Do seasonal workers pay tax?

Updated on 13 November 2017

Some migrants come to work in the UK as seasonal workers, which means they find jobs in certain seasons. An example of a seasonal worker is someone who picks strawberries on a farm. Even though you may only be in the UK for a few months, you will normally have to pay tax and National Insurance contributions (NIC) on your wages.

Do seasonal workers pay tax?

If you come to the UK for a short time only, and for a temporary purpose, you may not become resident in the UK for tax purposes.

Even if you are not UK resident, you will normally have to pay UK income tax on employment income earned from a job you carry out in the UK.

If you are a seasonal worker, you will normally be an employee, and so the employer should pay you via the payroll, deducting income tax and NIC from your wages, under the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system. The employer will pay the tax and NIC to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) on your behalf.

If you are a seasonal worker, a key question for you to consider is whether or not you are entitled to the personal allowances. If you are eligible, in 2017/18 you should only start to pay UK tax on your earnings when they exceed £221 a week or £958 a month, depending on your usual pay period.

Some people who are not tax resident in the UK can still claim the UK personal allowance, for example, British citizens, nationals of a member state of the European Economic Area, or residents of the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands. You can find a list of the European Economic Area countries on the page ‘EU and EEA countries’.

Some people may claim personal allowances under a double taxation agreement. There is a list of countries that are affected on the GOV.UK website.

Unless you are classed as UK tax resident you will not have to worry about any income arising in your home country being taxed in the UK. However if you are only temporarily absent from your home country you may remain taxable there on your worldwide income, meaning that your UK earnings could be taxed twice, both in the UK and in your home country.

Before you get too concerned with double taxation, please remember that while you may initially pay tax in the UK under PAYE, it is possible that this will be refunded to you upon your departure from the UK (see below), meaning you will not actually suffer any double taxation issues.

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Can seasonal workers claim a tax refund?

When you have finished your seasonal work, you may find that you have paid too much tax under the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system and are able to claim a repayment of tax when you leave the UK. This is because the personal allowance is usually divided throughout the year so you receive a proportion in each pay packet. If you leave the UK part-way through the tax year, you will not have received your entire tax free allowance and will have paid too much tax when looking at your total annual income.

You should complete form P85 ‘Leaving the UK – getting your tax right’. If you have a form P45 from your previous employer, you should send parts 2 and 3 to HMRC with form P85 so that HMRC can work out if you are due a refund. Form P85 can be found on the GOV.UK website. You can either claim online or by using the postal form.

If appropriate, HMRC should send you any tax refund that they owe you once they have processed the form. Beware of various companies offering to claim back tax refunds on your behalf. Many of these companies are not reputable; or they may charge you high fees for a service that you can do for yourself.

Form R43

If you have been not resident in the UK but are entitled to the personal allowance because you are a citizen of a European Economic Area (EEA) country or a resident of a country with which the UK has a double taxation agreement which allows the UK personal allowance, HMRC may ask you to complete form R43 to formally claim the UK tax allowance and claim a repayment of UK tax if you have paid too much tax on your UK income.

You can obtain form R43 by telephoning HMRC, or you can download it from the GOV.UK website. You can also find contact details for HMRC on the GOV.UK website.

You can find a list of the European Economic Area countries on the page 'EU and EEA countries'.

There is a list of countries that have a double taxation agreement which allows the UK personal allowance on the GOV.UK website.

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Do seasonal workers pay NIC?

Seasonal workers will normally be liable to pay NIC on their UK earnings.

You cannot get a refund of the NIC, even if you have only been here for a short period. If you paid NIC during your time in the UK, however, the contributions may help to determine whether or not you are eligible for benefits under another country’s social security system. There is more information on this in the section on National Insurance.

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What is the National Minimum Wage/National Living Wage?

As with any other employee, the employer must pay you at least the National Minimum Wage (NMW) or National Living Wage (NLW). Most employees in the UK over school leaving age are entitled to be paid at least this minimum rate per hour.

You can find out more about the NMW and NLW on the page 'what is the national minimum wage?'. You can find the current rates on the GOV.UK website.

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What is auto-enrolment?

Under auto-enrolment, all employers have to offer a pension scheme to their eligible staff – there are no exceptions even for the smallest employers. You can find out more on auto-enrolment in our section ‘pensions and employees

Please note that it is possible for an employer to legitimately postpone offering a pension scheme to their staff for up to three months, meaning that if you are with an employer for a very short period only, for example in a seasonal job, you might not be offered auto-enrolment, even if you are otherwise eligible.

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