As our world becomes more interconnected, it is common for UK taxpayers to have financial interests and ties abroad. Suppose you have income from foreign investments, work overseas, or inherit money from someone in another country?

 In that case, it is important to know your tax obligations and how having foreign income can affect you.

This article covers the key considerations for UK taxpayers with foreign income. It includes self-assessment, the Worldwide Disclosure Facility, and the role of accountants in navigating this complex area.

One of the most important things to understand is that if you're a UK resident, you are generally required to pay UK tax on your worldwide income. This means that even if you've already paid tax on your foreign income in the country where it was earned, you may still need to declare it to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and pay additional tax in the UK.

Failure to do so can result in significant penalties, interest charges, and even prosecution in serious cases.

To declare your foreign income, you'll typically need to complete a self-assessment tax return. This is an annual return that requires you to report all of your income and gains, including any foreign income, and calculate the tax you owe.

It's important to keep accurate records of your foreign income and any associated expenses, as you may be able to claim tax relief or foreign tax credits to avoid double taxation. However, the rules around foreign income and tax relief can be complex, so it's often advisable to seek the guidance of a personal tax accountant or international accountant to ensure you're completing your return correctly.

If you have previously failed to declare foreign income to HMRC, either intentionally or unintentionally, you can use the Worldwide Disclosure Facility (WDF) to bring your tax affairs up to date. The WDF is a voluntary disclosure scheme that allows taxpayers to disclose previously undeclared income and settle any outstanding tax liabilities, often with reduced penalties compared to if HMRC discovers non-compliance through their investigations.

To use the WDF, you'll need to register with HMRC and then make a full disclosure of your undeclared foreign income and gains, along with any other irregularities in your tax affairs. You'll also need to calculate the tax, interest, and penalties you owe and make arrangements to pay these amounts.

While the prospect of disclosing past non-compliance can be daunting, it's generally better to come forward voluntarily than to wait for HMRC to uncover the issue, as this can lead to higher penalties and even criminal charges.

If you're uncertain about whether you need to disclose foreign income or how to proceed, an international accountant can be an invaluable resource. These specialised accountants have expertise in cross-border tax issues and can help you understand your obligations, claim any available reliefs or credits, and ensure that you're fully compliant with both UK and overseas tax laws.

They can also assist with using the Worldwide Disclosure Facility if needed and provide guidance on tax-efficient structuring of your international finances.

It's worth noting that even if you have declared all of your foreign income and gains, you may still be selected for a tax investigation by HMRC. Tax investigations can be triggered for a variety of reasons, from random checks to discrepancies in your tax returns or information received from overseas tax authorities.

If you do find yourself subject to a tax investigation, it's essential to seek professional advice from a tax accountant as soon as possible. They can communicate with HMRC on your behalf, provide supporting documentation and arguments, and work to resolve the investigation as quickly and favourably as possible.

Looking beyond the immediate concerns of compliance and investigations, a personal tax accountant can also provide valuable ongoing advice and support for managing your foreign income in a tax-efficient manner. They can assist with tax planning and structuring, advise on the implications of moving abroad or investing overseas, and keep you informed of any changes to tax laws or regulations that may affect your situation.

It's important to note that foreign income and worldwide disclosure can be quite complicated when it comes to taxation. Thus, it's crucial to seek professional advice and be proactive in managing your tax affairs in order to remain compliant, minimise your tax liabilities, and steer clear of potential penalties associated with non-compliance.

Whether you're a seasoned expat or someone who is just starting to explore overseas financial opportunities, working with a skilled international accountant or personal tax accountant can provide the expertise and peace of mind you need to make the most of your global financial position.