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Social Security & Taxation

Taxes in the UK

Alas, there is no getting around doing your taxes in the UK. From HMRC over NI to PAYE, you will learn a whole new vocabulary along the way. As an expat moving to the UK, you also have to deal with such concepts as residence and domicile. Our introduction to UK tax offers a succinct overview.

A Word of Caution

As in most places around the world, taxes in the UK are a complex topic. The intricacies of taxation become even trickier when you take the aspect of residence for tax purposes into account. Entire books have been written about the subject of doing your taxes in the UK. For obvious reasons, we cannot give such in-depth information here. Nor can our brief introduction to taxes in the UK replace the professional advice of a tax consultant.

We do, however, provide you with an overview of the UK tax system. We introduce you to some basic facts, as well as explain some key terms of particular relevance for foreign residents. With some general guidance to taxes in the UK, you can then decide if you’d better call upon a tax advisor for help.

Furthermore, when we talk about “taxes in the UK”, we refer to personal income tax for workers, employees, and self-employed residents. Inheritance tax and corporate taxation are different matters, which we don’t cover. If you have any questions on such taxes in the UK, please call a specialist for advice.

Basic Info on UK Taxation

First off, let’s start with the very basics. Taxes in the UK are the responsibility Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). You should contact them for official answers to tax-related questions.

Second, the British tax year runs from April 6 to April 5 of the following year. Unlike in other countries, the fiscal year is not identical with the calendar year. This may be important for people moving to or departing from the UK in the middle of the tax year. If you have to file your taxes in the UK, your tax return is either due on October 31 after the end of the fiscal year (paper claim), or by January 31 (online form).

NI Registration and Tax Code

When you arrive in the UK and take up employment, you need to obtain a so-called National Insurance number first. The NI number is mostly used for purposes concerning social security in the UK. It also indicates if you are gainfully employed or a self-employed person. As such, you may have to pay taxes in the UK, depending on your actual income.

Moreover, when you are an employee and have never worked in the UK before, your new company’s HR department should give you a form to fill in. This will contain information essential for paying taxes in the UK (e.g. to work out which personal allowance you are entitled to). With the help of this information, your employer – or their tax consultant – can assign you a personal tax code.

The tax code consists of a four-digit combination of various figures and letters, e.g. 117L or K497. It shows up on the payslips you receive, and it implies how many taxes in the UK are due. Your tax is deducted directly from your salary every month on a PAYE (pay-as-you-earn) basis. If you don’t have any other kind of income, you don’t even have to file a tax return. However, you need to inform the HR department and/or HMRC of all changes in income or personal circumstances. Then you will receive a new tax code as needed.

Taxable Income in the UK

In addition to your wages or salary, there are several other kinds of income subject to taxes in the UK. They includes, for example:

Other forms of income may be exempt from taxes in the UK, e.g.

Broadly speaking, income subject to taxes in the UK means all your income worldwide. In reality, this does not always apply: Please check the section on residence and taxation for further details.

The Self-Assessment Tax Return

In addition to the geographical source of your income, other aspects determine whether or not you have to file your taxes in the UK. The latter is called a Self-Assessment tax return, or Self-Assessment for short. Whether you are required to complete one depends on factors such as the total amount of your income, what kinds of income you earn, your profession or position within the company, etc.

Here are some of the most common cases in which a Self-Assessment becomes necessary:

We will clarify on the last page of this overview what “residence”, “domicile”, or “remittance basis” means. For now, we will dive into topics like tax rates and tax deductions, as well as more tips on doing your taxes in the UK when you are self-employed.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

InterNations Expat Magazine