29th July 2021COVID – working from paradise?

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to spend a fair amount of time on the beautiful island of Barbados.  So when the Barbados government announced the launch of the Welcome Stamp visa to encourage remote workers to spend twelve months in Barbados, I must confess, I was more than a little tempted.

Pre-COVID, only a small proportion of the UK workforce worked from home and in my experience  many employers were quite sceptical about how effective it was.  In many organisations, it was seen as the realm of the ‘lucky few’.  In my case, it meant working from home flexibly which allowed me to balance raising my young family.   For another close family member, it meant relocating from London to Cornwall, whilst continuing the same job and enjoying an enviable lifestyle …particularly evident from photos on social media!

Things changed dramatically in 2020 and there’s no sign of going back.  More and more businesses are announcing changes to the ‘where and when’ they work with hybrid arrangements being touted as the ‘next normal’.

I have also noticed a real change in how job roles are being advertised on social media – remote working often displayed more prominently than the salary package.  That is a far cry from the days when working from home was something that had to be negotiated hard for and was often turned down, or accepted begrudgingly.

Many businesses are now grappling with what this will mean for them and what options they will give to their employees.  However, in most cases, there will have just been a location shift taking maybe an hour or so of travel but likely to be in the same country.

But we are also seeing regular examples of those who have either been temporarily internationally displaced as a result of COVID restrictions or have taken the past year to deeply reassess their lifestyle in a bigger way – including what country they want to live in.  Remote working has made both of these situations possible.  Others have spent less time travelling around the world than they would usually expect to, either as a result of a change in the operation of their business or due to COVID restrictions, and have remained in one location for a longer time.

“Freedom Day” is now here and as the school holidays beckon, many more people are starting to think about ‘what’s next’ for them in this new world, especially if they are no longer tied to a fixed office location in one country.  Whilst tax won’t – I’m sure – be top of their list of things to think about, there may be big tax consequences as a result of changes they make.  This could be wider than their personal situation and also affect businesses that they own or perhaps their employer.

Even for those who are not planning any major international moves, they may need to look back on how they have worked and lived over the past year or so – in case they have triggered any unintended tax consequences.  Finding out about these later, and particularly if it is HMRC that identifies them, could be extremely costly.

Our quick checklist:

  • Did you spend more than 183 days in a tax year living in the UK?
  • Did you leave the UK to live abroad permanently or chose to work abroad for the full tax year? If so, you must tell HMRC. You don’t need to tell HMRC if you’re leaving the UK for a holiday or business trip
  • If you’re unsure, you can check your Residence Status via HMRC’s handy tool
  • Do you have employees affected by the above? It could expose you to overseas payroll tax obligations and also affect how and where you pay corporation tax
  • Are you a business owner affected by the above? It could affect your corporation tax position and you should look into this carefully
  • Are you concerned about your position and whether you might need to make a disclosure to HMRC?

To discuss specific circumstances, please do get in touch.


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