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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 4 December 2018

While not all expats have to submit a tax return in the UK, a large proportion of British expats are required by the HMRC to complete a tax return and 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, UK non-residents or non-British people living in the UK in mind.

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 the HMRC through a Self Assessment tax return.
  • Do/did you receive any untaxed income from sources in the UK (eg. 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?
  • Have you sold a UK property, shares or something else that you need to pay capital gains tax on?

If you answered yes to any of the above criteria, you will probably have to submit a tax return in the UK regardless of whether you are British or a foreign national. 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 tax 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.

Request a free consultation and establish if you need to submit a tax return

If you are unsure about whether you need to submit a tax return, you should always seek advice from a qualified professional to avoid potential fines.

At Experts for Expats we provide an introductory service to qualified tax consultants who will offer a free, 15-minute consultation during which they will be able to establish whether you need to submit a tax return.

If it is determined that you need to complete and submit a tax return they will also be able to provide you with a fee quotation for their services and you will be free to decide whether to proceed with them or not.

To request your free tax consultation, simply complete the form and we will select the most suitable consultant from our network who will contact you and arrange a suitable time for you to talk directly.

Testimonials from people who have used our UK tax introduction service

A really useful service, both prompt and precise.

Gareth A. United Arab Emirates, Uk Tax Return

The service was excellent. The work I needed done was complicated and beyond me. It was completed over the weekend before Christmas, and I received the first rebate from HMRC on Jan 2nd. I cannot recommend the consultant too highly!

Peter B. Spain, UK Tax Return

The consultant gave sound and relevant advice without trying to sell me services. His advice gave me the information and approach for my next step. He advised I try myself but made it clear he could help further if I needed it - and as precise and clear about the cost of using his services for the next step. Couldn't have been better.

Ivor M. Portugal, Double Tax Relief