On March 16 the British government released their budget for the 2016 financial year, and as with many other years, there were a number of increases announced around the various taxes levied including insurance tax in the UK. While there are a number of important increases all citizens in Britain should be aware of, it is the Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) that has the potential to impact expats as well as those living in the country.
About the IPT
The Insurance Premium Tax, or IPT, was first introduced in 1994 with the idea of increasing government revenue raised from the insurance sector, which was deemed to be undertaxed. Since it’s conception, the IPT has been split into three different rates with different types of insurance falling into each:
- Standard rate – Includes most common types of insurance like private health insurance, motor insurance, home insurance, etc.
- Higher rate – Includes some common and uncommon types of insurance, the most notable being travel insurance.
- Exempt – Insurance that has legally been exempted by the government. This includes life and long-term insurance, and less-common types of insurance like some types of plane insurance, and reinsurance.
Generally speaking, all insurance sold in the UK, barring that which is exempt, is supposed to have an IPT applied to premiums. Some insurers will include this in the premium automatically, while others will apply it separately, meaning you will see the tax applied separately after your premium is quoted.
The change in the 2016 budget
Historically the rate changes made to the IPT scheme have been minimal, with a tax of 4% being applied to the standard rate from 1997-1999. This was increased to 5% from 1999 to 2011, and again to 6% from 2011-2015. Last year, the government raised the standard IPT tax rate to 9.5%, a considerable jump from the previous years. This rate was announced with the 2015 budget and came into effect for all policies sold or renewed after November 1, 2015.
Now, with the recent announcement of the 2016 budget, the standard IPT rate will again increase. Luckily, this increase will be a minimal .5%, but it will bring the tax rate on insurance plans sold in the UK to 10%.
According to This Is Money, the .5% increase will be applied to policies sold after October 1, 2016. The article also reported that “The tax applies to most areas of general insurance including; motor, home, pet, car, and health insurance. But travel insurance, which is excluded from the hike because it has its own tax at 20 per cent, will not change.”
Will this impact expats?
For expats, there is a chance that you will be obligated to pay this tax, it really comes down to the wording supporting this tax policy, more importantly, the exclusions. According to the HM Revenue and Customs website, insurance plans with risk deemed to be outside of the UK are exempt from paying the IPT tax.
For example, if you currently live in Hong Kong and are not from the UK, but will be moving to the UK to work for your company for a year and secure a health insurance policy in Hong Kong before you leave for the UK, you will not be required to pay the tax as the “risk” (in this case the health insurance plan) is outside of the UK.
However, as the HM Revenue and Customs website notes this tax can be applied when you are “an individual habitually residing in the UK at the date when the contract is entered into.” In other words, if you are deemed to be a “habitual” resident in the UK when you purchase the insurance, you will be required to pay the tax.
Defining habitual residence can be tough for expats, especially because tax laws in the UK are quite complex. Generally speaking, it is safe to assume that if you are deemed to be a non-resident of the UK, then you will not have to pay the IPT. According to this article on Experts for Expats, you do have to deem yourself a non-resident of the UK, but will also be counted as one if you reside outside of the UK for more than 319 days a year.
That being said, if you are a non-resident UK expat and do purchase health insurance in the UK, you will likely have to prove that you are indeed not a resident. As the HM Revenue and Customs site notes, “If the insured gives an overseas address or otherwise indicates on the proposal form that he is not currently habitually residing in the UK, then the insurer should make the necessary enquiries and obtain and retain supporting information if the premium is considered to be exempt from UK IPT.”
So, in short, plans sold outside of the UK will not be subject to this tax, but plans sold within the UK likely will be unless you can prove you are not a resident. Of course, if you are looking to secure health insurance coverage outside of the UK, it would be a much better idea to do so in the country you currently reside in.
One more thing British expats should be aware of
The increase of the IPT rate may cause some British expats to wonder whether they actually need to secure private health insurance or not, largely due to the fact that they do still have access to the NHS when they go home for a visit. This is a dangerous assumption to make, as last year it was announced that expats from the UK living outside of the EU will have to pay 150% of the cost at NHS hospitals if they don’t have adequate insurance.
As the Telegraph explained, “The charges only apply to hospitals – appointments with GPs and accident and emergency treatment remain free. Patients should expect to be asked questions about their residence status in the UK. The changes, which came into effect on April 6, 2015, affect British expats differently, depending on where they now live.”
While for now, this only applies to hospitals, you can rest assured that as the NHS struggles to maintain costs, extending this payment scheme to GPs and clinics will likely be one of the first things looked at.
To avoid this, it would be beneficial to secure a robust international health insurance plan. As experts in expat health insurance, we can help British expats determine whether they will be required to pay the insurance premium tax and suggest plans that may be more beneficial, especially if you are not currently residing in the UK. Talk to us today for a free quote.