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How to tell if you have to submit a UK tax return

Even if you haven't received a letter from HMRC, you may still have to complete a Self Assessment tax return in the UK. These six steps will help you understand whether you should be completing a UK tax return

Written by E4E Editor on 14 May 2024

While not all expats have to submit a tax return in the UK, a large proportion of British expats are required by HMRC to complete a tax return. Failure to do so could result in penalties and additional interest on late payments.

While the HMRC website has an online tool to assist people living in the UK determine whether they must submit a tax return in the UK, this was not created with expats in mind, either non-UK residents or foreigners living in the UK.

6 key criteria used to determine whether you need to submit a tax return

Are you considered a tax resident of the UK?

While the Statutory Residence Test will determine if you are a tax resident of the UK or not, if you spent more than 183 days in the UK you will most likely be deemed a tax resident of the UK and therefore required to declare all your worldwide income to HMRC through a Self-Assessment tax return.

Do/did you receive any un-taxed income from sources in the UK such as  rental income from a UK property?

You are not considered a tax resident of the UK, but you received income from the UK (for example you are a non-resident landlord and have UK rental income, pensions, dividends, UK based employment) this will be subject to UK tax laws and it is likely you will be required to submit a tax return.

Do you have income from abroad that you need to pay tax on?

If you are a UK tax resident, you are normally required to pay UK tax on your worldwide income. Therefore, if you received income from any non-UK source (for example a holiday rental, non-UK investments or non-UK employment) you are required to declare and pay tax on that income.

Are you a director of a UK registered company?

If you are a director of a company registered in the UK, you will be required to submit a tax return – even if you are a non-resident of the UK.

Was your UK taxable income over £100,000?

If you UK taxable income was over £100,000 you will be required to complete a tax return

Have you sold a UK property, shares in a UK registered company or similar that you need to pay capital gains tax on?

Yes, you will need to complete a UK tax return.

If you are unsure about the answer to any of the above questions, it is possible that you will be required to submit a tax return. However, in every case it is essential if you are unsure that you seek advice from a qualified tax consultant who both understands the rules around expat tax affairs but can also assist with the completion and submission of UK tax return.

It is worth noting that in the UK it is the taxpayer who is obliged to register for and submit a tax return, you cannot rely on HMRC to contact you and request a tax return is filed.

While submitting a tax return does not necessarily mean that you owe tax in the UK, it is important that a return is filed if you are obliged to complete one to avoid any late filing penalties and fines.

Submitting a tax return will ensure you claim any appropriate reliefs you are entitled to i.e. tax treaty relief if there is a double taxation agreement in place, which will help you avoid double taxation.

For more information please read our article which details how to complete a UK Self Assessment tax return as an expat, alternatively request a free consultation detailed below to get a better understanding of what you need to do next to avoid potential penalties.


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