Working in the USA?
Taxation and Business Culture in the USA
Lower Than You Might Expect: Taxation in the US
Income tax in the United States is comparatively low, even though it is due on both the federal and state level. As a general rule, resident aliens — i.e. foreign nationals living and working in the US on a permanent basis — are taxed like US citizens.
Non-resident aliens who, during a given tax year, have lived and worked in the US for less than 183 days are only taxed on their income from US sources. You can get more information from the Internal Revenue Service, which offers a special section on taxation of foreigners working in the US.
Filing your US income tax return can be a confusing process. Read our article on US Income Tax for a step-by-step guide and to learn what expats in particular should be aware of when it comes to US taxes.
“Let’s Get to the Point”: Business Etiquette
Americans are known to be more direct than business people in other English-speaking nations, particularly the British. By no means, of course, does this imply that rudeness is appropriate. It does, however, mean that in business, especially on an executive level, a relatively brief, assertive, and matter-of-fact style is preferable to ceremonial, lengthy introductions and beating-around-the-bush style conversations. Time is money and money should not be wasted. Therefore, make sure that you always arrive on time since lateness is considered disrespectful.
Having said this, business proceedings are generally quite informal, and once first introductions are out of the way, colleagues and business associates soon start addressing each other on a first-name basis. Business gifts are uncommon in the US — they can even be received suspiciously since they might be misinterpreted as bribery attempts.
Independent Business Women
Nominally speaking, women are on equal footing with men in the US business world. While most senior management and executive positions are still occupied by men, women feature strongly in middle management and on boards of directors. Thus, foreign business men coming from a different culture should not be surprised if their American counterpart or negotiation partner turns out to be a woman.
While expecting all women to make coffee would be out of place, traditional gestures of politeness between men and women (e.g. holding open the door) are acceptable. Similarly, foreign business women can expect to be treated as equals by their American business associates, male and female alike.
Where to Talk Business
Americans often discuss business over meals. Besides business lunches and business dinners, they even close business deals over breakfast. In general, hard work is expected, and success is appropriately rewarded, as competition is fierce, particularly at the top.
Americans tend to be very hospitable, and it is not uncommon for people to invite business acquaintances round to their home for drinks or dinner parties. Sometimes, invitations are uttered casually at the end of a conversation. They should only be taken seriously if followed up by the host, or if a specific date and time are given. An invitation can be regarded as a sign of appreciation and should never be ignored. Contrary to gifts in business contexts, it is common courtesy to bring a bottle of wine, a bouquet of flowers, or a box of chocolates when you’ve been invited to someone’s home.
Find more information on doing business in the US in our Extended Guide category on Jobs & Business.
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