Guidance for British Expats – updated May 2011

This has topic has been updated, so please refer to the current post



British expatriates are generally not liable for UK income tax on their earnings whilst resident in the UAE, but specific rules apply. The date from when overseas income is not taxable depends on when a person leaves the UK and how long they remain non-resident. The UK tax year runs from 6th April to 5th April and if someone leaves the UK part way through a tax year they may remain liable for UK income tax for the remainder of that year.  This is particularly the case for anyone who intends to remain overseas for just a few years as after a period in excess of five years living overseas you become more than temporarily non-resident for tax purposes and any partial years become exempt from UK income tax. At this time there is also no liability to Capital Gains Tax.

When leaving the UK, HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs) form P85 should be completed. This is an application to be treated as non-resident for tax purposes.

Should a non-resident Brit receive income in the UK, this is subject to UK tax, although only in excess of the Personal Allowance (£7,475 for the tax year 2011/12). Even if employed overseas, income could be received from savings accounts, investments or from property. Anyone who owns a property in the UK and rents it out should complete the paperwork for the HMRC Non-Resident Landlord Scheme which is basically an arrangement for taxing the UK rental income of non-resident landlords. Generally tax will be deducted at source, although it is possible to apply for gross payments with the landlord then being liable for self-assessment. This is often preferable as certain costs, such as maintenance charges, may be offset against the rental income. If a property is jointly owned, then two sets of Personal Allowances can be used in order to reduce the tax payable.

Non-residents can apply for income on savings accounts to be paid without the deduction of savings rate tax by completing HMRC form R85, but the income received is taxable. It is therefore often more practical to move savings offshore.

Brits can spend up to 90 days in the UK per tax year without liability to UK tax. Provided a person is non-resident for tax purposes in a particular tax year there should be no liability to tax on monies earned overseas but remitted to the UK.


UK pension legislation is complex and several areas need to be considered. To start with; state pensions. UK national insurance contributions can be paid whilst living overseas, provided that certain eligibility conditions are met. There are three classes on contributions that are relevant to non-residents, Classes 1, 2 and 3, but classes 2 and 3 are those that can be made voluntarily in order to help maintain a national insurance record, which could affect entitlement to the basic state pension and other contributory state benefits. Class 1 is usually payable when a person has been posted abroad by their employer for a specified period.

British adults have the option to pay voluntary national insurance contributions, as either Class 2 or 3 dependent on their circumstances  and it is necessary to pay 52 voluntary national insurance contributions in a tax year for that year to be a qualifying year for UK state pension entitlement..

An individual will need to consider their entitlement to state pension based on their existing national insurance record in order to find out if there is any benefit in making voluntary national insurance contributions.  This is simply done by sending in form BR19 to HMRC and a response is usually issued in a few weeks. Individuals wishing to make voluntary national insurance contributions whilst abroad should apply using form CF 83 which is attached to the guide Social Security Abroad (NI 38), available from the HMRC website.

In most cases only limited ongoing pension contributions can be made whilst someone is non-resident. Provided a personal pension or stakeholder scheme is already in force, an individual can continue to make contributions of up to £3,600 per annum for up to five years after their departure from the UK. With tax relief the cost of contributions would reduce to £2,880.

A UK employer can make contributions to a UK registered pension scheme for one of their employee’s who is working overseas. There must however be continuous employment and the individual must have a UK employment contract. Tax relief on such employer payments will be at the discretion of the Inspector of Taxes. In practice, it is rare for the Inspector of Taxes to deny or restrict tax relief.

Whilst non-resident it is possible to transfer existing pension benefits to other UK pension schemes, although independent advice should be sought regarding suitability.

At retirement the proceeds of UK pensions, whether state or personal, can be paid to a pensioner living overseas in accordance with the provisions of the plan. With a state pension, although this can be remitted overseas, if the individual is living outside of the EEA (European Economic Area) or in a country which does not have a reciprocal social security agreement with the UK, the amount of UK state pension they will receive each year will be frozen at the amount initially paid when it was first claimed. There are petitions to the UK Government on this subject each year, but in the current economic climate this is unlikely to change.


British nationals may open bank accounts anywhere that they wish and whilst it is practical and indeed necessary to have a Dirham account, many will want an offshore bank account. In most cases these are subsidiaries of international banks with offices in one of the UK offshore jurisdictions such as the Channel Islands or Isle of Man. Advantages include no liability to UK tax on the interest earned whilst UK non-resident for tax purposes and the ability to time the repatriation of funds in a tax efficient manner.


For Brits living abroad, a number of investment options in the UK are available, but some are best avoided as there would be tax liabilities on growth or income.  Existing Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs) can be retained, but no new funds can be contributed to these plans. Investments can be made to bonds and unit and investment trusts, but the potential tax liability means that it is generally more advantageous to use offshore investments.

There are a number of well known insurance companies who have offshore divisions and these offer a range of plans to suit most circumstances, both for regular payments and lump sums. Generally these providers offer access to several hundred funds for each plan, many managed by well known international fund managers, so suitable portfolios can be constructed in accordance with an individual’s personal attitude to risk, preferences and timescale.

A word of warning: certain salespeople are known to recommend long term savings plans but forget to mention that if such plans are encashed after returning to the UK the planholder is likely to have a significant tax charge.  For most plans shorter terms will suit the majority of people, so be wary of anyone pushing a 25 year term plan as this will be in their interest, not yours.

It is also possible to invest locally, but as assets in the UAE may be subject to Sharia law this may not suit all.


Many people have life assurance policies that they took out whilst resident in the UK, and provided there was no intention to move overseas when it was set up and premiums are paid from a UK bank account the plan should be valid. Critical illness plans, or those that include it may not be valid so it is worth checking this.

Once you are non-resident it is not possible to take out UK life assurance policies, but offshore providers offer a range of policies to suit most circumstances, including term assurances, whole of life plans and critical illness cover.

All residents should have suitable medical insurance to cover them whilst abroad, but many people do not realise that once they move overseas they are not eligible for free treatment by the National Health Service (NHS). Under the Health and Medicines Act 1988, health authorities may set their own charges for non-resident patients and these are reviewed annually. The only areas for which there is no fee is for people admitted to Accident & Emergency Departments, but follow up treatments and admissions may have fees. The exact rules and costs will vary between health authorities. With this in mind international medical insurance policies that include the UK are recommended.

Estate Planning

Having a will is important for financial planning, but the rules relating to inheritance in the UAE are different to those that apply in the UK. Sharia law will take precedence over assets held in the UAE and although this is not necessarily overridden by a will, a properly written Will may mean that your wishes are taken seriously into consideration. More importantly a Will allows parents to specify guardians for young children and to make arrangements for monies to be set up in trust for the children should both parents die.

UK Inheritance Tax is payable on worldwide assets for those that are UK domiciled. Domicile is a concept of general law and is used to determine the system of personal law (dealing with matters such as marriage, divorce and Wills) that should be applied to an individual who has connections with more than one jurisdiction. Domicile is distinct from nationality or residence and you can only have one operative domicile at any given time.

Having a Will allows for assets to be distributed in accordance with the wishes of the settlor and if properly worded can also reduce the inheritance tax due. Wills should be written mainly in accordance with British law, taking into account assets held elsewhere, but these can be arranged in the UAE. Always ensure that your will is arranged by a lawyer.

Returning home

British Nationals do not have to repatriate their assets should they return to the UK and may keep them overseas for as long as they wish. Any growth or interest however, will be subject to UK tax. In an ideal world a return to the UK is planned well ahead of time, particularly if there are considerable assets offshore or overseas that may have tax liabilities upon return.

As soon as someone takes up employment in the UK again they will come to the attention of the tax man and will usually be put on a, generally less favourable, emergency tax code whilst HMRC works out whether there is any outstanding tax liability. Form P86 ‘Arrival in the UK’ should be submitted upon return.

If you have any queries on this post, want to discuss your tax situation, or any other financial planning topic, please contact me

About FinancialUAE

A qualified and experienced Independent Financial Adviser based in Dubai, UAE. Professional and ethical. Freelance writer on personal financial issues & the On Your Side column in The National. Founder of Facebook group British Expats Dubai. Senior Partner at Holborn Assets LLC, Dubai, UAE.
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14 Responses to Guidance for British Expats – updated May 2011

  1. Pingback: General guidance for British expats | Financialuae's Blog

  2. Danielle says:

    Thanks so much for this info. I have a question, if I was to move to Dubai and be living there but continue to work as a freelancer for British clients (here in the UK) who would continue to pay me in to my british bank account, would I still have to pay tax as if I were still a UK resident?

    • financialuae says:

      Hi Danielle
      Strictly speaking if the income is arising in the UK then it is subject to UK tax, but if the activities are wholly carried out overseas and you are UK non-resident for tax purposes then you should not be liable for UK income tax. It would however, be simpler to be paid to an offshore Sterling bank account.
      Hope that helps.
      PS. Love your email address (only I can see it)

      • Mo says:

        Hi, I am moving to Dubai from the UK in 3 months. I really want to get my finances sorted out here before I leave. We have a house here, which we would not rent out. However, we would still need to pay the mortgage. Would I be taxed on money repatriated to the UK to cover such costs?

      • financialuae says:

        Hi Mo
        Provided you are UK non-resident for tax purposes at the time of the transfers then you would not be taxed on income repatriated to the UK. Naturally this will depend on how much time you are out of the UK during the tax year. Note that you would be subject to tax on any profit made from renting out the house if this in excess of your personal allowances.
        I hope that helps, but you may find it useful to subscribe to this blog to be kept informed of relevant information and feel free to contact me when you get to Dubai. Good luck with your move!
        Best wishes

      • Danielle says:

        Thanks so much for your reply. I thought that would probably be the case. I didn’t really want to move my bank account as I wasn’t planning on letting my clients know that I was moving overseas (my business is mostly internet based). If I was to set up a bank account overseas with a bank that they recognised like Lloyds or HSBC for example, would they be able to tell it was an overseas bank account by the new details I would provide them with?
        Thanks for your help.

      • financialuae says:

        If it was an overseas account then it would be obvious as it wouldn’t have a sort code and you would have to provide a swift code or IBAN reference for payments in. If however, as suggested, you set up an offshore account (Channel Islands or Isle of Man) with a recognised bank then you would have a sort code as well as an eight digit bank account number.

  3. Danielle says:

    oh ok sorry I misunderstood. Does it not raise alarm bells with the Inland Revenue when you move your account to an offshore account and then stop paying tax?

    • financialuae says:

      You have to declare yourself as non-resident for tax purposes so HMRC should be notified. If your activities are carried out outside of the UK and you are registered as non-resident for tax purposes then you should not be liable for tax on this income.

  4. Danielle says:

    Great, this is certainly something I will look in to further. It’s all a bit overwhelming, I have had a uk based business here for 5 years and don’t want to jeopardize that by moving abroad but obviously we want to make the most financial savings as possible with the move. a lot to think about!

  5. G says:

    Hi Keren. Thanks for the article above. It’s really informative. I have a question. I am resident in Abu Dhabi and I have informed HMRC that I am non resident in the UK. I am employed in the UAE, but my company pays my salary directly into my UK bank account. Am I still exempt from UK tax on my earnings from my job in the UAE?

    • financialuae says:

      You should be provided you are deemed to be non-resident for tax purpose. If that is the case you can be paid your gross salary, but if you are on a UK contract you could be liable for National Insurance contributions for the first 12 months. If you are being paid in Sterling, you might find it easier to have your salary paid to an offshore account.
      Regards Keren (

  6. tizzwoz says:

    Thank you for this website. It is very helpful. I have a question I hope you may be able to answer. I left the UK in July 2009 and will be looking to return permanently in either June 2014 or June 2015. Although i have a bank account here in Dhms, I send most of my money back to my UK account as I am saving for a house there. My question is, when i return to the UK, will I be expected to pay any tax on my earnings that I have made out here? Is the money I have sent back to the UK exempt from UK tax? I should point out that I have lived in Dubai permanently since 2009 and haven’t spent more than 90 days in the UK in any tax year.

    I hope you can help.

    • financialuae says:

      From what you have said it looks unlikely that you will have an liability for UK income tax even in the partial years as you will have been out of the UK for long enough to be considered UK non-resident for tax purposes. This means that you are free to send overseas income to the UK without paying tax on it.
      Two issues to consider though. 1, exit planning – ideally at least six months before you leave (I offer this service) and 2, a competitive way to transfer currency so I’ll email you the details of the service I recommend.
      Kind regards

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