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Considerations on Returning to the UK

By: Paul Geraghty - Updated: 25 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Returning To The Uk Returning To Brit

When moving back to Britain, you will, of course, have to deal with exactly the same kinds of issues as you did when going abroad in the first place, except in reverse. So our going abroad checklist is a good place to begin your preparations.

Beyond the routine stuff, such as letting your doctor know you are leaving and so forth, there are a few special considerations to bear in mind when coming back to the UK.

Ordinary Residence

Your eligibility for many of the benefits and privileges we usually take for granted in Britain may be affected by your residence abroad. For example, if you have children who are about to go to university, they may have to pay full international student fees unless you've been "ordinarily resident" in Britain for the previous three years.

Ordinary residence is the criterion applied when determining eligibility for other benefits too such as social security payments or NHS treatment. In these cases, though, you'll just need to be ordinarily resident then and there, not to have a history of it going back years.

If you come back to Britain intending to stay for three years or more, you will be considered ordinarily resident straightaway; otherwise, you may not be. In this case, your residence status will be more complicated and will hinge on such things as how long you have spent or intend to spend in the various countries where you have lived. When you come back to Britain, fill in form P86 from Revenue and Customs to help clarify your residence status.

Property Prices in Britain

One thing you'll need to beware of if you've lived abroad for a few years is the rise of property prices in Britain. If you sold your home in Britain when you moved abroad and bought a property in the country you moved to, you may find that, although the homes may originally have been equivalent in value, prices in Britain have rocketed upwards in the meantime while the value of your new home has risen only slowly. This is one of the most common returning expat dilemmas. In fact, some people feel they are unable to return at all because of it.

Customs and Excise Charges When Moving Back to Britain

If you're returning to Britain from outside the EC, you must beware of the possibility of having tax and duty charges imposed on your belongings when you either send them back or bring them back with you.

Ordinarily, Customs and Excise would levy charges on these just as if you were importing products from abroad. However, if the goods are being shipped because you are transferring your residence back to within the EC, you can apply for exemption. For this you'll need a form which you can download from the Customs and Excise website or get from your shipping agent.

It's important to note that the exemptions come with conditions attached. For example, for a good to be exempt from charges, you must have owned it and used it for at least 6 months before you made the move, and you must retain it in your possession for at least 12 months after you're back in Britain.

The legal minutiae involved in determining which of your possessions meet the conditions for relief and which do not - and whether this is relief from both tax and duty or relief from duty only - are actually quite complex and it's worth studying the details carefully if you're preparing to move.

You should also note that you are often required to make the tax and duty payments upfront anyway until you can prove to the satisfaction of Customs and Excise that your goods meet the conditions for any relief you have claimed.

Returning to the UK - Conclusion

The experience of living abroad will have heightened your sense of Britain's distinctiveness. Whether that's a good or bad thing, whether seeing the white cliffs of Dover brings a smile to your heart or a curse to your lips, depends on the individual. For most of us, though, there is a certain comfort in coming home.

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