Since 2013, Clear Angle Studios has been the go-to production company for cyber scanning, LiDAR and large scale aerial filming for films like Jason Bourne, Justice League, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Their ability to capture 360-degree ground and aerial panorama photography with high-tech camera equipment has led them to working with international clients.
What Led Clear Angle to having to expand to the US
Their main offices are located in Shepperton, Middlesex England, where they have a team of people servicing the EU. Given the opportunity to work for global motion pictures, their director, Dominic Ridley sought to send his two trusted partners — Chris Fields (co-founder) and his partner in life Sally Kingsley — to live and work in the United States, which soon led to a series of regulation and entity structure questions.
Chris and Sally packed their bags and moved to the US and began the process of forming a US entity. They immediately ran into concerns with personal compliance and US company and best practice concerns, and realized they might be in over their heads.
Christopher Friend, Co-Founder
It Starts with Visas
When planning on living and working in the US (and in some cases even to visit) individuals will almost always need a visa or Greencard. Depending on your home country the process for obtaining a VISA may vary. Sally and Chris knew they needed a visa, and that it might affect how they get paid, their ability to operate and travel within the US, and their US personal tax obligations.
HPC’s team was able to connect Clear Angle Studios with one of its partners to help with obtaining their visas, which not only allowed Chris and Sally to work in the U.S., but also to live in Georgia.
Sally Kingsley, Business Manager
“We have engaged with your attorney who specializes in visas and immigration a lot over the last few months. He has been amazing and we can’t recommend him enough. We’ve obtained several new visas with his help and he is currently managing the re-filing for Chris Field’s L-1A visa. He, similar to the culture at HPC, is thorough, informative, sticks to deadlines and is generally a pleasure to work with making him a trustworthy source of advice when we need it,” Sally wrote to HPC’s Director of Global Small Business.
Creating the Right Entity
Because Sally and Chris would be living in America and employing U.S. citizens, this required that they setup a corporation. Where and what to form, and how the entity is owned and taxed can become a complex decision while expanding to the US. Clear Angle had already decided to form a US LLC and had already done so via an outside provider before reaching out to HPC.
An LLC is one of a few options while forming a US entity. It is by default pass through structure, meaning the ‘owners or members’ will be the ones liable to pay US taxes. After reviewing the entity and ownership structure, HPC quickly realized that a tax election should be made to remove the foreign individual as a member and make sure his ownership percentage and profits flow through to the UK company not him individually. This is a common situation we see, and the goal is to not create personal or individual filing requirement if it is not necessary.
Accounting and Payroll Services
Clear Angle Studios was already using Xero as its accounting software in the UK, and wished to duplicate their systems and processes in the US. Xero works fairly similar, but Sally did want help making sure it was setup correctly for US tax purposes.
Payroll poses a bigger challenge given the multi-state regulation and compliance involved. Most business owners expanding to the US find the US payroll system to be exponentially complex compared to their payroll requirements in other countries. There are registrations, registered agents, payroll tax ID numbers, ongoing filings every quarter or even month depending on the state, and the actual movement of money to pay your employees.
Xero payroll is not the best option in the US, and using a payroll software alone is usually not enough given the complex nature of multi-state payroll tax and human resource compliance.
HPC helped Clear Angle take advantage of a more hands off approach to all things payroll. We leverage a tool and 3rd party payroll provider called Gusto.
Sally’s experience establishing US payroll - “Tina, the in house payroll and HR specialist at HPC, has been a huge help in getting us registered as employers and setup ourselves and staff as employees. I did not need to worry about the multiple registrations or communicating with Georgia state or on the local county level. Tina told me what I needed to do, and we got it all setup seamlessly and in line with our visa and personal tax requirements. I also had the assistant of HPC’s Insurance Specialist, Jon, who helped get simultaneously get employee health insurance set up for our staff.”
Insurance in the US is a requirement. Not only due to the high risk of lawsuits, but also customers and vendors in many cases (especially large multinational companies) will often REQUIRE insurance. Payroll regulations also require insurance, like workers comp, and US full time employees will expect health insurance from their employers.
Clear Angle asked about insurance early on into working with HPC and establishing themselves in the US. HPC got them connected with our internal insurance specialist.
Within every state, operating without business insurance involves a great deal of risk. HPC assisted Clear Angle by directing them to a trusted agent for obtaining necessary business and worker’s compensation insurance. An umbrella policy was created as well.
“We’ve also been binded for insurance coverage via your insurance specialists, including business insurance and medical insurance. So far so good!”
Peace of Mind
Expanding to the United States can be a long, arduous process when done independently. By working with HPC and its partners, Clear Angle Studios was able to seamlessly establish their company, start paying their people, and was able to continue working with a reputable global clients and gaining traction within the United States. The studio and Sally and Chris personally can now operate with peace of mind knowing they are compliant, and have a trusted partner that will help them scale within the US and even into new territories like Canada.
If you'd like help expanding your company to the US we're happy to walk through how we can help. Please use the link below to setup a conversation.