Press Room

24 Jul 2020

Overseas workday relief for employees – stock based compensation

Overseas Workday Relief

This article is the second in a series of three in which we discuss the different ways individuals can obtain relief for income relating to services performed outside of the UK, commonly referred to as Overseas Workday Relief (OWR).

In the first piece, we covered OWR available for employees on their basic salary and any bonus payments (hereafter referred to as earnings). You can read the first piece discussing OWR on employee earnings here.

The second piece discusses the scenarios in which OWR can be claimed for stock based compensation. 

Stock/Share Options and Restricted Stock Units

Employee share and option plans can also benefit from a form of OWR.  The relief applies to internationally mobile employees and, in this case, the relief is not just available to non- domiciled employees for the first three years of residency, but can also apply to UK domiciled employees where the individual has had periods of time as a non-resident of the UK between the date of grant and the date a taxable event occurs. 

 The current rules came into effect on 6 April 2015. The rules apply to share option exercises on or after this date and can also impact certain share awards and restricted stock units. Where an employee has been a UK resident during the period from grant to the taxable event (usually at exercise or vest), the amount of UK tax payable will generally reflect the location of the work during the vesting period.

The apportionment of the taxable amount is usually with reference to the location of workdays in the period between grant and vest. In most cases, this workday approach of apportionment is the most appropriate and it is also the commonly accepted method by HMRC.  HMRC may also accept another apportionment if the method is considered ‘just and reasonable’.  However, this can be more subjective and if HMRC do not agree, there is the risk of additional tax and penalties. 

 The portion which is exempt is restricted to periods where the employee claimed overseas workdays relief in the first three years of residence and/or was a UK non-resident.  During the periods where the employee was a UK resident and not eligible for OWR, the overseas workday portion will be subject to UK tax.  If foreign tax is also charged on this income it may be possible to claim a foreign tax credit against the UK tax on the overseas workdays.

If the relief is being claimed for a period where the employee claimed OWR, it is important that this portion of the income is never remitted to the UK as it will be subject to UK tax.  Also, an important note is that if the shares in question are issued by a UK company, the OWR cannot be claimed as the share income will be considered automatically remitted.

In some cases, a tax treaty can alter the method of apportionment. Most treaties are drafted indicating a grant to vest sourcing.  However, the US/UK tax treaty provides for the stock option income to be apportioned using the workdays in the period from grant to exercise rather than grant to vesting which is the domestic rule in both countries. Where the employee moves from the UK to the US during the vesting period and exercises while in the US, the treaty approach might take precedence as it may result in less UK tax as the non-UK portion would usually increase.

Our final article on OWR will look at the use of OWR when taxing fund managers on carried interest as well as the record keeping required for those making an OWR claim, should HMRC ever enquire into their tax affairs. 

Julian Nelberg

Julian is Head of the Private Client group at Andersen LLP. His clients include international high net worth individuals, senior executives, trusts and companies.

Email: Julian Nelberg