tools as well as third-party vendor integrations.

Best for: All startups


  • Payroll breakdown gross-to-net
  • Great retirement plans
  • Knowledgeable and capable support team


  • Lacking customization of reports
  • Long timesheet approval process

We can help!

At AbstractOps, we help early-stage founders streamline and automate regulatory and legal ops, HR, and finance so you can focus on what matters most — your business.

If you're looking for help with choosing the best payroll provider for your startup or business in 2021, we have got your back. Sign up to get started.

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Note: Our content is for general information purposes only. AbstractOps does not provide legal, accounting, or certified expert advice. Consult a lawyer, CPA, or other professional for such services.


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