Your tax guide to moving home

Aug 06, 2019
More and more people are returning to Ireland having worked abroad for a number of years. More often than not, this process also involves starting a new job and, inevitably, paying Irish tax. With that in mind, this article aims to provide a practical guide to some of the tax and pension issues our members should think about as they plan their return home.

By Bríd Heffernan

Back to basics

First, let us briefly cover some of the basics of the Irish income tax system. Employees pay tax through the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system which, since 1 January 2019, operates in real time. This means that income tax, pay-related social insurance (PRSI) and the universal social charge (USC) are deducted at source by your employer and subsequently paid to Revenue.

As an employee, you can manage your taxes online through Revenue’s MyAccount system. If you have a new job, you will need to register your new role with Revenue in order to be taxed correctly.

On your return to Ireland, one of the first practical steps to take is to apply for a Personal Public Service Number (PPSN). As a returner to Ireland, you should already have one but your children (if they were born abroad) or your partner (if he or she is not an Irish citizen) will require one. The PPSN will provide access to social welfare benefits, public services and information in Ireland.

Tax residence 

On returning home, your liability to Irish tax depends on your residence, ordinary residence and domicile position in Ireland. Residence for tax purposes depends on how many days you spend in the country. Even if you are not actually resident in a particular year, Ireland can still be your ordinary residence as this term refers to the country where you are usually resident over a number of years. The country that is your permanent home is known as your domicile.

If you are tax resident in Ireland for a tax year, you pay Irish tax on your worldwide income and any gains you make in that year. Worldwide income is the total income that you earn anywhere in the world.

Residence and domicile are taken into account for a number of taxes including income tax, deposit interest retention tax, capital acquisitions tax and capital gains tax. For more information on determining your residence status in any year, visit www.revenue.ie.

Tax reliefs

You may return to Ireland mid-way through a tax year and therefore, have income on which you may have to pay Irish and foreign tax. In this instance, it may be possible to claim relief from the foreign country if it has a double taxation agreement (DTA) with Ireland. Or, you can avail of a tax relief called “split-year treatment” for the year you return to Ireland.

Split-year treatment has the benefit of taxing employment income for only part of a year (any foreign employment income earned before returning to Ireland and becoming tax resident again is not subject to Irish tax), while affording the full range of tax allowances and credits and rate bands of a resident. To avail of this treatment, you will need to contact Revenue in writing.

Another relief available to individuals returning home is the Special Assignee Relief Programme (SARP). This provides income tax relief for certain people who are assigned to work in Ireland from abroad up to the year 2020. A number of conditions must be met in order to claim SARP and where you qualify, a proportion of your employment earnings are disregarded for income tax. To claim this relief, your employer must send Form SARP 1A to Revenue within 90 days of your return to Ireland.

Social security and pension considerations

There may be significant differences between the Irish social security system and the system in the country you are moving from. It is therefore worth familiarising yourself with these differences in order to protect your social security entitlements.

In the EU, each country has its own social security laws. However, EU rules coordinate national systems to ensure that people moving to other EU countries do not lose security cover and can amalgamate their contributions from member states when applying for a pension. If you are returning to Ireland from a country within the EU or EEA, you should bring an E104 and U1 form back with you as it will provide details of the insurance contributions you made in that country.

Ireland also has bilateral agreements with a number of countries outside the EU including the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Consequently, contributions paid in these countries can be added to your Irish social insurance contributions.

When it comes to protecting your pension contributions made in Ireland or abroad, there are a number of things to consider. While working abroad, you may be able to claim Migrants Members Relief. This provides relief on pension contributions paid to a pre-existing qualifying pension scheme.

If you have made contributions to a foreign pension fund while living abroad, it is important to note that the rules for transferring or accessing the pension’s funds when you return to Ireland are usually determined by the foreign country. Each country will have different rules for such transfers, and you should contact your pension administrator in the foreign jurisdiction to discuss the options available to you.

In general, Revenue will allow foreign pensions to be transferred to an approved occupational pension scheme or Personal Retirement Savings Account (PRSA) provided a number of conditions are met.

Conclusion

These are just some of the tax, social security and pension considerations to think about on your return to Ireland. It’s important to be familiar with these issues to avoid situations where you could end up paying double tax and to ensure that you protect your social security and pension contributions.

Bríd Heffernan is a Tax Manager at Chartered Accountants Ireland.

You can read more about living and working overseas in Chartered Accountants Abroad, the publication from Accountancy Ireland for Chartered Accountants Ireland members abroad.

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