Working directly with experienced Filipino accountants is one way to resolve the talent shortage in your US accounting firm. But for your new hire to work effectively, safely, and securely they need access to a laptop that’s set up in line with your company guidelines.

So, how do you overcome this IT obstacle and ensure your accountant can access the laptop they need?

In this post, we’ll share the top considerations for how to ship a laptop internationally. Plus, we’ll highlight some alternative options that may well make your life easier.

Should You Ship a Laptop From the U.S. to Your Filipino Accountant?  

From the onboarding, governance, and compliance perspectives, you want your Filipino accountants to use a laptop that meets your firm's IT specifications and has the relevant security software and VPN, etc. With this in mind, the first option that springs to mind will be to ship one of your existing laptops directly to the new accountant on your Filipino team. 

However, shipping a laptop directly to your worker does have both positive and negative considerations. 

The positives:

Firstly, let’s look at the positives of providing a laptop directly to your worker:

  • Employee satisfaction – being given a fully specced company laptop can be a perk for your new hire, helping you to make their onboarding a positive experience.
  • Standardization – by providing the same laptop to all workers, everyone has the same equipment, training can be standardized and processes can be consistent.
  • Security – company-issued laptops will have pre-installed security software and data encryption in place, which helps to increase your information security and safety.
  • Remote work-ready – with a laptop and access to decent WiFi internet, your new accountant is ready to work from any location in the Philippines.

The negatives:

Now, let’s look at the potential negatives of shipping the laptop, and why an alternative solution may well be worth factoring into your decision-making process:

  • Cost – shipping a laptop internationally can be expensive, especially once you factor in the potential customs fees and import duties that may be due.
  • Lead time – international shipping can take a significant amount of time, with some international shipments taking up to 3 weeks via some couriers. This delays your new hire's ability to start working.
  • Risk of damage – laptops are delicate and can be susceptible to damage during shipping. Shipping insurance can mitigate this risk but also adds to your overall costs.
  • Technical support – providing remote technical support for an overseas laptop can be challenging, mainly due to time zone differences and potential language barriers.
  • Data security concerns – shipping a laptop that contains sensitive company data raises some security concerns, particularly if the unit is lost or stolen in transit.

Top Options to Consider Instead of Shipping a Laptop

Providing a company laptop for your accountant has the benefit of providing a consistent and secure machine. It also gets your new hire working as soon as possible. But, as we’ve seen, shipping the laptop from the US may not be the most practical or cost-effective solution.

There are alternative options to consider, though. Option #1 is to buy a laptop directly from a Filipino computer vendor. Option #2 is to allow your new accountant to use their own personal laptop. Both options are worth thinking about, but, as we’ll see, buying directly from the Philippines is the better choice for your firm, in most scenarios.

1. TeamUp’s Recommended Solution: Purchase From a Philippines Vendor, Based on Detailed Specifications  

One sensible solution is to buy a brand-new laptop from a computer supplier in the same location as your team member. Buying a laptop in the Philippines is likely to be faster, more cost-effective, and a more practical long-term solution when onboarding new staff.

For this direct purchase strategy to work, you’ll need to:

  • Find a reputable computer vendor – it’s vital to find a trustworthy and reputable vendor, where you can be sure of receiving a quality laptop at a good market price. Talk to your network to ask for recommendations, but, most importantly, do your homework:some text
    • Check the vendor’s website and make sure they’re an accredited supplier for the computer brand you intend to purchase for your worker.
    • Check the vendor’s Google business profile, contact details, phone number, etc., and that there’s a physical store that you (or a representative) can visit. 
    • Review customer feedback and comments on the vendor’s site, through TrustPilot, or via the vendor’s social media accounts 
    • Arrange a call to talk through price, availability, turnaround times, and how much technical support the vendor will offer post-sale.
  • Research the vendor’s after-sales support  – it’s important to have assurances around product warranties, after-sales care, and the vendor’s customer service provision. When workers have a technical issue, they will need access to support that’s local and available during business hours in their time zone.
  • Clearly define the specs for the laptop – it’s vital to outline the specs that are required. This will mean defining the operating system, processor speed, RAM, hard disk storage, screen size, and any security features that your firm will require for the laptop. As a minimum, we would advise a laptop running Windows 11, an Intel i5 or i7 processor, a 14-inch screen or bigger, 16MB of RAM, and at least 2 x USB ports for peripherals. 
  • Build a long-term relationship with this vendor – to guarantee the best service, and negotiate a good price point in the future, it’s worth nurturing a long-term relationship with one vendor. As you grow the firm, you will need more workers and more laptops, so this could be a profitable partnership for the right vendor. 

We recommend talking to PC Express, a trusted vendor and partner that many TeamUp clients have partnered with when sourcing laptops for their new hires.

2. Team Member Uses Their Own Computer

An alternative option is for your new accountant to use their personal computer. As a trained accountant, it’s likely that your new hire will have a laptop available to them. But while this may seem like a simple solution, some issues make this a risky option for a security-conscious US accounting firm. 

Here are the pros and cons of asking your accountant to use their own machine:

  • Pro: it’s very quick – there’s no wait or delivery time, as the worker already owns the machine, and can start setting it up ASAP.
  • Pro: the worker knows the machine – there’s no learning curve for the worker, as they’re already familiar with the machine, operating system and key features.
  • Pro: there are no initial purchase costs – as a firm, you save money, removing the expenses of purchasing a new laptop for each team member.
  • Con: there’s a real data security risk – having sensitive client data and information on a third-party laptop is inherently risky. As a firm, you have limited oversight of how the data is stored, who can access it, and who can view the information on the screen. 
  • Con: specific software will need to be downloaded – you’ll likely need to add company-specific security software to the laptop, which creates an additional layer of complexity. This may be difficult to achieve remotely as well. 
  • Con: the laptop may break or have technical issues – if the laptop has a technical fault or issue, you’re reliant on technical support from the original vendor (a vendor that your firm hasn’t vetted and has no prior relationship with).

The data security risks are a major problem and could well be the deciding factor in ruling this option out. However, there are ways to improve the security aspects and mitigate the potential risks when your accountant is using their own laptop. 

For example:

  • Add your firm’s company-specific security software to the machine
  • Provide the ability for your worker to sign into a remote desktop via the cloud
  • Only store client data via cloud storage and never directly onto the laptop’s hard drive
  • Run regular malware checks and disk clean-ups to check for malicious software
  • Use password software (like Practice Protect or 1Password) when logging in to any online applications used by the worker
  • Have clear company rules around where the laptop can be left when unattended – i.e. locking the laptop away securely and not leaving it in a laptop bag in public places. 

3. Ship a Laptop From the US to the Philippines

If Options #1 and #2 don’t work for your firm, there is still the option of shipping a company machine straight to your accountant in the Philippines. If this is your chosen route, we’d advise the following tips for making your shipping process as safe and effective as possible:

  • Research the current customs regulations – look into the customs regulations for importing electronic devices to the Philippines, so you’re aware of the potential import duties, taxes, and any customs documentation that might be needed.
  • Remove any sensitive data from the hard drive – sending a laptop with sensitive information is a security risk, so delete any client information before sending the machine, to mitigate this risk. 
  • Add password protection – consider adding additional password protection to the laptop's hard drive, so only your trusted worker can access and open the laptop.
  • Pack the laptop securely – pack the laptop securely using appropriate cushioning materials, like bubble wrap or packing chips. Proper packing, and putting the laptop in bubble wrap, will prevent any accidental damage during transit. Also, make sure you include a power supply that’s compatible with Filipino power outlets (220V, 60Hz).   
  • Choose a reliable shipping carrier – choose a carrier that’s experienced in handling international deliveries of electronic devices. It’s worth paying more for proper tracking of the package and additional shipping insurance if the laptop goes astray.
  • Fill out all relevant paperwork – include a commercial invoice with details of the laptop, its value, and why you’re shipping it. You’ll also need to fill out the packing list for the courier, the shipping label, and any relevant customs forms that will be needed by both the US and the Philippines customs authorities.
  • Inform the carrier that the package contains a lithium battery – most shipping carriers have regulations in place for transporting lithium batteries. Declaring the presence of a lithium battery in your shipped laptop allows the carrier to handle the package appropriately and safely when delivering to your destination country.

How much does shipping a computer from the US to the Philippines cost?

The price you pay will be dependent on the value of the laptop, the size of the package, package weight, and how quickly you want the laptop to be delivered from the US to the Philippines.

Here’s a breakdown of the main expenses, to give you an approximate idea of the cost:

  • Base shipping cost – do your research and shop around for the best price, but also ensure you use a reputable carrier that offers tracking, additional insurance, and a fast turnaround.
  • Import Duty – the Philippines imposes an import duty on electronics, typically around 7% of the declared value of the laptop.
  • Value Added Tax (VAT) – a 12% VAT charge is usually charged on top of the import duty and the declared value.
  • Additional expenses – You can declare a higher value for the laptop and pay a premium to receive full compensation in case of loss or damage. There may also be a surcharge for delivering the package to remote areas. Some carriers may also add a fuel surcharge based on current fuel prices.

Example: Let's say you're shipping a 2 kg laptop from Los Angeles to Manila via a standard shipping service with a base price of $100 USD. You declare the laptop's value at $500 USD. Here's a possible cost breakdown:

  • Base Shipping Cost: $100
  • Estimated Import Duty (7% of $500): $35
  • Estimated VAT (12% of ($500 + $35)): $64.20
  • Total Estimated Cost (without optional fees): ~$199.20

The value of opting for a Filipino computer vendor

There are real benefits to providing a company laptop to your new team member. They get the perk of a brand-new laptop to get started on their work, and your firm gets the assurance of a laptop that meets all your data-security requirements.

However, shipping a laptop from the US to the Philippines can be problematic, with many potential hurdles to overcome. Your package can be delayed by the carrier. It could get stuck at customs if the right paperwork is not provided. And there’s always a chance that the carrier will fail to deliver the package safely to your team member.

However, as we’ve seen, most of these issues can be avoided by opting to supply your accountant’s laptop through a Philippines-based computer vendor, like PC Express.

We advise against shipping the laptop unless it’s your firm’s only available option. Buying directly in the Philippines is fast, cost-effective, and mitigates the data-security risks. 

For more advice on hiring and working with accountants in the Philippines, visit our content hub or schedule a free call with our team. 

Written By
Isaac Smith
Isaac has been building businesses since 2014. He sold an eCommerce business in 2019, co-founded Summit eCommerce Advisors - a bookkeeping and advisory firm, TeamUp - a recruiting business, and hosts the Next Level eCommerce podcast. He lives in the Portland, Oregon area, where he loves snowboarding with his daughter and trying to convince his wife to do outdoorsy things.
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