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Scary HMRC letter... please help!

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by ed717, Nov 21, 2017.

  1. ed717

    ed717 New commenter

    Hi all,

    I have been teaching abroad in Sri Lanka for about 15 months now and was planning to return back to see family and friends for two weeks at Christmas... but a letter has been sent to my mum's address with the headline 'your tax return for the year ended 5 April 2016 is more than 3 months late' and 'after 7th October 2017 a daily penalty of 10 pounds a day is payable for each day your tax return is outstanding'
    What tax return?? I had no idea as nobody has explained any of this to me. If I am earning overseas and not living in the UK, I don't still have to pay tax surely? How would I even do it from here - I no longer have a UK bank account as it went dormant, and I couldn't re-open it when I was last in the UK due to not having sufficient proof of address within the last 3 months.
    I am now unsure whether it is safe to come back at Christmas or not - could they actually prevent me from leaving back to Sri Lanka in January at the airport because of this when they scan my passport? I'm really confused at this situation and not sure how to handle it... I am reluctant to contact HMRC as if they do demand a massive sum I won't be able to pay - I am 26 and living life to the full and have no savings yet to deal with unplanned situations like this... Does anyone else have experience with this?

  2. 576

    576 Established commenter

    You need to contact HMRC. They'll sort it out.
    They sent me a letter asking for money - my fault as I forgot to tick a box on my self-assessment form but a quick phonecall sorted it all out.
  3. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Oh dear! As regular readers of the pachyderm's ramblings will know well, I am a great believer in getting proper and professional advice from an experienced accountant BEFORE embarking on any foreign adventures.

    No, ed717, I would not recommend a "head in the sand" approach to this problem. A SKYPE call to HMRC or an e-mail is not going to cost you anything and it might help to defuse the situation. HMRC are just doing their job.

    Having been teaching overseas since 1998, it has always been my understanding that you will indeed be expected to pay tax in the UK, if you are living in the UK. HMRC will automatically assume that you are in fact living in the UK if you do not go through the process of becoming "non-resident for the purposes of taxation". By becoming non-resident, you do lose out in some ways, but the long and the short of it is that you will not be expected to pay Income Tax (and maybe one or two other taxes) in the UK. This is why proper advice from an accountant is so important.
  4. Mainwaring

    Mainwaring Lead commenter

    Ed: I am no taxation expert but I don't believe you are liable for UK tax. Did you inform HMRC of your intention to leave the UK and work abroad? If not, this may be the root of the problem. Contact HMRC immediately by phone and explain your situation fully (as above). Make a note of the date and time of your call and of the name of the person you speak with. Naturally you are anxious but keep the conversation as calm as possible and I'm sure you will find them helpful. You may need to answer the letter in writing. Ask them for the address you need to write to. They are legally bound to reply and if the reply is favourable you will have something in writing to show the jobsworths when you visit UK. Merry Christmas when it comes.
  5. Darthteacher

    Darthteacher New commenter

    Call them and get on top of it. They wont pick you up at the airport, you aren't Ronnie Biggs - BUT you should call them just to clear this up. Don't stress it. When you get to the UK at Christmas visit a UK tax accountant and set things up properly. This shouldn't be a huge deal. Just call them and tell them you are lost and need help. They will help you.
    ed717 likes this.
  6. ed717

    ed717 New commenter

    Thanks so much guys... this isn't something you are ever told about but expected to know!
  7. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Ahem, ed717! On this forum I have, time and again, told people about the need to be registered as "non-resident for the purposes of taxation" with HMRC. Caveat emptor is always good advice, whether you are really paying for something or "buying" the idea of teaching overseas. There are some serious financial implications, both positive and negative, when you move into international education. Anyone who does not do their homework before accepting a teaching post in a foreign country is just asking for trouble.
    rednelly84 likes this.
  8. usy1461

    usy1461 New commenter

    Were you self employed? or do you own property which you let out to other people? I had to complete one of these docuements because I was self-employed. Contact HMRC and see what it is regarding.
  9. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    I know zilch about tax when working overseas but this doesn't seem to have anything to do overseas tax as such. You say you've been in Sri Laka 15 months, ie since about August 2016. The tax return HMRC is after is for the 2015-16 tax year, the year ending 5th April 2016. Were you working in UK during that tax year? If so that's why they want a tax return and why you may be liable for UK tax. And if you worked in UK from April 2016 to when you went to Sri Lanka they will want a 2016-17 tax return fairly soon as well presumably.

    Best to follow the advice to call them to discuss.

    The letter you say has been sent too your mum's house won't be the first time they have written to you. Did previous letters arrive for you from HMRC? When you speak to HMRC check where they sent the tax return form and subsequent correspondence.
    Helen-Back and thatmaninthehat like this.
  10. drvs

    drvs Star commenter

    One of the exciting things about being an adult is that there aren't people around whose job it is to tell you what to do; it can be quite frightening for those who don't ask the right questions or have sensible thoughts :rolleyes:

    Phone HMRC and learn a lesson - when you're part of a society you can't just walk away without tying up the loose ends, nor can you expect to just walk back in and pick up where you left off.

  11. kemevez

    kemevez Occasional commenter

    Sounds like you owe them nothing. Set up a Skype call with them and explain your situation. They will then clear it up by either pressing delete or by asking you to tick a box on some form or other. They are overly efficient and reluctant to give back when you have overpaid them but they are one of the few, maybe the only, UK government-ish agencies that take face value at face value when they are in the wrong.
    MikeyGrzz likes this.
  12. thatmaninthehat

    thatmaninthehat Occasional commenter

    Spot on drvs!
  13. thatmaninthehat

    thatmaninthehat Occasional commenter

    I have to say I have never found HMRC difficult to deal with or reluctant to refund overpaid tax if you take the trouble to manage your personal financial affairs properly.All of the information you need is available on-line these days.There really is no excuse for not looking after your own tax affairs and I have no sympathy for people who get into trouble with them.
  14. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    How can you have any idea at all what @ed717 might owe for 2015-16 tax year when he has said nothing whatsoever about his employment that year? He hasn't even said what country he was working in for 2015-16. Maybe he owes tax. Maybe HMRC owe him. Who knows?
    lizziescat, thatmaninthehat and drvs like this.
  15. rednelly84

    rednelly84 Occasional commenter

    I have had a similar letter recently from my UK bank asking about my overseas income. They know I'm abroad as I declared this to HMRC when I left the country many moons ago. However, it's always better to get it sorted so you don't lose any sleep. A (n expensive) phone call later and all sorted.

    I left the UK when I was 25 and, like you, didn't have any inclination to save money. Now in my 30s, I'm a lot wiser and I would strongly advise you to think about putting something away as you never know when you'll need to buy that emergency flight home, for example. Working internationally has taught me to really pay attention to my money and what I do with it.
  16. rednelly84

    rednelly84 Occasional commenter

    In addition, I'd get advice on your NI contributions whilst you're on the phone to them...you need 30 years worth paid in to be able to claim any pension if you decide to retire in the UK. For example, I know I can be out of the UK for another 9 years to enable me to return and comfortably pay the rest in. There is an AVC option where you can choose to pay funds in, if you wish; something I'd advise if you have yet to build up any years.
  17. kemevez

    kemevez Occasional commenter

    Er, by reading between the lines and looking at the context of the post. "Sounds like" is also a big indicator of what the rest of my sentence means. Clearly, if there are good reasons why the OP would have tax to pay then the OP would be aware of it. Anyway, I was on point and supportive. But you are right on one point - who knows?
  18. makhnovite

    makhnovite Established commenter

    Rot Weiler another incarnation of the dreaded one?
  19. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    I'm not a reincarnation of anyone as far as I know but just out of curiosity who are you, who is 'the dreaded one', and why do you think I might be a reincarnation of either of you? A very puzzling post from you.
    lizziescat and harsh-but-fair like this.
  20. 576

    576 Established commenter

    Rott weiler had been on TES (though maybe not overseas for a long time).

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