What if I only visit the UK?

Updated on 3 August 2021

Migrants

Individuals who come to the UK for only a short time may not become resident in the UK. Being non-resident means you are typically only liable to tax on your UK-sourced income. However, if you are non-resident and not a national of either the UK or an EEA country you may not be eligible for a personal allowance.

Illustration of a map with the United Kingdom highlighted and an aeroplane next to the map
(c) Shutterstock / Novikov Aleksey

Residence status

You will not become resident in the UK for tax purposes, if both of the following conditions apply:

  • you have not been resident in the UK in any of the preceding three UK tax years, and
  • you spend fewer than 46 days during the tax year in the UK.

You may be able to spend longer than 46 days here and still be regarded as non-resident – you would need to determine your position by considering the other parts of the Statutory Residence Test (SRT). There is detailed guidance on GOV.UK.

If you have been resident in any one of the previous three tax years, then visits in excess of 15 days (rather than 45) would also require you to determine your residence by considering the other parts of the SRT. Please be aware that your earlier presence in the UK may affect your UK tax position in other ways too (for example by counting towards the ‘90 day’ tie in the sufficient ties test).

When counting days, you normally count days only when you are here at midnight. This means you would usually count your days of arrival but not your days of departure. There are three exceptions to this rule which are discussed below.

Exceptional circumstances

Those with exceptional circumstances beyond their control which prevent them leaving the UK may be able to ignore days spent in the UK for the purposes of the Statutory Residence Test.

“Circumstances beyond their control” are listed by HMRC as:

  • national or local emergencies, such as war, civil unrest or natural disasters; or
  • sudden serious or life-threatening illness or injury.

Note that HMRC have published guidance on whether or not an individual’s days spent in the UK are due to ‘exceptional circumstances’ as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This includes the case where official government advice was not to travel from the UK as a result of coronavirus, or you were unable to leave the UK as a result of closure of international borders. Note, however, that the number of days which are attributable to exceptional circumstances is limited to 60 days per year.

“Life events” such as birth, marriage, divorce and death are not routinely regarded as exceptional circumstances. Travel problems, for example a delayed or missed flight due to traffic disruption, train delays, or a car breakdown, will not be considered as exceptional either.

Working on coronavirus-related activities

Periods between 1 March 2020 and 1 June 2020 spent in the UK by individuals working on coronavirus (COVID-19) related activities, for example as a medical or healthcare professional, may be ignored in determining your residence status for:

  • 2019/20; and
  • 2020/21, if you were non-resident in the UK for 2019/20.

For the days to be ignored, you must be resident in an overseas territory in the tax year in question.

Transit passengers

If an individual arrives in the UK only in transit, leaves the UK the next day, and between arrival and departure the individual does not engage in activities unrelated to simply passing through the UK en-route to another country (such as engaging in social meetings, carrying out employment duties, etc.) – he will be a ‘transit passenger’ and his presence in the UK at midnight will not count towards his days ‘spent’ in the UK.

This transit exception will most commonly apply to travellers who change flights in the UK where the incoming and outgoing flights straddle midnight.

There is detailed guidance, including examples, on GOV.UK.

Double taxation

If you are not UK resident, you will usually still be taxable on your income arising in the UK. However, this UK-sourced income may also be taxable in another country if you also remain resident there. You may therefore need to consider the terms of any double taxation agreement in place between the UK and the country you are resident in to avoid or mitigate any double taxation.

If there is no double tax agreement or it is not applicable in your circumstances, foreign tax may be charged on your UK-sourced income but a claim can usually be made for a credit to be given against the foreign tax liability on the UK-sourced income. You may need to seek professional advice from a tax adviser in both the countries concerned.

For more on double tax agreements and an example of how ‘foreign tax credits’ work see our page What if I am liable to tax in two countries on the same income?.

Tax guides

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