It is quite common to do some voluntary work abroad to gain some useful experience. This page looks at what the tax consequences are for volunteering abroad. For more information about the tax consequences of volunteering in the UK, see our main Volunteering page.
For there to be any tax considerations related to work you do, normally there have to be earnings from that work.
If you do voluntary work for a voluntary organisation – for example, a charity or local society – you will not normally be paid. If you are not paid, it follows that the work you do cannot, of itself, give rise to a tax liability.
However, if you are located overseas when you are performing that unpaid work, your physical presence there may mean that you become tax resident in that country. This will depend on the tax rules in that country.
It is often the case that you are either tax resident or not for an entire tax year. In addition, most countries tax their tax residents on worldwide income. As such there could be some unforeseen consequences of your volunteering abroad: for example, income you earn in the UK before or after the period of unpaid volunteering (but in the same tax year), may be taxable in that country.
You will therefore need to consider whether there are tax issues arising in the country in which you are volunteering and what impact this may have on your home country tax position. However, double tax agreements can help in these types of situations.
National Insurance contributions
You may want to pay voluntary National Insurance contributions (NIC) to protect your contribution record.
There is information available about a special reduced rate of ‘voluntary’ NIC available to volunteers in developing countries. This can help to protect your UK contribution record for certain welfare benefit purposes where necessary.