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Tax returns unavoidable

Turns out that even after not having lived in the UK for two and a half years and not having a single penny of UK-taxable income to my name, I still owe it to Her Majesty Revenue and Customs to fill out the tax return for the most recent fiscal year. Failure to do so by January 31st would result in a £100 penalty.

Apparently, the letter they sent me when the fiscal year had ended last April acts as a directive. I have received those letters for several years now, but I always assumed that they were simply form documents sent to all taxpayers. Not so. They are actually targeted to those who are required to submit a return. As I am being told, if the next year, based on my non-residency and zero-income status as recorded in this year’s return, HMRC will decide that I no longer need to file a tax return, they will not send me the letter and I will be off the hook. Of course, it is at their complete discretion: They may decide to ask me to file theoretically every year for the rest of my life (the phone representative swore that that would never happen).

The problem is, official mail from the UK takes inordinate amount of time to reach me and, while I have no specific examples of mail being lost, I can never be sure that everything reaches me properly. So, next year, I will probably be on the phone to HMRC again, trying to find out if I have to fill out the return for yet another year where I was not a UK resident and did not earn a penny of UK-taxable income.

And the funny thing is, remember how I kept saying how easy it is to complete a self-assessment return? The perspective changed greatly when I had no numbers to plug in. It still only took me less than 10 minutes, but flipping through multiple screens and waiting for “calculation” to confirm that zero income means zero owed in taxes felt rather annoying.