Last updated: Mar 07, 2024

The tax implications of retiring or working abroad

at Mortgages for Doctors

The tax implications of retiring or working abroad

The prospect of retiring or working abroad offers an exciting opportunity to experience new cultures, climates, and lifestyles. It’s something many us dream about.

However, as exciting as the prospect may be, it's crucial to understand the complex tax implications that come with living overseas. This article delves into the key tax considerations for UK residents planning to retire or work abroad, aiming to provide clarity and guidance to navigate these waters smoothly.

Understanding residency and taxation

Confusingly enough, just because you live in a country doesn’t mean you are necessarily a tax resident of that country. The first step in assessing your tax obligations when moving abroad is determining your residency status.

The UK employs a Statutory Residence Test (SRT) to ascertain your tax residency. This test considers factors such as the number of days you spend in the UK and your ties to the country. Your residency status affects whether you need to pay UK tax on foreign income, including wages, pensions, and rental income.

Tax on foreign income for UK residents

If you are considered a UK resident for tax purposes, you are typically required to pay UK tax on your worldwide income. However, there are mechanisms in place to prevent double taxation—paying tax on the same income in two countries. The UK has double taxation agreements (DTAs) with numerous countries to ensure you don't pay tax twice on the same income. It's vital to check if the UK has a DTA with your host country and understand its provisions.

Non-resident tax obligations

Should you become a non-resident in the UK for tax purposes after moving abroad, you generally won't need to pay UK tax on your foreign income. Nonetheless, any UK-sourced income, such as rental income from UK property, may still be subject to UK tax. Non-residents are also exempt from UK Capital Gains Tax on foreign assets, with exceptions for UK residential property and business assets.

Working abroad: employment income

For UK residents working temporarily abroad (for less than a full tax year), you will likely still be liable for UK tax on your earnings. However, if your employment abroad covers a full tax year or longer, you may qualify as a non-resident, altering your tax liabilities significantly.

Always document your days spent in and out of the UK meticulously to establish your residency status accurately.

Retiring abroad: pensions

Retiring abroad introduces additional considerations, particularly regarding your pension. While you can receive your UK state pension abroad, it will only increase annually if you live in the EEA, Switzerland, or a country with a social security agreement with the UK. Furthermore, private and workplace pensions are subject to the tax laws of your country of residence. Investigate the tax treatment of pensions in your new home country and consider consulting with a financial adviser in your new country to navigate cross-border pension transfers and tax implications efficiently.


Moving abroad can also affect your entitlement to UK benefits and healthcare. Your eligibility for the UK's National Health Service (NHS) hinges on being ordinarily resident in the UK, which typically ceases when you move abroad.

Additionally, social security contributions in your new country of residence may be required, depending on local laws and any social security agreements between the UK and that country.

Preparing for the move: steps to take

Consult with a tax proofessional in the country you are thinking of moving to: Tax laws are complex and vary significantly by country. A professional can provide advice tailored to your specific situation.

Inform HMRC of your move: If you file a self assessment, there is a non-resident section which details about living overseas.

Understand the tax system of your new country: Familiarise yourself with the local tax obligations, social security contributions, and how pensions are taxed.

Consider the impact on your estate planning: Living abroad can affect your estate and inheritance tax planning. It’s essential to consider the laws of your new country of residence.


While the dream of retiring or working abroad is enticing, it can be accompanied by a labyrinth of tax considerations. Understanding the interplay between your residency status, income sources, and the tax laws of both the UK and your new country is paramount.

By taking proactive steps to comprehend these implications and seeking professional advice, you can ensure a seamless transition to your new life abroad, free from unexpected tax complications.

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