Temporary changes to Statutory Residence Test

The Statutory Resident Test (SRT) rules can be used to determine if someone is resident in the UK for tax purposes. These rules are especially important in cases where an expat or non-dom stays for more than a certain number of days in the UK. Depending on certain pre-defined tests, non-residents can spend between 16 to 183 days in the UK each tax year before they have to start paying UK tax.

In an update to the exceptional circumstances rules for claiming the SRT, HMRC accepts that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic may impact a person's ability to move freely, to and from the UK or require someone to remain unexpectedly in the UK.

The revised guidance states that if you:

  • are quarantined or advised by a health professional or public health guidance to self-isolate in the UK as a result of the virus
  • find yourself advised by official Government advice not to travel from the UK as a result of the virus
  • are unable to leave the UK as a result of the closure of international borders, or
  • are asked by your employer to return to the UK temporarily as a result of the virus

the circumstances are considered as exceptional.

HM Treasury has also issued a letter confirming they will amend the SRT to ensure that any period(s) between 1 March and 1 June 2020 spent in the UK by individuals working on COVID-19 related activities will not count towards the residence tests.

Tax if you work abroad

If you are leaving the UK to work abroad for at least one year (or permanently), there is a requirement to notify HMRC. This is done using a P85 form which should be completed and submitted to HMRC. You will also be required to submit a Self-Assessment tax return if you usually complete one, for example, if you are self-employed.

The completion of the P85 form will also ensure you can claim any tax refund you are entitled to and will also help HMRC decide how you should be treated for the purposes of UK tax. 

The P85 form can be found on the GOV.UK website. There is an online form available as well as a postal form. Your liability to Income Tax will depend on whether you are resident and / or ordinarily resident and / or domiciled in the UK. 

It is also important to consider the National Insurance (NI) implications of working abroad. In some cases, it can be beneficial to continue paying NI contributions whilst abroad as this should help you secure state pension credits.

What is domicile?

Domicile is a general legal concept which in basic terms is taken to mean the country where you permanently belong. However, determining domicile status can be complex. In fact, HMRC guidance states that domicile cannot be defined precisely, but the concept rests on various basic principles.

  • Every individual must have a domicile at all times. The law ascribes a domicile to those individuals it regards as lacking capacity to choose one.
  • An individual cannot have more than one domicile at the same time for the same purpose.
  • An existing domicile is presumed to continue until it is proven that a new domicile has been acquired.

Your first domicile, known as a domicile of origin, is based on that of your parents, usually your father. Your domicile will only change if you acquire a new domicile of choice. To do this, you usually have to move to another country and establish a permanent intention to remain there.

Although domicile can change, there is generally a presumption in favour of the continuation of an existing domicile. To change a domicile, lots of factors are taken into account for example, the location family, property and business interests. This issues that need to be considered are one of the primary reasons that many of these complex cases end up with the courts having to determine the issue.

It is also possible in certain circumstances for an individual to have two domiciles although this is unusual. There is also a concept in the UK of deemed domicile – under new rules introduced from 6 April 2017, any person who has been resident in the UK for more than 15 of the previous 20 years will be deemed to be domiciled in the UK for tax purposes.