x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Britons could pay tax on UAE earnings

British expatriates in the UAE will soon have to pay income tax to the UK if they stay in their home country for 183 days.

DUBAI // Thousands of British expatriates in the UAE may soon be forced to pay UK income tax as regulations in their home country are tightened for citizens living abroad.

Under proposals in a consultation document from the UK Treasury, British nationals who spend up to 183 days a year in the UK and meet certain other criteria would have to pay income tax.

The paper is expected to become law in its current or a modified form on April 6 next year.

"The number of days includes holiday and work time in the UK," said Dean Rolfe, a tax partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Dubai. "The objective is to establish a statutory framework to test whether expatriates would become tax residents and therefore be subject to personal income tax."

Under the proposals, the British government would look at the number of days expats spend in the UK and decide if they meet a list of four connecting factors.

The government would evaluate whether expatriates have family in the UK, whether they spend a substantial amount of time working in the UK, whether they have accommodation – for example, an unrented house in the UK – and whether they have spent more than 90 days in the UK over the last two years.

“It’s very important for British expats to take both the number of days spent in the UK along with the other factors,” said Mr Rolfe.

“If you spend more than 183 days in the UK, then you are a tax resident and will have to pay income tax,” he said. “The more days you spend in the UK then the fewer of the other connecting factors you will need to meet to be classed as a tax resident.”

He said there was currently no residency test for expatriates, and the UK government hoped the new legislation would make the rules clearer. Currently, British authorities look at the circumstances of individuals and case law to decide on tax residency.

The proposals will have more impact on expats who live in tax-free countries. Those who live in countries that collect tax would be protected from paying full taxes to both governments.

“If you’re a Brit who is living in the US and pay tax there, but would also be eligible to pay tax in the UK, then under double tax agreements you would not have to pay tax twice, and it would be split between the two countries,” he added.

The proposals have been met with a mixed reaction from British nationals in the UAE.

Kate Watson, who has been working in recruitment since arriving in Dubai nine months ago, said she agreed with the changes.

“As expats, we don’t contribute anything to the UK because we don’t pay tax. I think it’s only fair that if you go back there and work, you should pay tax because you could be using the health or emergency services,” she said.

However, Seher Farooq, who runs her own PR company in the UAE but visits the UK on regular business trips, disagreed.

“Although most of my business is in the UAE and Middle East, I still have some clients in the UK, so I am here every six to eight weeks,” she said via mobile phone from Britain. “If they enforce this rule, then I would be one of the people affected, as I tend to stay for between four to ten days each visit,” she said.

“If I had to pay this income tax, I would stop bringing business to the UK and concentrate more on the Middle East.”

nhanif@thenational.ae