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Taxation of non-domiciles: recent developments

Published Friday, October 6, 2017

A person's 'domicile' is their permanent home, and while this is a concept of general law, it has long been an important consideration in an individual's liability to pay tax in the UK. "Non-domiciles" who live in the UK have been entitled to be taxed under the "remittance basis", where any overseas income or gains is only subject to UK tax if remitted to this country. In the Summer 2015 Budget the Government announced a number of major changes to non-domicile taxation which are to take effect from April 2017. This paper discusses the background to these proposals and the current debate as to their impact.

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The UK tax system has two main concepts that determine someone’s liability to direct taxes: residence and domicile. ‘Residence’ refers to someone’s physical location during the tax year, while ‘domicile’ refers to the legal jurisdiction with which someone, wherever they are living, has a primary connection – broadly speaking, their permanent home.

Generally individuals who are UK-resident are taxed on the arising basis of taxation. The arising basis of taxation means that all an individual’s worldwide income and gains will be taxable in the UK. If an individual is a UK-resident but is not domiciled in the UK, they may choose to be taxed on the remittance basis of taxation.

If someone in this position chooses to claim the remittance basis for a tax year, they will pay UK tax on:

  • Any of their income and gains which arise in the UK.
  • Any of the foreign income and gains that they, or another relevant person, brings (or ‘remits’) to the UK, even if that remittance occurs in a later tax year.

Since April 2008, an individual who is a non-domiciled UK-resident taxpayer with a foreign income of £2,000 or more and/or brings that money into the UK, can choose whether to be taxed on an ‘arising’ or ‘remittance’ basis. Those individuals claiming remittance basis on their self-assessment return may be liable for an annual charge - the remittance basis charge - depending on the length of time they have been a UK-resident.[1]

There are currently 3 different charge levels:

  • £30,000 if the UK-resident non-UK domicile has been UK-resident for at least 7 of the previous 9 tax years. This was introduced in 2008 by the Labour Government following a policy over of the domicile and residence rules launched initially in 2003.
  • £50,000 if the UK-resident non-UK domicile has been UK-resident for at least 12 of the previous 14 tax years (rising to £60,000 from April 2015). This was introduced in April 2012 by the Coalition Government, following a commitment to review the taxation of non-domiciles in the Coalition Agreement.
  • £90,000 if the UK-resident non-UK domicile has been UK-resident for at least 17 of the previous 20 tax years. This was introduced in April 2015.

In August 2017 HMRC published a statistical survey of UK non-domicile taxpayers.[2] In 2014/15 there were 121,300 non-domiciled UK taxpayers, paying a total of £9.3 billion in income tax, NICs and capital gains tax. Of these, 54,600 were UK-residence and were taxed on the remittance basis.

Of those non-domiciles taxed on the remittance basis, 5,100 individuals were liable to pay the remittance basis charge in 2014-15. This group paid £1,393m in income tax, £304m in NICs, £129m in capital gains tax, and £226m in remittance basis charges.[3]

In the Summer 2015 Budget the then Chancellor George Osborne announced a series of reforms to the taxation of non-domiciles, including the abolition of permanent ‘non-dom’ status, to take effect from April 2017.[4] It is estimated that these reforms will raise about £400m a year from 2018/19 to 2021/22.[5]

Following extensive consultation, legislation to give effect to these measures is included in the Finance Bill 2017-19, which is before the House at present. The Bill also includes provision to change the rules for the Business Investment Relief (BIR) scheme from April 2017 “to make it easier for non-domiciled individuals who are taxed on the remittance basis to bring offshore money into the UK for the purpose of investing in UK businesses.”[6] There have been some concerns as to the Government’s case for encouraging the take-up of this relief, although the changes to BIR are not anticipated as having any substantive Exchequer cost.[7]

Notes : 

[1]     For further details see, HMRC, Residence, domicile and the remittance basis (RDR1), June 2016

[2]     HMRC, Statistics on non-domiciled taxpayers in the UK, August 2017.

[3]     Statistical commentary on non-domicile taxpayers, August 2017 p4, p9; Statistical tables on non-domiciled taxpayers: Table 1 & Table 3, August 2017

[4]     HC Deb 8 July 2016 c325; Summer 2015 Budget, HC264, July 2015 paras 1.194-6

[5]     Spring Budget 2017, HC 1025, March 2017 p30 (Table 2.2 – items bk & bl)

[6]     Autumn Statement, Cm 9362, November 2016 para 4.15

[7]     Non-domicile taxation: Business Investment Relief: tax information & impact note, 5 December 2016. See also, PQ55513, 6 December 2016

Commons Briefing papers CBP-8099

Author: Antony Seely

Topic: Taxation

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