British Expats: When Is It Time To Go Home?

If you’re a British expat, there’s likely to come a point when it’s time to move home. This could be for a variety of personal and professional reasons, such as a change of role, family circumstances or just a longing for the familiar. Whatever the circumstances, careful planning is the key to a successful move, and allows time to make sure you’re in the best financial position possible.

Why consider leaving your current country of residence

There are lots of considerations which might prompt your decision to leave your existing country of residence. It might be that your role was for a fixed period, and you can’t or don’t want to extend it. You may have children who are nearing milestones for schooling, which means that you want to join them in a particular place. Global events may mean you want to be nearer to family and friends. Or it might be that you’ve come to a stage of life where you want to embrace a different pace of life, focus or even climate!

Where is home?

 It may be that you have a property, in the UK or elsewhere, which you plan to move to. Usually the decision about where ‘home’ is depends on your stage of life and reason for moving. You might choose not to return to the UK, instead opting for another posting overseas or a retirement permanently in another country.

If this is the case it may be possible to enjoy the tax benefits of becoming “non-domiciled” and possibly fully outside of the UK tax net. Other options common for British expats are down to the wish to join family elsewhere or even buy property in two countries, and enjoy a more globally mobile lifestyle. In recent years a range of, typically English-speaking, destinations have seen particular interest for British expats including Australia and New Zealand and the USA and Canada, as well as Spain, France and Italy.

Going from expatriate to repatriate

The key piece of advice when going from expatriate to repatriate is to plan ahead; at least 12-18 months, if possible, for tax purposes. It’s important to understand the date you’ll become a UK tax resident again and what you need to do before that point to reduce your liability to UK tax. It’s likely that the complex residence tests will need to be used to help with this process, and you’re likely to need the advice of an expert to help work through them. It’s also useful to think about Inheritance Tax.

There may be actions you can take as an expat to reduce your Inheritance Tax bill (without paying tax) which would have a tax cost if you take them after you return to the UK. Don’t forget too that you need to take into account any tax complications and reporting requirements that may arise in the country you are leaving.

When it comes to any offshore investments and pensions, you’ll likely need to discuss your plans with an adviser who’s familiar with expats; it’ll be important to consider whether your plans will work and be tax efficient following your return. You might also need to think about currency exchange options, relevant insurances and whether your National Insurance is up to date; if you haven’t been making contributions while overseas you might need to ‘catch up’ to increase your State Pension.

As well as the financial aspects, be aware of the sometimes lengthy processes which are involved in moving internationally. Finding a home, arranging mortgages and setting up a bank account in your new country can all be time-consuming and especially difficult when undertaken from another country!

And there will be a range of associated tasks too – moving medical records, arranging prescriptions, registering for Council Tax, getting back on the electoral register and perhaps choosing schools and transporting pets.

Tackling culture shock 

Moving to a new country, whether it’s ‘home’ to the UK or another location, can be a big step after months or years abroad. If possible, and you have the means with which to manage it, try to allow some time for visits before you move permanently.

It’s also useful to accept that it may take time to adjust, so it can be helpful to consider strategies such as renting rather than buying in the first instance so that you can get a feel of what’s important before setting down more permanent roots. Do also think about your support network in your new home, and whether you have family, friends or organisations and associations you can turn to.

Repatriate support from The Fry Group

Whatever your reason for going home it’s important that your finances can support your move, giving you the freedom to make the decisions you want and need to.

We can help and support with all aspects of your financial plans, providing advice on tax, estates and investments. Many of our team also have personal experiences of expatriate living and repatriation, and understand the complexities – personally and financially – which need to be considered. To discuss your plans please contact your nearest office.

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