Expatriates retiring in the UK – what you need to know

Image of fish and chips wrapped in newspaper retiring in the UK


MoneyPlus Features Team

5th October 2015 at 8:28am

Many Britons have made their homes abroad. But while the expat life can be wonderful for the young and working, it’s not always ideal for those who are older, when the pull of family and friends and the familiarity of home can prove strong.

If you’re a British citizen who has lived abroad and you’re returning to retire in the UK, there are a few things you need to think about first.

Is retiring in the UK right for you?

Your move away took a lot of time and planning and your move back will need equal consideration. You need to think carefully about why you want to return and if your expectations will be met. If you’ve been away for some time a lot might have changed. If you get the chance you should try to spend some time back in the UK before committing to any return.

Your finances

There are also your finances to take into consideration. How will you fund your life back in Blighty?

Before you return you need to consider:

  • Will you still get the income you receive at present when you return to the UK?
  • Are you entitled to benefits if you return to the UK?
  • How do prices and costs compare between countries?
  • How will exchange rates and inflation affect your income?
  • Can you transfer income and assets to the UK?
  • Will your insurance policies remain valid or will you need new ones? (for example, private medical insurance, life insurance)

Returning to the UK can affect your tax liabilities. If you are or will be ordinarily resident and/or resident in the UK for tax purposes you will be liable for tax on UK income or overseas income that you bring into the UK. It is also important to find out whether you will still be liable for tax in the country you have left.

To find out more it’s worth having a look on the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) website or giving them a call. They’ll be able to guide you on tax matters and provide valuable information on tax and National Insurance Contributions. And they have a Residency Department who deal with those who are not currently resident in the UK.

You can contact them on:

Tel: 0300 200 3300 for UK callers only

Tel: +44 135 535 9022 for callers outside the UK

Website: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs

Your health

Your health will be a big consideration too. The fundamental principle of the NHS is that no one should be denied necessary emergency treatment in the UK, whether or not they are resident.

However, the NHS is primarily intended for people who are living lawfully in the UK and are considered ‘ordinarily resident’. Free non-emergency NHS treatment is therefore generally restricted to people who can show they meet the right criteria. You may be asked for some evidence – a rental agreement or utility bill – to show that you are settled in the UK before being accepted as a patient at a GP practice.

There is a factsheet produced by ageuk specifically aimed at those returning from abroad, it gives some handy information on subjects such as health and benefits and would make essential reading for any prospective returning retiree.

Your home

Of course you’ll need somewhere to live. The usual buying a house principles stand but there’s been a growing trend that might be worth considering – retirement villages.

One way to enjoy a comfortable old age is to live in a community designed for older people. Around 20,000 retirees in the UK live in retirement villages but growing waiting lists to buy a property in these communities shows demand is strengthening.

Buying one of the properties is simple, as long as you are the right age – typically over 60 or 65, depending on the village – and have the cash to buy outright without a mortgage.

Yet giving up a property overseas does not necessarily mean forfeiting an expat lifestyle. Being designed for older residents doesn’t means these are quiet, boring places to live. Many developments have gyms, restaurants and social clubs on site.

Residents can be as active as they like, but they also know they are living in a secure environment, often in the beautiful British countryside. And if, as they grow older, they need help in day to day living, some developments can help them to stay in their own homes by providing carers.

Plan ahead

So, if thinking about that move back to familiar shores our advice would be start planning early and ensure you’re not only making the right decision, but an informed one.

Join the conversation

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook and let us know any of your thoughts after reading this article or if you’d like to share any of your experiences of being expatriates planning to retire back in the UK.

This information is based on our understanding of taxation legislation and regulations in September 2015. The legislation and regulations can change. Your personal circumstances also have an impact on tax treatment.