Who’s Scottish Now?

As from April 2016, there will be a new Scottish Income Tax, meaning that the overall rate of tax on the non-investment income of Scottish residents is likely to be higher than on that of other residents of the United Kingdom.

This makes it a rather urgent question to decide who is, and who is not, a Scottish taxpayer. Rather a lot of Scots with English connections will be trying to find ways, you might suspect, of becoming that little bit more English, at least for tax purposes.

In anticipation of that, HMRC has issued some preliminary guidance on the interpretation of the relevant terms in the Scotland Act 2012. Whether a UK resident is a Scottish taxpayer depends on two tests. If you have only one residence and it is in Scotland, or more than one place of residence and you have spent at least as much time in that year in your Scottish residence as in any other residence in the UK, then you have a “close connection” with Scotland and are classified as a Scottish taxpayer. If you do not have a “close connection” you are nevertheless a Scottish taxpayer if you have spent more days in Scotland in the tax year than in any other part of the UK.

If you have only one residence and it is in another part of the UK, e.g. you have a house in England but to travel to Scotland regularly for your work, you will have a “close connection” with England and would not in that case be a Scottish taxpayer.

Note that it does not matter whether you own a “residence” or not (let property can still be a “residence”) and it is days spent in Scotland and in the rest of the UK that count. Presumably, if you spend 160 days of the year in Scotland, 100 in England and 105 days in France, you are still a “Scottish taxpayer” even if you do not have a “close connection” with anywhere in the UK.

The “close connection” test comes first, so if a “close connection” is established, the residence day count is irrelevant. So, in summary, it looks like good news for estate agents in Carlisle and Berwick, but not so much for hotel owners in those places.

There is, though, one excellent piece of news. “Scottish Parliamentarians” automatically have a “close connection” to Scotland. That means that, whether you are a Westminster MP for a Scottish constituency, an MEP for Scotland or sit as a member of the Scottish Parliament – you voted for it, now you’ve got to pay it!

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