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A startup company in Berlin, Germany is interested to have an interview with me for a Position which states is Fully Remote. I am an Indian residing in India.

Can I work for this company completely remotely?

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    You may become liable for both German and Indian income taxes. Feb 6, 2022 at 15:19
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    Also their "fully remote" can only mean "fully remote in Germany only", so also better to check that.
    – quantum
    Feb 7, 2022 at 12:14
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    You're welcome. Keep in mind that a German company may not be the most accurate source of information about possible Indian tax liability for an Indian citizen, physically present in India, who works remotely for a German firm. I would seek info from an Indian accountant on this issue. Feb 7, 2022 at 15:00
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    @DavidSupportsMonica I had a chat with HR. They said I will be hired as a Freelancer and tax will be applied as per Indian Rules. I believe being hired as a Freelancer would not be a good idea. Any thoughts on that. By Remote they definitely mean work from anywhere and If I am interested they will help me move to Germany. Feb 7, 2022 at 15:08
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    HR is focused only on your relations to the company. HR's expertise does not extend to your relation with the German or Indian (or any other country's) taxing authority. While HR probably knows about tax liability for an employee or freelancer who is resident in Germany, I would not depend upon their assurances with regard to possible tax liability (to either Germany or India) if you are not resident in Germany. Feb 7, 2022 at 15:17

3 Answers 3

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The liability is mostly for the company in these scenarios. Nearly every company advertising jobs as fully remote will either have restrictions on where their employees can be located or figure out some solution to offer you some form of local contract. It could be something like a contractor/freelance contract or a work contract with a third-party “employer of record” provider. It's up to you to decide if that's similar enough to an employment contract for your taste.

Some companies with a lot of experience with this (e.g. GitLab) also rule out employment in specific countries because there is no satisfactory legal vehicle and too much liability for the company in those countries. A startup will almost certainly rely on a third-party HR solution vendor to handle all this (and your contract is likely to be with that company or one of their subcontractors, rather than directly with the startup).

If they are not, I would consider this a red flag. I would not be terribly concerned about taxes but rather about the fact that someone might discover down the line that they cannot offer you a contract or be forced to end it when they clean up their processes.

In practice, you should know that this is possible and you don't need to rule them out before the first interview. You can always ask questions (maybe ask if they have other employees in India or outside Germany in general?) and you will still have the option to pull out when they send you an actual contract and have a chance to see how it looks like.

One downside to keep in mind is that the contract you will get is likely to be less protective than a bona fide German employment contract. It will be easier to fire you than if you were employed in Germany with a full-time permanent contract (but then again, it's not worse than typical at-will US employment or the many temp work contracts that exist in Europe).

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  • Thank you for information :) Jan 3, 2023 at 10:46
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You likely wouldn't be able to become an employee, unless that German company also has offices in India and would handle tax-related and other local law-related things there. But you could be a freelancer and be on a freelance contract. Then basically you have your own one-man company in India and pay taxes on your income through that.

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  • That would be good until and unless company fulfils financial obligations every month without fail right? Jan 3, 2023 at 10:47
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Can I work for this company completely remotely?

If you have a German work permit and reside in Germany, you can. The job offer might even help you get you those permits.

If you have a German work permit and reside in India and pay taxes, social security and health insurance in both countries, you can. But that is a tax nightmare and since the company has to handle parts of that, they might not be willing to spend that time and money.

What you cannot do is stay in India and work remotely for a German company as a regular full time employee without a German work permit or paying German taxes/socials/health insurance.

The German company is not allowed to employ you without a work permit and the fact that you don't have a social security number, tax identity or a mandatory German health insurance number will make that abundantly clear once they even try to fill out forms.

What they can do is to employ you at an Indian subsidiary of theirs as an Indian employee, if they have one. Big corporations might do that, as a startup that seems highly unlikely.

What they can also do, is to not employ you as a regular employee, but instead as an independent contractor. That means you work for them, but you don't get a salary. Instead you send them an invoice each month for the services you provided. In your case maybe hours of programming at a set rate. However, that means you have zero legal protections that would apply to German workers. No paid time off, no holidays, no paid sick leave, nothing. You get paid for services provided and only that. It also means you have to somehow incorporate in India to be able to send invoices to other corporate entities. If they decide to not pay those invoices, you will have next to zero leverage, since they could care less what an Indidan court decides if they have no business in India.

If they are a tiny startup, whether they know this... is up to your best guess. Ask them how they plan on doing it. Make sure they know what they are doing, before you quit any other job you may have.

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  • Thank you for the explanation. Much Appreciated. Jan 3, 2023 at 10:42
  • Are issues outlined apply only for a German Company or any company in Europe in general. Jan 3, 2023 at 10:45
  • "Europe" consists of around 50 different countries, half of them in the EU and the rest with varying degrees of sub-treaties with the EU for different parts, like taxes or freedom of movement. Some of them share a currency, but not all. So "Europe" is in no way one big bloc with the same rules. But I would expect them to have very similar laws. What I described as working above should work in all countries, but whether any of them has loopholes around it that makes it easier to be employed directly, you would need specialized knowledge about each of them, that I don't have.
    – nvoigt
    Jan 3, 2023 at 11:02
  • Thank you very much for your inputs. Jan 4, 2023 at 4:54

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