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These circumstances are exceptional! (But only for 60* days)

HMRC have announced that it will be sending letters out this month to UK self-assessment taxpayers making clear the rules on day count and exceptional circumstances – citing this as a “common error”. This warrants a brief reminder on its scope and, importantly, its limitations.

General meaning 

Broadly, exceptional circumstances are situations beyond an individual’s control leaving them with no choice but to remain in (or return to) the UK. The possibilities for such a circumstance are broad. As such, HMRC do not provide a comprehensive list. It does, however, provide a few (and all equally bleak) examples of when exceptional circumstances may arise. One such example given is where a fictional individual is caught in an explosion at sea and airlifted to the nearest hospital in the UK, remaining there for 5 months.

Topical examples 

World events have also led to HMRC adding specific commentary to confirm these would fall within exceptional circumstances:


Whilst fading slightly from our radars, this remains very pertinent to those submitting tax returns for 2020/21 and 2021/22 tax years. Whilst COVID-19 is not a get-out-of-jail-free-card and cases will be assessed on their facts, HMRC does confirm that the following circumstances will qualify as exceptional as a result of COVID-19

Being quarantined or advised to self-isolate in the UK

Being advised by official Government advice not to travel from the UK being or unable to leave the UK as a result of the closure of international borders; or

Being asked by your employer to return to the UK temporarily

War in Ukraine

Another topical example is the ongoing war in Ukraine which is likely to be included in future tax returns being completed for the 2022/23 tax year.

HMRC has confirmed that on account of current Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advice being against all travel to Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, individuals returning to the UK from these territories would qualify for days spent in the UK to be disregarded due to exceptional circumstances.

The snag(s)

This is a limit and not an allowance. While days spent in the UK due to exceptional circumstances will not count towards your day count for UK residency purposes, this is subject to a maximum of 60 days across all exceptional circumstances occurring in one tax year. After this, even exceptional circumstance days will be counted.

A further exception. Announced by the then-chancellor, day spent in the UK between 6 April 2020 and 1 June 2020 by skilled workers carrying out Covid-19 related work were subject to a special 57-day limit.

Case-by-case basis. HMRC reserve the right to disagree with your assessment of exceptional circumstances which may mean your day count is higher than expected, tipping you into a year of unwanted UK tax residency.

In short: always take advice from a legal and / or accounting professional who can advise and update said advice as your tax year develops to avoid nasty surprises!

“HMRC says that common errors are appearing […] relating to the 60-day limit per tax year on exceptional circumstances”

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