COVID-19 and the Statutory Residence Test
If you have been unexpectedly required to remain in the United Kingdom due to COVID-19, you may be concerned about the impact this could have on your UK residence status. This article sets out HMRC’s latest guidance for individuals who may find themselves in this position.
Guidance for Statutory Residence Test during Covid-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on international travel. With many international borders closed at some point during the pandemic, individuals may have found themselves unable to travel to and from the UK and may also have found themselves required to spend unexpected time in the UK.
H M Revenue & Customs (HMRC) recognises that the impact of the pandemic could have a detrimental effect on an individual’s residence status in the UK under the Statutory Residence Test (SRT). As a result of this, updated guidance has been issued by HMRC confirming the changes which have been made to the SRT rules to allow certain non-UK resident individuals to be present in the UK for COVID-19 related reasons without this presence affecting their UK residence status.
Under the SRT, a day counts as a day spent in the UK if the individual is in the UK at the end of the day at midnight. The two exceptions to this rule are:
- The day is classed as a transit day, or
- The day was attributable to exceptional circumstances.
These changes to the legislation now allow for a third case if:
- The day falls in the period 1 March 2020 to 1 June 2020, and
- On that day the individual is in the UK carrying out specific COVID-19 related work, and
- The individual is resident in another country for tax purposes.
COVID-19 related work is where an individual is present in the UK as a medical or healthcare professional, for purposes connected with the detection, treatment, or prevention of COVID-19. It also includes individuals present in the UK for purposes connected to the development or production of medical products (including vaccines), devices, equipment or facilities related to the detection, treatment, or prevention of COVID-19.
This change applies to 2019/20 and 2020/21 and can affect a number of SRT tests. Each individual case must be reviewed based on the individual facts and circumstances of the case. Any individual who believes they may be impacted by these provisions should seek advice from their tax adviser.
Exceptional Circumstances for Statutory Residence Test (SRT)
Exceptional circumstances normally apply where an individual has no choice about the time they spend in the UK, or coming back to the UK, and where the situation is beyond their control. Examples of exceptional circumstances generally include natural disasters, war, a sudden or life-threatening injury or local or national emergencies.
HMRC’s latest guidance on the SRT has extended the exceptional circumstances criteria for the COVID-19 pandemic. Where an individual spends any days in the UK because of the following circumstances, those days can be disregarded under the rule for exceptional circumstances:
- Quarantined or advised by a health professional or public health guidance to self-isolate in the UK as a result of the virus
- Advised by official Government advice not to travel from the UK as a result of the virus
- Unable to leave the UK as a result of the closure of international borders
- Asked by employer to return to the UK temporarily as a result of the virus, or
- To support vulnerable family members who were asked to ‘shield’ or ‘self-isolate’ due to the COVID-19 pandemic
The individual is also required to demonstrate that they made every effort to leave the UK once the restrictions had been lifted.
The limit for exceptional circumstances has not changed, and remains at 60 days.
The number of exceptional days should be reported in box 11.1 of the residence pages of the individual’s Self-Assessment Tax Return. Additional information should be provided in box 40 to support the claim.
There are no other relaxations to the rules, for example a disregarded day will still count as a UK workday if the individual worked for more than 3 hours in the UK on that day, and tax may be due on any UK workdays. Individuals will need to carefully review any time spent in the UK and consider the impact this may have both on their residence and potentially their domicile or deemed domicile status.
Keeping a Record
Individuals should keep records and documents relating to their residence position and in particular to support any claim made for days spent in the UK disregarded due to either COVID-19 related work or exceptional circumstances.
Evidence and records should support the following:
- The nature and duration of COVID-19 related work activities – a work diary/calendar or timesheet is likely to support this. The diary should be sufficiently detailed, reflecting hours worked, and the nature of the work. For example, reviewing and responding to emails, meetings or completing travel claims
- Breaks the individual had from working, for example, gaps between jobs and why
- Any periods of annual sick, gardening, parenting leave or emergency volunteering leave
- Contracts of employment, and documentation/communications which relate to these, particularly to curtailment or extension of these, or other changes to them
- Employee volunteering leave must be supported by an Emergency Volunteering Certificate issued under the Coronavirus Act.
If you would like advice or for us to undertake a review of your UK tax residence status, please contact us.