CORPORATE RELOCATION VOLUMES & BUDGETS INCREASING AS COMPANIES NAVIGATE SHIFTING REIMBURSEMENT METHODS, TAX REFORM & BREXIT
EVANSVILLE, Ind. (April 15, 2019) — According to one of the nation’s leading movers, Atlas® Van Lines, Inc., 2018 was another positive year for the relocation industry, with roughly nine out of 10 organizations indicating relocation volumes and budgets either held steady or increased. Atlas’ annual Corporate Relocation Survey captures comprehensive relocation policy data from industry professionals operating in North American companies and managing employee relocations as part of their job function.
Mid-size firms (500-4,999 salaried employees) reported employee relocation increases occurring most often, with nearly 60 percent reporting budget increases, compared to roughly 40 percent of small (fewer than 500 salaried employees) and large firms (5,000+ salaried employees). Projections for 2019 are similarly optimistic, with more than 40 percent of organizations expecting increases in volume and budget for 2019. With further changes needed to adapt to tax reform and increasing costs, there is acknowledgement that firms are having to ensure budget covers the greater numbers of relocations projected in the coming year.
Among firms relocating employees internationally, 48 percent overall saw increases in international volumes last year and 47 percent expect to see increases in 2019. While projected
increases appear to outpace decreases roughly three to one, there is the wildcard of Brexit looming. Among firms relocating employees internationally, 21 percent aren’t sure how Brexit will impact 2019 relocation volumes.
This year, 444 corporate relocation professionals completed Atlas Van Lines’ online survey. Nearly all respondents (91 percent) work in human resources/personnel or relocation/mobility service departments, and 47 percent work for firms that relocate employees internationally. Each respondent has responsibility for relocation and is employed by a company that has either relocated employees during the past two years or plans to relocate employees this year.
Below are additional trends and findings identified in this year’s Corporate Relocation Survey.
The continued use of multiple reimbursement methods shows how companies tailor assistance to answer the needs of employees and businesses. For the fifth consecutive year, full reimbursement for new hires (36 percent) remains near historically low levels, out of favor in comparison to lump-sum payments (56 percent). Additionally, lump-sum payments have grown in popularity and are now offered with essentially equal frequency to new hires or transfers (56 percent versus 56 percent, respectively). Companies across size estimate that roughly half of their relocations were either partially reimbursed or paid by lump sum only in 2018. Large firms estimated roughly half of relocations were fully reimbursed, while both mid-size and small firms estimated only around a third. One out of seven relocations at mid-size or small firms did not receive any reimbursement and were employee paid.
Tax Reform & Brexit
Most organizations, across sizes, implemented policy changes in 2018 in response to the U.S. Tax Cuts and Jobs Act last year, and have plans to do so again in 2019. While the most common move last year was to gross-up taxable relocation benefits (70 percent), only 49 percent of firms plan to do so in 2019. Fewer mid-size firms plan to implement a policy change to gross-up on taxable relocation benefits (35 percent), while more than half of large and small firms plan to do so. Approximately 50 percent of firms plan to restructure policy and policy tiers, withhold on taxable relocation benefits, and streamline relocation processes to reduce costs.
The wildcard in the mix of relocation this year is Brexit. One out of three organizations are vastly uncertain how the exit of Great Britain from the European Union will impact relocation this year. The anticipated impact of Brexit among firms that relocate internationally varies across company size. Small and mid-size firms believe policy changes will increase due to Brexit (40 percent and 38 percent, respectively), compared to 22 percent of large firms. Small and mid-size firms also anticipate increasing relocation costs (38 percent and 45 percent, respectively), compared to one-fourth of large firms. Nearly half (45 percent) of mid-size firms are concerned Brexit will increase relocation administration complexity for them, compared to a third (35 percent) of small or large firms.
While the vast majority of firms expect either stability or improvement in the U.S. economy this year, the percentage expecting further gains has fallen markedly from 2018 (55 percent) to 2019 (46 percent). While not at recessionary levels, the optimism drop is similar to what occurred before the 2008 recession. The majority of firms expect improvement in their company’s overall financial performance this year, however, there is a declining trend in optimism emerging across indicators. Expectations for improvement in the U.S. real estate market have fallen even lower for 2019 (37 percent) compared to last year (45 percent), indicating a definite softening is expected. Interest rates have been on the rise and, after roughly seven years of recovery from the Great Recession, housing costs are notably higher. While nearly half expect stability during 2019 and more than a third expect growth, the scale is tipping away from high levels of optimism to a recognition of a potentially challenging environment.
For this year’s complete survey results, visit the Atlas Van Lines Corporate Relocation Survey results online at www.atlasvanlines.com/Corporate-Relocation/Survey. A PDF booklet of key findings, charts and the complete survey is also available for download here.
About Atlas® Van Lines, Inc.
Atlas® Van Lines, Inc., a national moving company, is the largest subsidiary of Atlas® World Group, Inc., an Evansville, Indiana-based company. Atlas World Group companies employ nearly 700 people throughout North America. Over 430 Atlas interstate moving agents in the United States and Canada specialize in corporate relocation, household moving services and in the specialized transportation of high-value items such as electronics, fine art, store fixtures, and furniture. For more information, visit www.atlasvanlines.com.