Somehow it seems that most emigrants are often so happy to be out of SA that they forget some very important stuff. Then they land in the UK and are so busy trying to get to grips with all the new stuff here that they don’t have time for some other very important stuff. Then, of course, the biggest problem of all – none of us know what we don’t know!!!
I’ve been a tax specialist in SA for quite a long time and have now embarked on that same journey in the UK. Utilising formal study, it’s been a year and I’m now competent but not excellent! The reason I’m not excellent is because it’s REALLY complicated and quite different here and I’m honestly glad I’ve undertaken the formal study. Without that, it would be IMPOSSIBLE to get to competent!
I’ve also set up SAUK Tax to help SAFFA’s deal with the “very important stuff they forgot” when they got on the plane and the “important stuff they didn’t know” when they got off it.
So, what did you forget? Well, for starters, telling SARS you are no longer a tax resident in SA. If you don’t tell them, they are fully entitled to assume you are still paying tax to them. And if those tax returns fall behind, SARS is now empowered to arrange for your arrest. They probably won’t, but who wants to take the risk of arriving at ORT and being greeted by the Commissioner of Police or his staff with a request to accompany them to the nearest police station?
Anyway, let’s assume you’ve got that all sorted out or you don’t care because you aren’t ever going back anyway, then let’s turn to your UK taxes. If you are still earning anything in SA (interest, dividends, rent, etc) then you are legally obliged to report that to HMRC.
The conversations I’ve had with SAFFAS here ...... well not many of them have even thought about that. And that’s why I say you don’t know what you don’t know.
Let’s take one of our clients. They have been here for 18 years but (out of ignorance) have never reported their SA dividends or interest. The tax on all that for 1 year is not large but over 18 years it's a bit eye watering. Add on the penalties and interest and it’s almost crippling.
A number of others still have their homes left in SA which they are now renting out! But they aren’t declaring that rent to HMRC. Sadly, that makes them a criminal in the UK and the penalties and interest become their smallest problem. As a criminal, the biggest risk is your visa status and your plans to apply for ILR or British Citizenship.
So guys, it’s just not worth it to ignore this “important stuff”. I KNOW that migration is a tough process and I KNOW that there is a bucketload of change you have to adapt to when you get here but you also need to focus on the longer term and make sure you keep your record clean here (and in SA if you ever think you might want to (or have to) go back).
Fortunately, HMRC has recently authorised a thing called the “Let Property Campaign”. If you have been here a couple of years and haven’t reported your SA rental earnings this is your “get out of jail free” card and now is the time to get all caught up. It doesn’t get rid of the tax you might have to pay but it DOES eliminate the penalties if you do it voluntarily and it makes you legal again.
My experience of these things (we called them amnesty’s in SA) is that they tend to become a focus point for the relevant authorities once the amnesty period has passed and any thought of leniency is completely gone.
So, do it NOW guys. There are NOT a lot of tax folk who can help you in both countries and understand your needs, goals AND pain. We can and we do because we’ve done it ourselves. Contact us for a confidential chat. You can reach us on +44 2045 242 850 or +44 7511 540881 or email@example.com