HMRC Guidance on COVID-19 Part 2: Statutory Residence Test

28 May 2020
Author: Helen McGhee

The Statutory Residence Test provides that an individual is considered to have spent a day in the UK if they are in the UK at the end of the day (midnight) subject to several exceptions, one of which is exceptional circumstances. The exception applies for 60 days only in any given tax year.

During the COVID-19 pandemic HMRC have confirmed that the following circumstances are considered exceptional:

  • an individual is quarantined or advised, by a health professional or public health guidance, to self-isolate in the UK as a result of COVID-19;
  • an individual is advised by official government advice not to travel from the UK as a result of COVID-19;
  • an individual is unable to leave the UK as a result of the closure of international borders; or
  • an individual is asked by their employer to return to the UK temporarily as a result of COVID-19.

Exceptional days up to a maximum of 60 days per tax year will be disregarded for the purposes of:

  • The first automatic UK test (where the taxpayer spends more than 183 days in the UK)
  • The first automatic overseas test (where the taxpayer spends fewer than 16 days in the UK)
  • The 90 day tie in the case of the sufficient ties test (where the taxpayer spends fewer than 91 midnights in the UK). This will be relevant in determining how many ties the taxpayer has in the next two years.

But importantly the concession will not apply for the counting of days in relation to:

  • the family tie (if an individual spends more than 60 days with a minor child in the UK)
  • the accommodation tie (whether the individual has a place available here for a continuous period of at least 91 days)
  • the work tie (the individual must not work in the UK more than 39 days for more than 3 hours or more even on exceptional days)
  • the country tie (if more midnights are spent here than in the other country and the individual is a “leaver”)
  • Full Time Working Abroad (if the individual is working for more than 30 days in the UK or spends insufficient time working abroad)

Currently there is no definitive date after which all days are regarded as exceptional for 2019/2020.  HMRC are still considering this point.  23 March 2020 (lock down announced) would seem to be a reasonable point.

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Increased Investment in Personal Tax Compliance in the UK (Published in Thought Leaders 4 Private Client)

Advances in technology and increased international fiscal co-operation have made global personal tax compliance initiatives pop up in abundance in recent years. To compound the issue, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the corresponding economic fallout prompted domestic governments to increase transparency in relation to investments held by wealthy foreign individuals (with a focus on oligarchs).

In the UK, in the context of the cost-of-living crisis, public opinion certainly seems to be in favour of increased accountability for high-net-worth individuals (eg, on 9 October 2022, 63% of Britons surveyed thought that “the rich are not paying enough and their taxes should be increased”).1

HMRC is one of the most sophisticated tax collection authorities in the world and the department is making significant investments in technology in the field of compliance work; they are well placed to take advantage of new international efforts to increase tax compliance, particularly considering the already extensive network of 130 bilateral tax treaties in the UK (the largest in the world).2 The UK was also a founding member of the OECD’s Joint International Taskforce on Shared Intelligence and Collaboration (JITSIC) forum.

This article discusses the main developments in support of the increased focus on international transparency and personal tax compliance in the UK. There are other international fiscal initiatives, particularly in the field of corporate taxation, but such initiatives are beyond the scope of this article.

It should be noted that a somewhat piecemeal approach, with constant tinkering makes compliance difficult for the taxpayer and is often criticised for lacking the certainty that a stable tax system needs to thrive.

This article was first published with ThoughtLeaders4 Private Client Magazine

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