A new breed of digital nomad
The pandemic has freed many workers from the confines of the office, leading to the emergence of a new breed of digital nomad – people who can take their laptop, jump on a plane and set up a remote ‘office’ somewhere exotic.
Some countries have responded with schemes to assist long-term workcations. For example, with the Barbados Welcome Stamp, digital nomads can stay in Barbados for up to 12 months with no tax implications – the fee is $2,000 for an individual. But before packing your bags there are some practicalities that cannot be overlooked.
The self-employed should not have any insurmountable problems, but employees will need to consult with their employer to see if they are going to be supportive of a move away, potentially to a different time zone.
There might not be much of a problem if currently renting in the UK, but home ownership comes with more issues. Simply leaving a home empty – even if affordable – could be in breach of the mortgage agreement and may invalidate household insurance. Property rental is a solution but means meeting serious requirements; a good letting agency should be able to advise. Some remedial work may be necessary, such as the installation of fire alarms.
You should definitely retain your UK bank account, but also look at online options for holding currency and transferring funds overseas.
It’s all very well having tax-exempt status where you are based, but it is of limited benefit if you remain subject to UK tax. It is important to remember that UK residence status is determined separately for each tax year. The rules can be quite complicated, but you can be classed as non-resident if you:
- Spend fewer than 16 days in the UK during a tax year. Unfortunately, it’s probably too late now to meet this requirement for the current year;
- Work full-time overseas, whether self-employed or employed – and you are allowed to visit the UK for up to 90 days each tax year; or
- Balance your visits and ties to the UK. For example, if you just make use of a UK home, UK visits will need to be restricted to no more than 90 days.
A good starting point for establishing residence status is HMRC’s guidance on the statutory residence test. This can be found here.