Osborne readies £400m tax raid on expats

Chancellor poised to push ahead with plans to tax expats renting out UK homes

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If you're an expat who rents out a property in the UK, be prepared for a rude tax shock from the chancellor. It's thought George Osborne is readying plans to withdraw the right to offset rental income against the £10,000 personal allowance.

Practically, that could slash a couple's income by £4,000 a year. How many people are likely to be affected? And what can you do to reduce your tax risk?

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Return home?

It's thought up to 400,000 Brits could be hit by the move overall while hauling up to £400m for the Treasury. For some expats, it could be a tipping point. "In essence, I'm in favour [of the move]," Edinburgh-based financial adviser Malcolm Steel of Mearns & Company told AOL Money.

"It makes sense that someone who's not a tax resident should not benefit from the UK tax allowance. If you're living in a tax haven like Dubai or Hong Kong, you can probably afford an extra £2,000 in tax, or perhaps restructure your arrangements to avoid it."

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Balancing act

But for people on much more modest incomes in places like France or Spain, it could be rather more different. But returning home won't be cheap; there's the spectre of much higher house prices, especially in the south of England, as well as generally higher cost of living prices.

Any decision will be finely balanced. But Bath-based financial adviser Jonothan McColgan told AOL Money that there's increasing homogenisation of tax rules across Europe.

Healthy decision?

"People return to the UK for different reasons. Health provision in the UK is still a lot better than in Cyprus or other parts of the world." Governments which were previously quite lax in tax previously he says, "but they're getting more efficient now, so these changes are already in the offing."

So tax advantages across Europe look increasingly marginal - and the trend is towards more cross-border alignment, not less. However, as many Britons have found, national health services in countries like France and Germany are often excellent.

2016?

"As far as we are concerned," said business development manager Jason Porter of Blevins Franks, "these proposed changes will only have a detrimental impact on those individuals resident overseas who have either a Government pension; and/or a UK rental income."

"At this stage it is only a consultation, and any changes proposed will not take effect until at least the Budget in 2015, although we think 2016 is more likely."

At least 1m expats won't pay extra because they are still UK residents for tax purposes i.e. they're still resident in the UK for six months of the year.

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