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⚠️ Our Tax Guide for Students guidance has moved to the LITRG website. If you are a student or have a student loan and have a query about any of the issues we cover in the section, please let us know by filling in the Contact Us form.
Students: going abroad
If you have left or are about to leave the UK you may need to tell HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
When do I need to tell HMRC I’m leaving the UK?
You should tell HMRC if:
- You’re leaving the UK permanently; or
- You are going to work abroad full time for at least a full tax year.
You don’t need to tell them if you’re going on holiday or for a business trip.
How do I tell HMRC I’m leaving the UK?
If you need to complete a tax return for the year when you leave the UK, you tell them on that form.
Otherwise you can do this by completing form P85 Leaving the UK – getting your tax right, which you can download from the GOV.UK website or can complete online.
Form P85 asks for details about things like:
- your reasons for leaving the UK
- what you will be doing while you are abroad
- any assets or income you will leave in the UK
- how often you visit the UK after you have left
- the purpose of your visits to the UK
- what connections you keep in the UK, such as family, property, work or business connections.
Strictly this form is only for people who:
- lived and worked in the UK
- have left the UK and may not be coming back or are going to work abroad full-time for at least one full tax year.
In these circumstances, you will probably become non-resident from your date of departure. In which case, you will only pay UK tax on income arising in the UK up until your date of departure. You will not pay UK tax on income from working overseas. You may therefore be due a tax refund in respect of any pre-departure earnings, which HMRC will issue to you on receipt of form P85 (this is because if you leave the UK part-way through the tax year, as an employee you will only have received part of your tax-free personal allowance under PAYE, when you are actually entitled to the whole amount).
There is more information about becoming non-resident in HMRC’s RDR1 booklet on GOV.UK.
However, you may also be able to use form P85 to try and trigger a refund even if you are not going to become UK non-resident from your date of departure. Read on to find out more.
Remember: leaving the UK, does not mean that you are automatically non-resident from that point – you could remain resident and liable to UK tax on your worldwide income. See our section on residence for more information on this.
Even if you remain UK resident you will probably be due a tax refund in respect of your pre-departure earnings if you do not work abroad for the rest of the tax year (up to 5 April) as these will be your only earnings in the tax year. You could therefore use the form P85 to try and trigger HMRC to issue this refund, without having to wait until the end of the tax year.
If you remain UK tax resident and intend to work in your new location before the end of the UK tax year it can be more complicated. This is because any overseas earnings will be taxable in the UK along with your UK earnings, so your overall refund position at the point of departure will be unclear.
If you are in this position, strictly your year of departure taxes can only be reconciled once the tax year has finished and you should not send a form P85 to HMRC. If you do send form P85 to HMRC, they may automatically issue a refund. Later, on more careful consideration of your form P85 entries and residence position, HMRC can ask for the tax back, or send you a tax return to complete so that they can look at your worldwide tax position in more detail and fully reconcile any refund position.
We have some guidance based on our experience to help you decide if you need to send in a form P85, on our Claiming a tax refund page. If it is not appropriate to send in a form P85, you may instead need to ‘self-assess’ your position in the tax year that you leave and we also talk you through this on our Filing a tax return page.
Where can I find more information?
GOV.UK provides more information on tax matters to consider when leaving the UK.