The United Kingdom is part of the European continent and is surrounded by water. The Atlantic is on one side and the North Sea is on the other, with the Irish Sea in between. The majority of the 224,000 square kilometres is made up of land comprising the countries of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. As the name implies, the United Kingdom encompasses different nationalities under one umbrella.
The history of the individual countries may date back many centuries; however the United Kingdom only came into being in 1801. At that time the United Kingdom made up the largest part of what is known as the British Isles. The Union Flag symbolises three countries of the United Kingdom: England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is also known as the Union Jack. Wales uses the Red Dragon for its flag, although the Union Flag also flies as a symbol of unity.
The population of the United Kingdom has seen much growth since its foundation, and according to the most recent census the population is currently sixty-three million people. Urban areas can be found throughout each individual country as well as expansive rural areas.
Income taxes are a necessary part of any life no matter the country; thus expats in the UK will need to file their taxes with the HMRC through self-assessment or PAYE (Pay As You Earn), depending on their employment status. Income taxes are complex, therefore it is in an expat's best interest to hire an accountant that will be able to file the taxes or determine if taxes can be filed in an expat’s home country. UK income tax is paid by employees, workers, and self-employed residents.
The British tax year runs from April 6th to April 5th. Instead of keeping records for January 1st to December 31st, records are kept from April 6th of the year to April 5th of the next year. The return has to be mailed by October 31st or by January 31st depending on whether it is being submitted online or on paper.
If applicable, an expat may need to file for a National Insurance number. This is a number that is usually given to workers as it is used for employment. The NI is a lot like the social security number or employee identification number. For expats there is an income level one has to attain in order to qualify to pay taxes in the UK. Country of origin also has an effect on tax levels, as there are certain countries that require double taxation, in which the resident pays UK taxes and also pays home country taxes. Specific regulations can be found through the HMRC. Typically, double taxation requirements will depend on the amount of time a person spends in each country throughout the year and how much of the income was earned locally versus in the expat country.
Expats can enter a PAYE or ‘pay-as-you-earn’ situation, like with USA income taxes. Tax will then be taken out of the pay cheque before the funds are deposited into the employee’s account. If taxes are paid in this way throughout the year, a person may be entitled to a tax refund.
Visa, Residency & Immigration Laws
The UK has very specific rules concerning a person's reasons for becoming an expat. Typically, several visas exist for getting into a foreign country, such as work or school visas. It is important to enter the UK with the proper visa. A valid passport is also required. Certain foreign nationals are not subject to the standard visa regulations, such as citizens of EU or EEA states. Students or professional organisation members such as journalists or clergy do not need a work permit, but all other workers must apply for one prior to entry.
To make buying a property as clear and easy as possible, the UK has steps that must be followed by the buyer, agents and brokers, and solicitors. If there is a need for a mortgage this will bring another party to the purchase. Solicitors focus on the conveyancing aspect of real estate law. Conveyancing is the transfer of the property title from one owner to another.
There will always be fees, taxes, and other costs associated with owning a home. Depending on the seller and buyer agreements there can be several issues that crop up. For example, roofing is generally looked at since tiles and slates have a specific amount of years they will last. The buyer could request the roof be redone or other things in the house be fixed before completing the buying phase. Further, they could also use these issues as a bargaining tool to knock the sale price down.
The largest issue surrounding house buying is securing the mortgage. Mortgages have become slightly difficult to obtain and not all banks are willing to work with expats.
Retiring in the U.K.
The United Kingdom used to have an official retirement age of 65, however this has recently changed due to an increase in average life expectancy. There is now no formal retirement age. In general it is considered that anyone aged 65 years or older may receive a pension. There are a number of reasons that may require the pension to be given at an earlier age. Many individuals are now remaining at work beyond the age of 65 in order to gain more income to support their longer lives. The UK government decided to install an unofficial retirement age of 65 in order to ensure that people older than 65 would not be forced out of retirement.
Expats can expect to have a decent quality of life when retiring in the UK. The ability to pay into state and company pension schemes helps provide income in later years. The ability to have a foreign pension transferred, as well as foreign social security benefits from certain countries, can enhance one’s ability to afford retirement in the UK.