Ten tips for moving back to the UK as an expat

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There comes a point in the diary of most British expats on which they look to book their return ticket. For many, this date has been continuously pushed back, as the plan to spend one year overseas quickly turned into a much longer period. For others, the story is quite the opposite.

Whether you have been outside the UK for decades, or just a matter of months this guide contains ten top tips which you should consider before your move back to the United Kingdom.


  1. Are you sure you’re sure?

The life of an expat is full of continuous ups and downs, fuelled by adventure, excitement and the occasional or regular feeling of home sickness.

The vast majorities of expats have at some point felt the urge to simply up-sticks and move back to the United Kingdom. This can be caused by range of things which are missing from our day-to-day life’s overseas. Before making the decision to move back, have a long think and ask yourself if it is really what you want, or are you just going through a phase which will pass. Will your life really improve if you return?

If you still after having a long think want to move back, then keep reading.


  1. Get up to speed with how things have changed in the UK.

This tip applies more to those who have been overseas for a considerable period, but it is still worth thinking about for those who have only been away for a short period.

The United Kingdom is changing at a great pace. Much of this change has to do with Brexit and the associated chaos. Moving past the obvious, there are many other considerations which will have implications on your move back to the United Kingdom. If you are relying on any certain social service i.e. the NHS or your pension entitlement, make sure you research this extensively, to ensure you don’t get a nasty surprise upon your return.

Top tip: Get a free pension report to find out your entitlement


  1. Plan for a rainy day.


This may seem an obvious one, but just because you’re moving back to the United Kingdom, this does not mean all your financial worries will disappear.

Think back to when you first left the United Kingdom. Most people who we surveyed told us, that during their move overseas they came into many unexpected costs which led to their first few months overseas a little tighter financially than anticipated.

Top tip: Work out what your move home is going to cost and add 20% to your budget


  1. UK bank account


It’s a good idea to make sure your UK bank account is still in operation. If not, make sure you take steps to ensure your account is open as soon as possible.

Once you arrive back in the United Kingdom you will need a UK based bank account for numerous reasons including day to day shopping to setting up standing orders once you’re back.

You may also want to investigate moving any capital you have accumulated abroad back into your UK bank account. For this, make sure you shop around to get a competitive rate. Moving money directly between bank accounts can be expensive and time consuming.


  1. Tax planning

When moving back to the United Kingdom there are a collection of tax considerations which you should investigate. The first and perhaps most important is your tax residency status for the financial year. If you return to the United Kingdom and spend over 183 days in the tax year, you will be considered a tax resident meaning your income for that tax year will be subject to your respective income tax rate.

There are several different factors which can affect your residency status, to make sure your return to the United Kingdom is done in a tax efficient fashion seek professional independent financial advice. You may also need to register for a self-assessment.


  1. Education planning

For families returning to the United Kingdom timing is important for your children education. The best time to make a switch is during the summer, allowing for your children to have enough time to settle into their new home. For children moving into a new school or one which they previously attended starting the school year in September will help your child slot in with ease. Moving mid-way through the academic year will cause disruption to their learning timetable. It is also arguably easier for a child to slot into a friendship group in September as children have just returned from their break and will naturally look to develop new relationships.

Top tip: Make sure you plan schooling well in advance to ensure you can secure a place at your preferred school.


  1. Healthcare and NHS

When you return to the United Kingdom you should make sure you understand your NHS entitlement. Upon your return it is a good idea to register with a local GP and dentist, when doing so you may be asked to provide the following documents; proof of purchase of property or tenancy agreement, recent utility or council tax bill and your UK bank account showing recent UK activity.

You can find a list of local practices in your area on the NHS choices website.

In recent years there has been a crackdown on what is known as ‘health-tourism’. Non-resident Britons have increasingly been returning to the UK to take advantage of the NHS for treatment. Due to the ever-growing strain on the NHS, patients are now regularly asked to provide proof of residency.


  1. Employment

Prior to returning to the United Kingdom you may be unsure of your employment options. It may well be a good idea, especially if you have been away for a while to talk with an employment advisor and or recruiter who specialises in your field. They will be able to advise you on the current state of the industry, the ease or difficulty in finding employment, any qualifications you may need to add and opportunities currently available that match your skillset.


  1. Insurance

Whilst you have been living overseas there is a likelihood you have taken out insurance. When you return to the United Kingdom you should investigate whether you are still covered with your existing policy. You may well find that even if you are, you can now find a cheaper insurance back in the United Kingdom, it is a good idea to shop around and make sure you are not paying for an expensive international insurance if it is no longer required. Be sure to also cancel any insurances you no longer require i.e. overseas health and car insurance.


  1. Capital Gains Tax

Capital Gains Tax (CGT) is a tax levied on the profit when one disposes of an asset which has increased in value. Whilst most assets are taxable, some are exempt, for example cars (including classic cars) and government gilts. There is an annual exempt amount for CGT which is £12,000 for the 2019/20 tax year. Basic rate tax payers pay CGT at 10% (18% for residential property), whilst higher rate tax payers pay 20% (28% for residential property). On 6th April 2015 CGT was extended to non-UK residents who are directly holding UK residential property. However, only the gain from 6th April 2015 is liable to tax. For those with property in the UK, if you have not already, you should obtain a valuation, even if you do not intend on selling the property soon.

Non-UK residents do not pay CGT on other UK assets, such as shares in UK companies, unless they are returning to the UK within five years of leaving. Depending on where you are living overseas, it may be advantageous to sell assets before returning to the UK. For example, a British expatriate who has lived in the UAE for over five years would be able to sell shares before returning to the UK without paying any CGT.