COVID-19: What do the global travel restrictions mean for you?

Our team: Helen Cox, Anna Pearson-Freeland

As a result of Covid-19, extensive travel restrictions have been imposed globally and individuals everywhere are being told to self-isolate at home. For some of our clients, this may have an impact on their UK residence days for the current tax year under the UK statutory residence test.

The UK uses the statutory residence test to determine whether an individual will be treated, and taxed, as a UK resident. The test provides a relief that individuals can use to disregard up to 60 days during a tax year if those days are spent in the UK as a result of “exceptional circumstances”. These are defined as circumstances which are beyond their control and which prevent them from leaving the UK.

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, HMRC has recently announced that days spent in the UK due to the following will count as “exceptional circumstances”:

  • 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.
  • If you are advised by official Government advice not to travel from the UK as a result of the virus.
  • If you are unable to leave the UK as a result of the closure of international borders.
  • If you are asked by your employer to return to the UK temporarily as a result of the virus.

This is a rapidly changing situation and it is expected that HMRC will continue to review and update (likely to be at short notice) its guidance in this area as the situation evolves.

Although HMRC’s guidance is of course helpful, with the UK lockdown measures currently amounting to a minimum of 45 days, and the difficulties associated with international travel, it is feasible that a number of individuals may breach the 60 day limit. In the meantime, we would advise our clients to keep detailed and accurate records of all days they are spending the UK due to the ongoing travel restrictions, cancellation of travel plans, sickness and self-isolation.

If the strict 60-day limit for “exceptional circumstances” is breached there are a number of other planning techniques which could be considered to minimise an individual’s UK tax liability. In particular, the UK’s extensive double tax treaty network should not be forgotten.

The UK statutory residence test is a complex area so if you would like any further information, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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