Covid-19 is continuing to cause upheaval in almost every area of our daily lives – including our taxes.

And the pandemic could mean you’re one of the many people to have potentially found themselves in breach of the Statutory Residence Test (SRT) through no fault of your own.

The SRT is a collection of tests that determine how long you can stay in the UK before you become resident for tax purposes. The SRT rules help you decide whether you’re a UK tax resident in any given tax year.

Many people have a limit of 90 or 120 days in the UK until they become UK resident, although this number can be significantly less in some cases.

Covid-19 and the Statutory Residence Test

HMRC recognises the coronavirus restrictions may have impacted your ability to move freely to and from the UK or required you to remain here unexpectedly. So, in response, they’ve issued a useful Q&A to provide clarity on SRT and Covid-19.

The SRT legislation allows you to spend extra time in the UK under “exceptional circumstances”. This relaxation means you can stay in the UK for up to 60 days extra in any given tax year where the circumstances are exceptional and out of your control.

But until the coronavirus pandemic, these exceptions were applied very rarely and only in circumstances such as serious illness or if it would be dangerous for you to return to your home country.

HMRC guidance on exceptional circumstances

HRMC has published guidance in response to the travel restrictions and quarantine conditions imposed by many countries because of Covid-19. But you should keep in mind that whether days spent in the UK can be disregarded because of exceptional circumstances will always depend on the facts and circumstances of your individual case.

The guidance states that if you:

  • are quarantined or advised by a health professional or public health guidance to self-isolate in the UK as a result of the virus
  • find yourself 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 your employer to return to the UK temporarily as a result of the virus

the circumstances are considered as exceptional.

What happens after restrictions have been lifted?

You may be unwilling to travel home for health reasons, even if the borders are open again. At the time of writing, we don’t know what HMRC’s stance will be in these circumstances. Will it be viewed as your choice to remain here?

Also, what happens if you’re high risk and don’t want to travel and your days exceed the permitted 60 days? Will the 60-day rule be extended? And will you need evidence to explain why you’ve remained here?

Our team at Churchill Taxation will be keeping a close eye on any further developments on this issue.

Can you travel home?

If you’re willing and able to travel, it would be sensible for you to leave the UK and return to your home country as soon as you can, providing flights to your home country are open. You should also keep hold of as much information as possible to show you took steps to leave as soon as you reasonably could.

But if you’re unwilling or unable to take a flight in the current circumstances, you should wait and see what further guidance is given over the coming months.

Seek professional tax advice

You may find yourself a tax resident for the current tax year. If so, you may want to consider whether the remittance basis would apply to you or whether you are able to claim treaty residence in the other jurisdiction. If you’re potentially a UK resident for 2020/2021 due to Covid-19, you should seek professional advice to avoid making a costly mistake.

You should also note that exceptional circumstances exemptions don’t apply to all the tests in the SRT. So, this tax year, it’s more important than ever for you to re-examine your residence status.

Becoming a UK tax resident can have a significant impact on you and any companies you’re a director of. It can also impact on any trusts where you’re a settlor or beneficiary.

If you’re affected by the above, you’ll need to act fast and make suitable arrangements to either leave the UK or plan for UK residence as soon as possible.

We can help

If you, or your client, would like advice on the implications of the Statutory Residency Test or the exceptional circumstances exceptions, please get in touch with our team of professional tax advisers.

Call us today on 07813 434195 or send an email to stephanie.churchill@churchilltaxation.co.uk

Steph Churchill

Stephanie Churchill

Managing director & co-owner of Churchill Taxation