Non-UK Resident and worried about extended days in the UK? – HMRC issue welcome concession due to COVID-19

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HMRC have now updated their guidance acknowledging the COVID-19 pandemic may well impact individuals ability to move freely to and from the UK, or require them to remain unexpectedly in the UK.

As mentioned in our recent post, HMRC agree that where presence in the UK is due to “Exceptional Circumstances”, ie beyond that individual’s control, then those days (up to a maximum of 60 days), can be ignored for the purpose of the statutory residence tests. This definition is construed strictly by HMRC and their guidance acknowledges this would include local or national emergencies, such as civil unrest, natural disasters, the outbreak of war or sudden serious or life-threatening illness or injury.

It also confirms Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice to avoid all but essential travel would count, and this advice was indeed updated on 18 March as follows:

“The FCO now advises British people against all non-essential travel worldwide. This advice takes effect immediately and applies initially for a period of 30 days”

HMRC’s updated guidance has almost certainly been issued because of the new FCO advice, and they go on to confirm that where an individual:

  • is quarantined or advised by a health professional or public health guidance to self-isolate in the UK as a result of the virus
  • find themselves advised by official Government advice not to travel from the UK as a result of the virus
  • are unable to leave the UK as a result of the closure of international borders, or
  • are asked by their employer to return to the UK temporarily as a result of the virus

then these circumstances are considered as “Exceptional”.

HMRC will always consider the fact of each case, and we would always recommend that evidence of travel restrictions should be retained by anyone affected, particularly employees, who may have been asked to return to the UK, and either told by their employer not to travel back to their place of work overseas, or are now simply unable to travel anywhere out of the UK because of the new FCO advice.

It’s important to note that there is no mention of the 60 day limit for Exceptional Circumstances being increased, but at least this provides some relief for many who, through no fault of their own, are now unable to leave the UK.

If you are affected by any of the above or would like any further information please contact Lynn Gracie, Natalie Butler or your usual AAB contact.

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