Tax Hub

Understanding the Double Taxation Agreement in the UK

Published on February 9, 2024 • Last updated on April 16, 2024 • About 12 min. read

Written By

Peter Winder

Group Technical Director

| Ahr Group

Navigating the complexities of double taxation agreements in the UK can be challenging if you have financial ties across borders.

Whether you’re a UK resident earning abroad, an expat balancing tax obligations, or an ultra-high-net-worth individual with diverse international interests, understanding UK DTAs is critical to efficient tax planning.

This guide explains how UK double taxation agreements work to prevent the same income from being taxed in multiple countries.

We delve into the allocation of taxing rights, the intricacies of tax residency, and the advantages these tax treaties offer.

Aimed at enhancing your grasp of UK tax treaties, this comprehensive UK double taxation agreements guide explains how to optimise your global tax strategy, ensuring you’re well-informed of the complexities of cross-border taxation.

What You Will Learn

  • Learn the purpose of double taxation agreements between the UK and other countries and how they prevent individuals from being taxed twice on the same income.
  • Gain knowledge about the countries that have entered into DTAs with the UK.
  • Explore the specific advantages DTAs offer UK expats, including relief from income tax, capital gains tax, and inheritance tax issues.
  • Understand the critical role of determining tax residency, including the Statutory Residence Test and the difference between domicile and residency.
  • Learn how UK expats can access regular pension income and lump sums under DTAs.
  • Discover how UK DTAs can be strategically used for tax planning by high-net-worth individuals.
  • Gain practical knowledge on claiming tax relief when countries have different tax rates.

What are Double Taxation Agreements?

Double taxation agreements (DTAs) are economic treaties between two countries that prevent the same income from being taxed twice.

Double taxation can occur when you make your income in one country, but you live in another. DTAs prevent double taxation by establishing clear rules to determine which country is entitled to tax specific income and under what conditions.

Double taxation agreements define the taxing rights between countries on different types of income, such as earnings, dividends, royalties, and pensions. Find out exactly what income is covered in double taxation agreements.

This is particularly relevant today, where cross-border work and international investments, including property ownership and residency, are becoming increasingly common.

The UK has an extensive network of double taxation agreements with various countries worldwide. These agreements are specific to each country, and are vital in shaping how individuals are taxed on their foreign income.

For UK expats or people who work in the UK but live abroad, understanding the nuances of these agreements – specifically, how they align with HMRC’s regulations – is crucial for effective tax planning and compliance.

Allocation of Taxing Rights Between Countries

The allocation of taxing rights between countries is fundamental for UK double taxation agreements.

They outline how your income types are taxed if earned abroad, ensuring you are not taxed twice on the same income.

Determining the Right to Tax

Double taxation agreements specify which country has the primary right to tax certain types of income.

This is determined by factors such as where the income was earned, where you are a resident, and the nature of the income.

Generally, the country where you earn your income (either by working there or owning property there, or investments) typically has the first claim to tax that income.

However, if you live in a different country, that country may also want to tax the same income but usually must account for any taxes you’ve already paid in the country where the income was earned by providing tax relief for the taxes paid in the source country.

What Income Is Taxed Under DTAs

Double taxation agreements in the UK cover a range of income sources to ensure that expats are not subject to unfair taxation in two countries, including:

  • Employment income.
  • Investment income.
  • Pension income.

What Is a Double Taxation Agreement With the UK?

A double taxation agreement with the UK is a treaty negotiated between the United Kingdom and another country to ensure that income earned in these countries by residents of the other country is not subject to double taxation.

The UK has one of the largest networks of DTAs globally. UK double taxation agreements ensure that the rights to tax are appropriately allocated between the source country (where the income is generated) and the residence country (where the individual resides).

Once negotiated and signed, DTAs are enforced through the respective tax laws of the countries involved. In the UK, this is managed by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Benefits of UK Double Taxation Agreements

Double taxation agreements with the UK provide several benefits. The key benefits of UK double taxation treaties are:

  • Reduced tax liability.
  • Clear tax obligations.
  • Avoidance of double taxation.

Our double taxation agreement guide for expats explains these benefits in more detail.

Benefits of Double Taxation Agreements for UK Expats

As mentioned, DTAs prevent the same income from being taxed by two different countries. This is particularly beneficial for UK expats who might otherwise face the financial burden of dual taxation. Three key benefits for UK expats are:

Income Tax Relief

One of the primary benefits of double taxation agreements for UK expats is income tax relief.

For example, if a UK expat is residing in Spain and paying taxes there, the DTA between the UK and Spain ensures they are not taxed again on the same income by the UK.

This arrangement often relies on determining tax residency.

Capital Gains Tax

Capital gains tax can also be affected by DTAs. Capital gains tax is typically payable in the country where the asset is located.

However, a UK expat selling property in another country with a DTA might only be liable for capital gains tax in that country, not in the UK.

For instance, a UK expat selling a property in France would typically pay capital gains tax in France and potentially avoid UK capital gains tax on the same sale.

Inheritance Tax

Double taxation agreements can also impact inheritance tax. Many DTAs stipulate that inheritance tax is payable in the country where the asset is located. Still, relief is available in the country of residence.

For UK expats, this means that if they inherit overseas assets, they might not be subject to double taxation.

UK double taxation agreements provide a framework for UK expats to manage their tax obligations more effectively, ensuring they don’t pay tax twice.

However, navigating the intricacies of DTAs requires specialised knowledge, particularly regarding cross-border tax issues.

This is where UK expat tax advice becomes invaluable helping expats optimise their tax position.

Double Taxation Agreements for Foreign Nationals in the UK

If you are a foreign national living or working in the UK, understanding the UK double taxation agreement with the other country is crucial to managing your tax affairs.

Tax Status and Obligations

A key aspect of double taxation agreements is defining a person’s tax residency. This status determines in which country an individual must pay taxes.

For instance, a US national working in the UK typically pays UK income tax on their earnings. However, due to the DTA between the UK and the USA, they can avoid being taxed again on the same income by the US.

However, it’s important to note that the US taxes its citizens on their global income regardless of where they live. Therefore, US nationals may still have to file tax returns in the US, although they can often claim a credit for taxes paid in the UK.

Income Tax Considerations

Let’s use the example of a French national employed in the UK. According to the UK-France double taxation agreement, their income earned within the UK boundaries is subject to UK taxation laws.

This means that the UK authorities would tax any salary, wages, or other compensation for income earned in the UK.

In comparison, the French national’s income from sources within France – such as rental income from property in France or dividends from French companies – may primarily be taxed under French tax laws.

Capital Gains Tax

Double taxation agreements often stipulate that capital gains tax is payable in the country where the asset is located.

Foreign nationals in the UK may only be liable for capital gains tax on the same transaction if they sell property in their home country, which avoids UK capital gains tax.

DTAs provide a safety net for foreign nationals in the UK, offering clarity and protection against the pitfalls of double taxation.

However, circumstances vary widely, and seeking professional financial advice for specific tax obligations is always advisable.

Which Countries Have Double Taxation Agreement With the UK?

The UK has one of the most extensive double taxation agreement networks.

These DTAs cover many countries, each with specific features tailored to the economic relationship between the UK and the respective country.

The following table lists countries with a double tax treaty with the UK (as of 25th January 2024).

Countries With Double Tax Treaty With The UK
Albania Algeria Antigua and Barbuda
Argentina Armenia Australia
Austria Azerbaijan Bahrain
Bangladesh Barbados Belarus
Belgium Belize Bolivia
Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Brazil
British Virgin Islands Brunei Bulgaria
Canada Cayman Islands Chile
China Croatia Cyprus
Czech Republic Denmark Egypt
Estonia Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) Ethiopia
Falkland Islands Faroe Islands Fiji
Finland France Gambia
Georgia Germany Ghana
Gibraltar Greece Grenada
Guernsey Guyana Hong Kong
Hungary Iceland India
Indonesia Iran Ireland
Isle of Man Israel Italy
Ivory Coast Jamaica Japan
Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan
Kenya Korea (South) Kosovo
Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Latvia
Lebanon Lesotho Liechtenstein
Lithuania Luxembourg Malaysia
Malta Mauritius Mexico
Moldova Monaco Mongolia
Montenegro Montserrat Morocco
Myanmar Namibia Nepal
Netherlands New Zealand Nigeria
North Macedonia Norway Oman
Pakistan Panama Papua New Guinea
Philippines Poland Portugal
Qatar Romania Russia
Rwanda Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Saudi Arabia Senegal
Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone
Singapore Slovak Republic Slovenia
Solomon Islands South Africa Spain
Sri Lanka Sudan Swaziland
Sweden Switzerland Taiwan
Tajikistan Tanzania Thailand
Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey
Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Uganda
Ukraine United Arab Emirates United States of America
Uruguay Uzbekistan Venezuela
Vietnam Zambia Zimbabwe

For the most up-to-date list of all UK tax treaties, related taxation documents and multilateral agreements, visit the UK Government’s website.

Determining Your Tax Residency for UK DTAs

Determining your tax residency status is a crucial step for UK expats living abroad and non-UK residents residing in the UK.

Your tax residency not only affects your income tax liabilities in the UK but also influences how you are taxed in your country of residence and vice versa.

To determine your tax residency for UK double taxation agreements, the following is considered:

Statutory Residence Test (SRT)

The UK’s HMRC employs the Statutory Residence Test to determine your tax residency. This test considers several factors:

  • Days Spent in the UK: One of the primary factors is the amount of time you spend in the UK. If you are in the UK for 183 days or more in a tax year, you’re typically considered a UK resident for tax purposes.
  • Ties to the UK: The SRT also considers any ties you may have to the UK, such as family connections, available accommodation, employment, and social links. The presence of these ties could make you a UK tax resident even if you spend less than 183 days in the UK.The test follows a tiered system – the more ties you have, the fewer days you can spend in the UK without being considered a resident for tax purposes.
  • Work in the UK: Employment in the UK is a significant factor. If you work full-time in the UK for any period of a tax year, this can influence your residency status substantially.
  • Tie-Breaker Rules: Tie-breaker rules are used if your tax residency status needs clarification due to any substantial connections in multiple countries.They help determine tax residency in situations where, for instance, you split your time between the UK and another country. The rules consider the combination of the number of days spent in the UK and your ties to the country.

Given the complexities of determining tax residency through the SRT, managing your tax obligations can be challenging, especially for expats or those considering repatriating to the UK.

Our repatriation service is designed to help you navigate these challenges, ensuring you meet your tax obligations efficiently while planning your return to the UK.

Domicile vs. Residency

Domicile typically refers to your permanent home and is a broader concept than tax residency.

For instance, you can be a non-resident for tax purposes but still be domiciled in the UK.

This scenario often occurs with expats who have moved abroad but have not severed all ties with the UK or intend to return in the future.

This distinction is crucial because it affects your worldwide income and assets tax. For instance, a UK-domiciled individual might have to pay UK taxes on their global income and be liable to pay inheritance tax even if they are considered a tax resident in another country.

Misunderstanding or misinterpreting your domicile status can lead to unexpected tax liabilities.

Because of the complexities of cross-border tax, we advise you to seek professional expat tax advice for clarity and an effective tax planning strategy.

Navigating Double Taxation Agreements For UK Residents Working or Living Abroad

Double taxation agreements are crucial for UK residents working or living abroad. They offer clarity and relief in their tax obligations across borders.

Understanding your status as a “Treaty Resident” under these agreements is critical in international tax planning.

Determining Treaty Residency

For UK residents working internationally, determining their status as a “Treaty Resident” is a key aspect of international tax planning.

This status is primarily established through the Statutory Residence Test, which considers the above mentioned factors.

If you are classified as a UK treaty non-resident based on the SRT, the DTA between the UK and your host country will determine your tax obligations.

Typically, this classification means that you are only required to pay UK tax on the income you earn on the days you work in the UK, significantly reducing your overall tax liability.

Implications for High-Net-Worth Individuals

For high-net-worth individuals residing abroad, DTAs can substantially influence where they choose to live.

These agreements can make certain countries more financially advantageous due to the tax benefits they provide.

For instance, in countries that have a DTA with the UK, high-net-worth individuals may only be liable for UK tax on income generated from UK-based activities.

This can effectively protect their income from other international sources from UK taxation, optimising their overall tax strategy.

Accessing Pensions and Lump Sums as a UK Expat Under Double Taxation Agreements

Double taxation agreements in the UK can impact how your pension is taxed. For regular pension income and lump sum pension withdrawals, DTAs determine the tax obligations of UK expats.

If you are considering accessing your regular pension income or taking a lump sum UK double taxation agreements can be beneficial for UK expats.

Accessing Regular Pension Income Under UK DTA

Double taxation agreements in the UK allow pension income to be taxed only in the country where the expat resides.

For example, a UK expat living in Spain typically pays tax on their UK pension income in Spain, not in the UK, according to the UK-Spain DTA.


  • Avoidance of Double Taxation: The pension income is taxed only once.
  • Potential Tax Savings: Depending on the tax rates in the country of residence, you might benefit from lower taxation.
  • Simplified Tax Affairs: Tax filing becomes simpler, with reporting requirements usually in the country of residence.

Accessing Pension Lump Sums Under UK DTA

The DTA might stipulate that the pension lump sum is taxable only in the country of residence or the country of source. This determines where you will pay tax on your pension lump sum.

For example, A UK expat living in Spain takes a £100,000 lump sum from their UK pension. If the lump sum is taxable only in Spain, the UK would not tax this amount, and the expat would declare and pay tax on the lump sum in Spain.


  • Clarity on Tax Liabilities: You will know precisely where to pay tax.
  • Potential Tax Advantages: Depending on the DTA and the tax laws of the country of residence, you might find favourable tax treatment for your lump sum.
  • Avoidance of Double Taxation: The DTA prevents the lump sum from being taxed in both countries.

UK DTAs provide a framework that can significantly benefit UK expats by clarifying tax obligations on pension income and lump sums, offering tax savings and simplifying tax filings.

The terms and provisions vary widely between the different UK double taxation agreements. Therefore, seeking professional cross-border expat financial advice is critical to leveraging these agreements for optimal tax planning and compliance.

How UK Double Taxation Agreements Can Benefit High Net Worth Individuals’ Tax Planning

For UK high-net-worth individuals with international financial interests, DTAs are a cornerstone of tax planning.

The complexity and scale of their finances often mean that DTAs can provide significant benefits. Here’s how DTAs can benefit you.

Mitigation of Double Taxation:

For UK high-net-worth individuals with investments, properties, or business interests spread across different countries, UK DTAs ensure they don’t pay tax on the same income twice.

This is particularly relevant for income such as dividends, interest, and royalties from international investments.

Optimising Investments

Double taxation agreements can influence your investment decisions by altering the after-tax return on different types of investments.

For instance, reduced withholding tax rates on dividends or interest under a DTA can make investments in a particular country more attractive.

Property Investment Strategies

Many high-net-worth individuals have property investments globally, and double taxation agreements often provide rules on where and how property income and capital gains are taxed.

This can guide decisions on buying, holding, and selling property in various jurisdictions, ensuring tax efficiency.

Estate and Inheritance Tax Planning

Double taxation agreements that cover estate or inheritance taxes are crucial for high-net-worth individuals planning the transfer of their wealth.

These agreements can determine which country’s laws will apply to their estate, affecting how assets are distributed and taxed once they die.

Strategic Residency Decisions

Some HNWIs may choose their country of residence based on favourable tax treatments under DTAs. This can include lower tax rates on foreign income or advantageous rules for estate and inheritance taxes.

Business Operations and Employment Income

High-net-worth individuals with international business interests or employment can benefit from DTAs, which clarify the taxation of business profits and personal employment income.

This can help guide your decisions on where to establish business entities or take up employment.

Access to Tax Credits and Reliefs

Many double taxation agreements provide tax credits where taxes are paid in one country and offset against your liabilities in another. This can result in significant tax savings and is essential in strategically allocating assets and income.

Professional Advisory and Regular Reviews

Given the complexity of double taxation agreements, particularly for those with diverse international assets and income sources, high-net-worth individuals should regularly consult with a cross-border financial adviser who can provide up-to-date advice and strategies tailored to their specific situation.

By leveraging these agreements, high-net-worth individuals can optimise their tax efficiency, ensure compliance, and strategically plan their investments and estate.

How to Claim UK Double Taxation Agreements Tax Relief When Countries Have Different Tax Rates

Navigating the tax implications of international income can be challenging when countries have different tax rates.

UK double taxation agreements can provide tax relief when countries have different tax rates. However, how much relief you receive depends on the UK DTA agreement.

Principle of Double Taxation Relief

Generally, the international tax agreements ensure that the total tax paid across both countries does not exceed the higher tax rate of the two countries.

Claiming Tax Relief

If you are a UK resident and have paid tax in another country on income that is also taxable in the UK, you can usually claim relief for the foreign tax paid. This is done through your UK tax return.

The relief claimed is typically the lower UK tax on that income or the foreign tax paid. This ensures that the total tax does not exceed the higher rate of the two countries.

Example Scenario

Consider a UK resident with business interests in Country B. Suppose they earn profits from Country B, where the income is taxed at 25%.

Meanwhile, the UK tax rate on that income is 30%.

  • In Country B: The individual pays a 25% tax on their profits.
  • In the UK: This income would normally be subject to UK tax at 30%. However, the individual can claim tax relief under the UK-Country B DTA.
  • Claiming Relief: When filing their UK tax return, they can claim a credit for the tax paid in Country B against their UK tax liability. The relief would be the lower of the two taxes – in this case, the 25% tax paid in Country B.
  • Final Tax Burden: The individual will pay an additional 5% in the UK (to make up the difference to the UK’s 30% rate) rather than paying the complete 30% on top of what was paid in Country B.


The method of claiming tax relief through a UK DTA can vary depending on the type of income (e.g. employment income, dividends, interest).

Given the complexities involved, seeking professional cross-border tax advice is advisable.

What if No Double Taxation Treaties Exist With the UK?

If there are no double taxation treaties between the UK and the country you reside in, tax relief may still be available through unilateral relief – a foreign tax credit.

For example, let’s look at the case of a UK expat residing in Country A, which has no double taxation agreement with the UK.

The UK expat pays a 15% tax on their earnings in Country A. However, without a DTA, the income is also subject to UK taxation, where the tax rate is 20%.

However, the UK’s tax system does allow relief on taxes already paid overseas.

Therefore, the expat can claim a foreign tax credit for the 15% tax paid in Country A against their UK tax liability.

Instead of facing double taxation totalling 35% (15% in Country A plus 20% in the UK), the expat effectively pays a total tax rate of 20% on the same income – 15% in Country A and only an additional 5% in the UK.

AHR Groups UK Double Taxation Agreements Case Studies

At AHR Group, we’ve helped many individuals needing advice on UK double taxation agreements. Here are two case studies which showcase how we can help.

All case studies are real clients working with AHR Group. However, their names have been changed for anonymity.


Alexander, a high-net-worth-individual in Malta, enquired with AHR Group as he was concerned about his tax obligations across different jurisdictions and wanted to understand if the UK’s double taxation agreements could help him in his tax planning.

Alexander has substantial global assets, including properties and investments in and outside the UK.


Alexander started with a brief 15-minute call to understand the potential options and opportunities available to him before scheduling a meeting with an AHR Group Tax Adviser.

He received a thorough analysis of his asset portfolio in light of the Malta-UK double taxation agreement.

Our team developed a tax-efficient strategy for his global assets, ensuring compliance with Maltese and UK tax laws while minimising his overall tax liability.

We also advised structuring his investments to take advantage of specific tax benefits and exemptions available under the DTA, providing a comprehensive solution for his complex international tax concerns.


AHR Group received an inquiry from Jessica, a UK expat living in the South of France and nearing retirement.

Jessica wanted to withdraw a lump sum and plan out her retirement income from her UK pension.

However, Jessica was concerned about the tax implications of these withdrawals in France and the UK.


To begin with, Jessica briefly chatted with one of the AHR Group’s experts to understand if we could help and her options.

A meeting was then scheduled between Jessica and an AHR Tax Adviser who specialises in British Expats living in France.

We carefully reviewed Jessica’s pension scheme in the context of the France-UK double taxation agreement, and we advised her on the most tax-efficient way to withdraw her lump sum, significantly reducing potential tax charges.

For her pension income, we implemented a strategy that utilised the benefits of the DTA, ensuring she maximised her retirement income while remaining compliant with her tax obligations.

How AHR Group Can Help You

At AHR Group, we understand the complexities of UK double taxation. Our bespoke approach ensures that everyone receives comprehensive and tailored guidance to navigate double taxation agreements effectively.

Personalised Tax Strategy Consultation

Our complimentary tax strategy consultation is the first step towards simplifying your international tax obligations. We delve into your unique circumstances to offer solutions best suited to your situation.

Whether you have tax liabilities across multiple countries or are dealing with the intricacies of dual residency, our team is equipped to provide the clarity and direction you need.

Expertise Across Diverse Income Types

We specialise in advising on the optimal tax treatment for salaries, pensions, investments, and royalties, ensuring you take full advantage of available exemptions, credits, or reduced rates.

Staying Current With Tax Law Changes

Tax laws and tax treaties are dynamic, and keeping up to date with these changes is vital. At AHR Group, we continuously update our knowledge and strategies to reflect the latest developments.

This proactive approach ensures that your tax strategy remains effective and compliant.

Complementary UK Double Taxation Consultation: Book Your Call

Unlock the secrets of efficient tax management in a free focused 15-minute call with AHR Group’s UK double taxation experts.

  • Immediate Insights in 15 Minutes.
  • Discover Potential Tax Savings.
  • Personalised Advice for Global Tax.

Key Takeaway

Navigating the complexities of UK double taxation agreements is crucial for effective tax management, especially for expats and those with cross-border financial interests.

Understanding how DTAs allocate taxing rights, cover different types of income, and offer tax relief is critical to avoid double taxation.

For UK expats and foreign nationals residing in the UK, these agreements provide a framework to manage tax obligations more effectively, ensuring compliance with UK and international tax laws.

However, given the intricacies of UK double taxation agreements and the evolution of tax regulations, seeking specialised cross-border tax advice is advised.

Professional guidance can offer personalised strategies, ensuring that your financial planning benefits from double taxation agreements with the UK.

For tailored advice and a comprehensive understanding of how double taxation agreements can impact your financial landscape, consulting with AHR Group’s cross-border tax advisers is a first step towards ensuring your tax efficiency and compliance.

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