Monday, August 11, 2014

The United Kingdom Taxation and the Expatriate.



Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs [HMRC] have released a consultation document which would if implemented create financial hardship for quite a few British Citizens who live abroad.
It can be read at -  goo.gl/Jj5D2j
The thought behind this is to remove the tax-free personal allowances on income which arises in the United Kingdom paid to Citizens abroad.
It has two errors.
It assumes that  tax credits granted in any State of residency will completely offset the tax paid in the UK. It also seems to assume that the UK sourced income is not significant to the recipients.  How wrong they are.
The Double Taxation Conventions
Attention must be drawn  to the misleading wording in the paper .
Section  6.2  states : –
However most of these individuals would be able to claim relief overseas either in the form of a credit for tax paid in the UK or exemption from tax in their home state.# Therefore most individuals would not generally pay more tax overall than they do now***. However this will depend on the relative level of tax rates and allowances between the UK and their country of residence.
# if the taxpayer specifically claims under a double taxation treaty!
***This Statement is sending/implying false information-  Under the French/UK  Double Taxation Convention (and indeed most others) the tax relief on tax paid in the UK IS NOT the actual tax paid but the tax that would have been paid if the income had been taxed in France.  As it is, those who have their pensions taxed ‘only’ in the UK are quite clearly disadvantaged##.  Such disadvantage would be very greatly exaggerated for other recipients of private pensions, earned income, rents etc. from the UK  if the personal allowance were removed. It is extremely unlikely that the tax credit given against a French Tax demand on world-wide income, in respect of tax paid in the UK is ever equal to the tax paid in the UK.
Thereby any resident who pays tax which would fall under a Double Taxation Treaty would lose out, because of the different levels of tax regime. The removal of the Personal Allowances would exacerbate this.
##The elderly expatriate in France who receives all their income from the UK, the majority of which in taxed in the UK is currently disadvantaged because any tax credits achieved in France [e.g for home helps – charitable support] cannot be set against the taxes paid in the UK, but only against a minimal tax liability in France.  They therefore pay a bundle of tax to the UK , none to France, and overall far more than if they were only taxed in France on all the income.

The Nature of the Citizen Abroad and the importance of this income.
HMRC need awareness of the nature of the citizen abroad especially in the EU.
Many citizens who live in other States of the EU are ordinary folk.  They may have retired on little more than the State pension. Some (perhaps many) have retained a property in the UK and rented it out to get an income.  They retain the property just in case they need to return to the UK at a later stage in life.
This rent on their property is important to them.  It could well exceed 40% of their income Let us say that it brings in £10,000 a year.  If the tax-free personal allowance is removed the tax authority will take £2,000 and their income is reduced to £8,000.
These citizens are just ordinary folk who I fear do not understand the taxation system and its convolutions.  I am aware that many still have their State pensions taxed in the UK although they could get them ‘exported for tax purposes’.  The same is true of  Bank interest.  They could request the Bank to pay the interest gross so that it avoids UK tax.  Neither HMRC nor the Banks tell them how to do this.  Some Banks are reluctant or refuse to pay the interest gross.  The average taxpayer badly needs simplicity and guidance. It is already apparent that various non-residents have only a superficial grasp of where they should be paying tax and how to deal with the various tax forms from two State tax authorities.  The fact that HMRC says that 400,000 expatriate Citizens  ‘claim’ the  personal allowance on UK income reflects this confusion. Such insouciant citizens could well be in for a very great shock.  They are not evil people. They are just average people and not that aware of the financial complications  invented by the civil service.
Some private pensions have to be taxed in the UK.  These will also suffer from a greatly increased tax burden if these tax allowances are removed.  As said above  tax credits will not allay such taxation in the UK.

B Low Incomes  HMRC, I repeat, has not understood the varied lives of those British citizens resident in France who have low incomes emanating from the UK. 
There are those who earn income from the UK and are thereby taxed on that in the UK.  They may offer a service of some kind (e.g consultancy), or mark exam papers or sell goods which they make themselves. They may even ‘commute’ on occasions to perform some function.  There are those people  who ‘work from home’ and that home could easily be in France or elsewhere. They are non-UK-resident but otherwise are no different from a ‘home worker’ in the UK.
There are those who have some form of investments which pay interest in the UK.
A number with low incomes have been informed by HMRC that they are ‘non taxable’ because of their low incomes and need no longer complete a tax return.
Their income is taxable also in France but the French tax system is favourable  and  they lie below the tax thresholds in France also.
It may be difficult for tax officials to understand  but many people are already in a state of confusion where what income should be declared to their national State or their State of Residence.  The Tax departments lay down rules which are difficult for the average person, especially the elderly, to understand and this policy consultation document is compounding this confusion of bureaucracy. Remember further that large numbers of people, especially the elderly,  do not have computers nor access to the internet and have little understanding of how tax laws operate across the State borders in Europe. It would be far wiser for tax departments in collaboration across the EU to simplify the rules rather than complicate them.



Complications  -- The ratio of income  arising in the UK and abroad
A suggestion is made (see section 5.2) that the expatriate tax payer might declare how much income is raised abroad and how much arises within the UK.  The reference to  %  of income received from here and there, UK or elsewhere, and minimal income limits  is frankly onerous.  It is a step into new territory and a step too far.  Consider a retired couple who let out part of their property  for holiday rental in France.  Why should they tell the UK tax authorities what income they receive from that minor income?   This is getting towards an expectation that all British expatriate citizens should disclose their world-wide income to the British tax authority. 
And if the ratio should be £1 either side of the threshold ratio it would mean a cliff   face in the amount of tax demanded.  i.e a difference of  possibly £2,000 or more.
***********************
One can write to HMRC to comment and protest..
 ( before the 9th October 2014) to

A draft letter  along with a repeat of the material here  (EXPANDED) can be read at
www.lefourquet.net/90Cdraft.doc