Moving away or working in another country may mean you get to leave a lot of things behind…but tax obligations aren’t one of them! Whether it’s tax obligations for your home country or new regulations for the new country of residence, there will be documentation and tax payments to keep on top of…which could be very tricky if you don’t know anything about how you fit into a country’s tax system!
Expat tax explained
Expat tax is short for expatriate tax. It’s the name given to the area of tax that deals with all of these issues. When someone plans to live and work in another country, has moved to a new country to work, or when a company has offices spread across the world, there are lots of taxation compliance issues to consider. It’s a time to consult a tax adviser!
It’s the job of tax advisers and accountants in this field to provide guidance on exactly what their clients can expect in terms of tax in other countries and what they may still be obliged to submit and pay to their home country’s tax system. They need to have excellent knowledge of how international tax systems work (and the ability to research them!) and possess up-to-date awareness of changes in tax law and legislation in order to provide the best advice.
An expat tax adviser will analyse each client’s case separately. There can be great variety in this area as circumstances differ a lot from client to client for example how much they will expect to earn once abroad or are currently earning in another country, the tax band they fall into and the assets they possess or have sold in that particular tax year (tax may be owed on assets, even if they were bought or sold in another country).
Tax accountants will also process and review documentation, namely tax returns (a statement of annual income, profits and expenses which must be submitted to a government’s tax department in order for them to calculate how much tax should be paid) on behalf of a client, as it can be highly complex in some instances.
Roles in expat tax
Roles in this area include tax adviser, tax consultant or expatriate tax manager. They tend to be qualified accountants (CTA, ACA or ACCA) and possess very strong numerical skills, organisation and logical thinking, and will often work in teams for expat tax for big clients. Expatriate tax managers can be can responsible for large client portfolios and will often review and sign off tax returns.
Professional services firms including the Big Four firms have service branches offering expatriate tax services, and specialist accountancy firms obviously offer expat tax services too. As with other accountancy careers, an apprenticeship, school leaver programme or graduate scheme are the quickest way in to start gaining experience and to express an interest in this particular specialism.