The SRT determines an individual’s residence status for UK tax purposes. Before the outbreak of the virus, an individual could, in certain circumstances, spend some days (classed as “exceptional days”) in the UK without such days counting towards his resident test day total. Exceptional days are broadly defined as any days an individual spends in the UK due to unforeseen circumstances outside that individual’s control (such as a sudden illness preventing them from leaving).
HMRC have to date scrutinised claims for exceptional days carefully, with their guidance confirming in particular that the relief will be unlikely to apply if the individual does not leave the UK as soon as those circumstances change.
Now, however, the Government has announced that if an individual meets any of the criteria below, then those days will also be treated as exceptional days and accordingly will not count as days spent in the UK.
At present it is not clear if the exceptional day treatment, under any of the criteria above, will apply where more than 60 days is spent in the UK. Pre COVID-19, the exceptional day limit in any one tax year was 60 days – anytime spent in the UK that exceeded 60 days would count towards the days spent in the UK irrespective of whether such days would otherwise meet the exceptional day test.
Although no clarification has been provided in this respect, it may be sensible to assume that HMRC will still apply the same level of scrutiny to ensure that only valid periods are allowed in line with their guidance. No announcement has been made on other areas where COVID-19 restrictions may impact on SRT calculations, such as the “sufficient hours worked” tests, so these may need to be reviewed carefully as circumstances develop.