Getting paid abroad

NUJ Freelance Organiser John Toner reminded freelances in July's LFB meeting of "the scary bit" of selling your work abroad - getting paid abroad. "Be warned," he warned, "that 'abroad' is much closer than you think."

John reminded us that for the purposes of getting paid, "'abroad' starts North of the Solway Firth": Scotland is legally "in another jurisdiction." John recalls one freelance owed several hundred pounds by a Scottish client who decided that going to court in Edinburgh to get paid wasn't worth the considerable train fare, overnight stay and loss of a day's work.

Then there's "withholding tax", which sounds like a scam but isn't. Talk to your "friendly revenue people" at Her Majesty's Customs and Excise about legitimately getting round this and forms to make this happen.

"We tend to think it's better abroad, where authors' rights are better in most of the EU", John cautions: "but in the US, you sign a pact with the devil, and you don't get to play the guitar."

Recently, journalists' unions in Austria, Germany, Norway, Switzerland and the USA have helped NUJ members. After ten years' work, John can report that finally "we are persuading journalists' unions to bring in a mutual assistance scheme... so that if someone is owed money by a client in Switzerland we can go to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) affiliate union there "and get them to take over the work" of extracting money from clients.

So far, the Swiss and German IFJ affiliates are formally singed up, and there's a separate arrangement for France via NUJ Paris Branch.

Banks can charge hefty commissions for converting payments made in foreign currencies. It's tempting to let clients pay you for several months' worth of work in one go to save bank charges. But, John cautions "being owed a lot of money is always a bad idea."

"Prevention is better than cure," John concluded. "Please come to the (NUJ) Freelance Office before signing the contract - instead of us having to dig you out of a pit of misery."

Last modified: 08 Aug 2011 - © 2011 contributors
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