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Taxation in the United Kingdom may involve payments to a minimum of two different levels of government: The central government (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs) and local government. Central government revenues come primarily from income tax, National Insurance contributions, value added tax, corporation tax and fuel duty. Local government revenues come primarily from grants from central government funds, business rates in England and Wales, Council Tax and increasingly from fees and charges such as those from on-street parking. In the fiscal year 2007-08, total government revenue was 39.2 per cent of GDP, with net taxes and National Insurance contributions standing at 36.9 per cent of GDP[1]—approximately £606,661,000,000 (using 2008 nominal GDP measured in dollars, and converting using 2009 conversion rate).



Income tax forms the bulk of revenues collected by the government. The second largest source of government revenue is National Insurance Contributions. The third largest source of government revenues is value added tax (VAT), and the fourth-largest is corporation tax.


Residence and domicile

A pie chart showing the projected constituents of UK taxation receipts for the tax year 2008-2009, according to the 2008 Budget.

UK source income is generally subject to UK taxation no matter the citizenship nor the place of residence of the individual nor the place of registration of the company.

For individuals this means the UK income tax liability of one who is neither resident nor ordinarily resident in the UK is limited to any tax deducted at source on UK income, together with tax on income from a trade or profession carried on through a permanent establishment in the UK and tax on rental income from UK real estate.

Individuals who are both resident and domiciled in the UK are additionally liable to taxation on their worldwide income and gains. For individuals resident but not domiciled in the UK (a "non-dom"), foreign income and gains have historically been taxed on the remittance basis, that is to say, only income and gains remitted to the UK are taxed (for such people the UK is sometimes called a tax haven). However from 6 April 2008, a (long term [resident 7 of previous 9 years]) non-dom wishing to retain the remittance basis is required to pay an annual tax of £30,000[2].

Domicile here is a term with a technical meaning. Very roughly (and this is a considerable simplification) an individual is domiciled in the UK if it is his or her permanent home.

A company is resident in the UK if it is UK-incorporated or if its central management and control are in the UK (although in the former case a company could be resident in another jurisdiction in certain circumstances where a tax treaty applies).

Double taxation of income and gains may be avoided by an applicable double tax treaty - the UK has one of the largest networks of treaties of any country[3][4].

Examples of non-dom status

In March, 2010, Lord Ashcroft wrote a letter indicating that he might suspend his previously hidden non-dom status in order to continue serving in the House of Lords. He had promised to switch his tax status in a letter to the government almost a decade earlier in which he gave assurances that he would "take up permanent residence in the UK again" in order to accept a peerage [5]. The same letter outed Sir Ronald Cohen. Of course it should be noted that a "permanent residence" status is not the same as domicile.

The tax year

The Tax Year in the UK, which applies to income tax and other personal taxes, runs from 6 April in one year to 5 April the next (for income tax purposes). Hence the 2008-09 tax year ran from 6 April 2008 to 5 April 2009.

The odd dates are due to events in the mid-18th century. The English quarter days are traditionally used as the dates for collecting rents (on, for example, agricultural properties). The tax system was also based on a tax year ending on Lady Day (25 March). When the Gregorian calendar was adopted in the UK in September 1752 in place of the Julian calendar, the two were out of step by 11 days. However, it was felt unacceptable for the tax authorities to lose out on 11 days' tax revenues, so the start of the tax year was moved, firstly to 5 April and then, in 1800, to 6 April.

The tax year is sometimes also called the Fiscal Year. The Financial Year, used mainly for corporation tax purposes, runs from 1 April to 31 March. Financial Year 2008 runs from 1 April 2008 to 31 March 2009, as Financial Years are named according to the calendar year in which they start.

Personal taxes

Income tax

UK income tax and National Insurance charges (2009–2010).
UK income tax and National Insurance as a percentage of taxable pay (2009-10).

Income tax forms the bulk of revenues collected by the government. Each person has an income tax personal allowance, and income up to this amount in each tax year is free of tax for everyone. For 2009-10 the tax allowance for under 65s is £6,475.[6]

Above this amount there are a number of tax bands — each taxed at a different rate (as of 2009-10):[6]

Rate Dividend income Savings income Other income (inc employment) Band (above any personal allowance)
Lower rate N/A 10% N/A £0 - £2440
applies only if total income falls in this band
Basic rate 10% 20% 20% £0 - £37,400
Higher rate 32.5% 40% 40% over £37,400

This table reflects the removal of the 10% starting rate from April 2008, which also saw the 22% income tax rate drop to 20%. Alistair Darling announced in the 2009 budget (22 April 2009) that, from April 2010 there would be a new 50% income tax rate for those earning more than £150,000.

The taxpayer's income is assessed for tax according to a prescribed order, with income from employment using up the personal allowance and being taxed first, followed by savings income (from interest or otherwise unearned) and then dividends.

Exemptions on Investment

UK central government expenditure projection for tax year 2009-2010, according to the 2009 Pre-Budget Report.

Certain investments carry a tax favoured status including:

While all income is taxable, gains are exempt for income tax purposes.

Certain investments via the state owned National Savings scheme are not subject to tax including Index linked Certificates (up to £15,000 per issue) and Premium Bonds a scheme that issues monthly prizes in place of interest on individual holdings up to £30,000.

These permit up to £7,200. Maximum of £3,600 in cash funds, and the balance being allocated either to mutual funds (Units Trusts and OEICs) or individual self-selected shares. No tax is deducted, although the 10% tax withheld on UK dividends cannot be reclaimed.

These have the same tax treatment as ISAs in terms of growth. Full tax relief is also given at the individual's marginal rate on contributions or, in the case of an employer contributions, it is treated as an expense and is not taxed on the employee as a benefit in kind. Aside from a tax free lump sum of 25% of the fund, benefits taken from pension funds are taxable.

These are investments in smaller companies or funds of holdings in such companies over a minimum term of five years. These are not taxable and qualify for 30% tax relief against an individual's income.

A non taxable investment into smaller company shares over three years that qualifies for 20% tax relief. The facility also allows an indiviudal to defer capital gains liabilities (these gains can be stripped out in future years using the annual CGT allowance.)

These include offshore and onshore investment Bonds issued by insurance companies. The main difference between the two is that corporation tax onshore means that gains are treated as if basic rate tax has been paid (this cannot be reclaimed by zero or starting rate tax payers). With both versions up to 5% for each complete year of investment can be taken without an immediate tax liability (subject to a maximum total of 100% of the original investment. On this basis, investors can plan an income stream while deferring any chargeable withdrawals until they are on a lower rate of tax, are no longer a UK resident, or their death.


The income tax was first implemented in Britain by William Pitt the Younger in his budget of December 1798 to pay for weapons and equipment in preparation for the Napoleonic Wars. Pitt's new graduated (progressive) income tax began at a levy of 2 old pence in the pound (1/120) on incomes over £60 (2007:£48,700)and increased up to a maximum of 2shillings (10%) on incomes of over £200. Pitt hoped that the new income tax would raise £10 million, but actual receipts for 1799 totalled just over £6 million.[7]

Income tax was levied under five schedules—income not falling within those schedules was not taxed. The schedules were:

  • Schedule A (tax on income from UK land)
  • Schedule B (tax on commercial occupation of land)
  • Schedule C (tax on income from public securities)
  • Schedule D (tax on trading income, income from professions and vocations, interest, overseas income and casual income)
  • Schedule E (tax on employment income)

Later a sixth Schedule, Schedule F (tax on UK dividend income) was added.

Pitt's income tax was levied from 1799 to 1802, when it was abolished by Henry Addington during the Peace of Amiens. Addington had taken over as prime minister in 1801, after Pitt's resignation over Catholic Emancipation. The income tax was reintroduced by Addington in 1803 when hostilities recommenced, but it was again abolished in 1816, one year after the Battle of Waterloo. The UK income tax was reintroduced by Sir Robert Peel in the Income Tax Act 1842. Peel, as a Conservative, had opposed income tax in the 1841 general election, but a growing budget deficit required a new source of funds. The new income tax, based on Addington's model, was imposed on incomes above £150(2007:£111,800).

UK income tax has changed over the years. Originally it taxed a person's income regardless of who was beneficially entitled to that income, but now a person owes tax only on income to which he or she is beneficially entitled. Most companies were taken out of the income tax net in 1965 when corporation tax was introduced. Also the Schedules under which tax is levied have changed. Schedule B was abolished in 1988, Schedule C in 1996 and Schedule E in 2003. For income tax purposes, the remaining schedules were superseded by the Income Tax (Trading and Other Income) Act 2005, which also repealed Schedule F completely. The Schedular system and Schedules A and D still remain in force for corporation tax. The highest rate peaked in the Second World War at 99.25% and remained at about 95% till the late 1970s.[citation needed]

In 1974 the top-rate of income tax increased to its highest rate since the war, 83%. This applied to incomes over £20,000, and combined with a 15% surcharge on 'un-earned' income (investments and dividends) could add to a 98% marginal rate of personal income tax. In 1974, as many as 750,000 people were liable to pay the top-rate of income tax. [8] Margaret Thatcher, who favoured indirect taxation, reduced personal income tax rates during the 1980s. [9] In the first budget after her election victory in 1979, the top rate was reduced from 83% to 60% and the basic rate from 33% to 30%. [10] The basic rate was also cut for three successive budgets - to 29% in the 1986 budget, 27% in 1987 and to 25% in 1988. [11] The top rate of income tax was cut to 40% in the 1988 budget.

The Finance Act 2004 introduced an income tax regime known as "pre-owned asset tax" which aims to reduce the use of common methods of inheritance tax avoidance.[12]


Many holdings and income from them are exempt for "historical reasons". These include

  • Special, low tax arrangements for the monarchy, such as the arrangement used by the British Royal Family [13] to avoid inheritance taxation.
  • Reduced income tax for special classes of person, such a non-doms, who claim to be resident in the UK but not "domiciled" [14].
  • The income of charities is usually exempt from UK income tax [15].

Inheritance tax

Inheritance tax is levied on "transfers of value", meaning:

  1. the estates of deceased persons;
  2. gifts made within seven years of death (known as Potentially Exempt Transfers or "PETs");
  3. "lifetime chargeable transfers", meaning transfers into certain types of trust. See Taxation of trusts (United Kingdom). Legislation announced in the 2006 budget but not yet enacted will extend this category to many more trusts than previously.

The first slice of cumulative transfers of value (known as the "nil rate band") is free of tax. This threshold is currently set at £312,000 (tax year 2008-09)[16] and, although it is raised annually, it has recently failed to keep up with house price inflation with the result that some 6 million households currently fall within the scope of inheritance tax. Over this threshold the rate is 40% on death. Any inheritance tax must be paid by the executors or administrators of the estate (the burden falling upon the beneficiaries) before probate is granted.

Transfers of value between UK-domiciled spouses are exempt from tax. Recent changes to the tax mean that nil-rate bands will be transferable between spouses to reduce this burden - something which previously could only be done by setting up complex trusts.

Gifts made more than seven years prior to death are not taxed; if they are made between three and seven years before death a tapered inheritance tax rate applies. There are some important exceptions to this treatment: the most important is the "reservation of benefit rule", which says that a gift is ineffective for inheritance tax purposes if the giver benefits from the asset in any way after the gift (for example, by gifting a house but continuing to live in it).

Council Tax

Council tax is the system of local taxation used in England[17], Scotland[18] and Wales[19] to part fund the services provided by local government in each country. It was introduced in 1993 by the Local Government Finance Act 1992, as a successor to the unpopular Community Charge ("poll tax"), which had (briefly) replaced the Rates system. The basis for the tax is residential property, with discounts for single people. As of 2008, the average annual levy on a property in England was £1,146.[20]

Sales taxes and duties

Value added tax

The third largest source of government revenues is value added tax (VAT), charged at the standard rate of 17.5% (which was temporarily cut to 15% between 1 December 2008 and 31 December 2009) on supplies of goods and services. It is therefore a tax on consumer expenditure. A document posted on the Parliament website on November 25 2008 suggested that the government was planning a higher 18.5% VAT after this time elapsed, but the Treasury has said this was "an option that was considered and rejected."[21]

Certain goods and services are exempt from VAT, and others are subject to VAT at a lower rate of 5% (the reduced rate, such as domestic gas supplies) or 0% ("zero-rated", such as most food and children's clothing).[22] Exemptions are intended to relieve the tax burden on essentials while placing the full tax on luxuries, but disputes based on fine distinctions arise, such as the notorious "Jaffa Cake Case" which hinged on whether Jaffa Cakes were classed as (zero-rated) cakes—as was eventually decided—or (fully-taxed) chocolate-covered biscuits. Until 2001, VAT was charged at the full rate on sanitary towels.[23]

Excise duties

Excise duties are charged on, amongst other things, motor fuel, alcohol, tobacco, betting and vehicles.

Stamp duty

Stamp duty is charged on the transfer of shares and certain securities at a rate of 0.5%. Modernised versions of stamp duty, stamp duty land tax and stamp duty reserve tax, are charged respectively on the transfer of real estate and shares and securities, at rates of up to 4% and 0.5% respectively.[24]

Motoring taxation

Motoring taxes include: fuel duty (which itself also attracts VAT), and vehicle excise duty. Other fees and charges include the London congestion charge, various statutory fees including that for the compulsory vehicle test and that for vehicle registration, and in some areas on-street parking (as well as associated charges for violations).

Business taxes

Business rates

Business rates is the commonly used name of non-domestic rates, a United Kingdom rate or tax charged to occupiers of non-domestic property. Business rates were introduced in England and Wales in 1990, and are a modernised version of a system of rating that dates back to the Elizabethan Poor Law of 1601. As such, business rates retain many previous features from, and follow some case law of, older forms of rating.

Business rates form part of the funding for local authorities, and are collected by them, but rather than receipts being retained directly they are pooled centrally and then redistributed. In 2005/06, £19.9 billion was collected in business rates, representing 4.35% of the total UK tax income.[25]

Business rates are a property tax, where each non-domestic property is assessed with a rateable value, expressed in pounds. The rateable value broadly represents the annual rent the property could have been let for on a particular valuation date according to a set of assumptions. The actual bill payable is then calculated using a multiplier set by central government, and applying any reliefs.[26]

Business and personal taxes

Some taxes are, depending on the circumstances, paid by both individuals and companies.

National Insurance contributions

The second largest source of government revenues is National Insurance contributions (NIC), payable by employees, employers and the self-employed. Unlike income tax, Class 1 (non self-employed persons) NIC is paid between lower and upper thresholds, or between £105 and £770 per week for 2008-09.[27] A zero rate of NIC applies to earnings between the lower earnings limit of £90 per week and the earnings threshold of £105 per week (in 2008-09) to protect employees' contributory benefit entitlements. National Insurance is levied at 11% (that is, 11p in the £), but can be contracted-out for persons with a qualifying pension scheme with a reduction of 1.6%. There has also been the addition of a 1% rate on income above the upper threshold in recent years. Employers pay an additional 12.8% on earnings over the lower earnings threshold (£105 per week), but without the upper threshold, so total earnings are taxed at 12.8% per employee.

Employers are additionally liable to Class 1A NIC at 12.8% on most benefits-in-kind provided to employees which are subject to income tax in the hands of the employee, and to Class 1B NIC (also at 12.8%) on the value of the tax and on certain benefits paid via a "PAYE Settlement Agreement".

There are also separate arrangements for self-employed persons (who are normally liable to Class 2 flat rate NIC and Class 4 earnings-related NIC), married women, and voluntary sector workers.

Capital gains tax

Capital gains are subject to tax at the 18% (for individuals) or at the applicable marginal rate of corporation tax (for companies).

The basic principle is the same for individuals and companies - the tax applies only on the disposal of a capital asset, and the amount of the gain is calculated as the difference between the disposal proceeds and the "base cost", being the original purchase price plus allowable related expenditure. However, from 6 April 2008, the rate and reliefs applicable to the chargeable gain differ between individuals and companies. Companies apply "indexation relief" to the base cost, increasing it in accordance with the Retail Prices Index so that (broadly speaking) the gain is calculated on a post-inflation basis (with different rules apply for gains accrued prior to March 1982). The gain is then subject to tax at the applicable marginal rate of corporation tax. Individuals are taxed at a flat rate of 18%, with no indexation relief (but subject to a limited relief for the first £1m of gains for "entrepreneurs")[28].

See also

UK related

Local taxation

General category


  1. ^ "Public Finances Databank". HM Treasury. 2008-08-21. pp. C1. Retrieved 2008-08-23. 
  2. ^ [1] [2]
  3. ^ [3]
  4. ^ See IR20 - Residents and non-residents.
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b "Rates and Allowances - Income Tax". HM Revenue & Customs. Retrieved 2009-04-27. 
  7. ^ "A tax to beat Napoleon". HM Revenue & Customs. Retrieved 2007-01-24. 
  8. ^ IFS: Long-Term trends in British Taxation and Spending
  9. ^ Thatcher Economics
  10. ^ 1979 budget
  11. ^ 1988 budget
  12. ^ REV BN 40: Tax Treatment Of Pre-Owned Assets
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ Taxation of Charities, James Kessler QC and Harriet Brown, 7th edition (2009)
  16. ^ "Rates and Allowances - Inheritance tax". HM Revenue & Customs. Retrieved 2007-01-24. 
  17. ^ Communities and Local Government - Council Tax: The Facts
  18. ^ Council Tax in ScotlandScottish Government publications
  19. ^ Council Tax a guide Valuation Office Agency
  20. ^ Average council tax and % change 1999-00 to 2008-09 Communities and local government - figures released 27th March 2008
  21. ^ ""Pre-Budget report: Secret plan for VAT increase to 18.5 per cent"". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-11-26. 
  22. ^ "Introduction to VAT". HM Revenue & Customs. Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  23. ^ "CE7 VAT Cut for Women's Sanitary Products". HM Treasury. Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  24. ^ "Stamp Duty Land Tax Rates From 23/03/06 including archived Budget and Finance Bill information". HM Revenue & Customs. 2006-03-23. Retrieved 2007-01-24. 
  25. ^ Public Finances Databank (see section C4), HM Treasury, retrieved 26 March 2007. Percentage based on Net taxes & NICs conts.
  26. ^ The rates bill - How is it calculated?,
  27. ^ "Rates and Allowances - National Insurance Contributions". HM Revenue & Customs. Retrieved 2007-01-24. 
  28. ^ [4]


  • Taxation of Foreign Domiciliaries, by James Kessler QC, Key Haven Publications, 8th edition (2009) - discusses taxation of individuals who are UK resident but not UK domiciled.
  • Taxation of Charities, by James Kessler QC and Harriet Brown, Key Haven Publications, 7th edition (2009) - discusses taxation of charities and the many exemptions from tax for charities.

External links


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

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  1. 25%.pngIntroduction
  2. 25%.pngIncome tax
  3. 25%.pngCapital gains tax
  4. 25%.pngCorporation tax
  5. 25%.pngValue added tax
  6. 25%.pngNational insurance
  7. 25%.pngStamp taxes
  8. 00%.pngCouncil tax
  9. 25%.pngInheritance tax
  10. 00%.pngBusiness rates
  11. 00%.pngIndirect tax


  1. 00%.pngDefinitions
  2. 00%.pngLegislation


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