Seafarers Earnings Deduction: tax relief if you work on a ship

If you're an employee working at sea outside of the UK check if you can claim tax relief on your earnings.

If you’re an employee and work at sea, you may be able to reduce your tax bill by getting the Seafarers’ Earnings Deduction.

To get the deduction you must have:

  • worked on a ship
  • worked outside of the UK long enough to qualify for the deduction - usually a minimum of 365 days
  • been resident in the UK or resident for tax purposes in a European Economic Area (EEA) State (other than the UK)

You can’t get the deduction if you were:

  • a Crown employee (for example, a Royal Navy sailor)
  • not a UK resident
  • not a resident of an EEA State (other than the UK)

If you had more than one job you’ll still get the deduction against your seafarer pay if you meet all the conditions.

Royal Fleet Auxiliary employees are eligible for this deduction if they meet all the conditions.

Records you’ll need to keep

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) may want to check your claim, so you must keep details including:

  • a completed working sheet HS205
  • air tickets or other travel vouchers
  • hotel bills or other receipts
  • passports and visas
  • seafarer’s discharge book
  • freeboard logs of the ships you carried out duties on

HMRC may contact your employer to confirm details of your ship’s voyage and crew.

How to claim Seafarers’ Earnings Deduction

To get the deduction from your seafarer earnings you must have an eligible period of at least 365 days that’s mainly made up of days when you were absent from the UK.

To see if you’re entitled to the deduction, work out if your days outside the UK were enough to make up an eligible period.

Use working sheet HS205 Seafarers’ Earnings Deduction to help you do this.

If you were resident in the UK

You’ll need to register for Self Asessment and fill in a tax return and relevant pages giving details of your income for the tax year you are claiming the deduction for.

If you weren’t resident in the UK but were resident in an EEA State

From the 2011 to 2012 tax year, you can claim the deduction using form R43M(SED) - Repayment Claim - EEA resident merchant seafarer.

Request an NT tax code

It may be possible for you to ask your employer to pay your wages without deducting tax, they would do this by operating a tax code called NT.

To qualify for this code you must:

  • be resident in the UK
  • be in a Pay As You Earn (PAYE) employment
  • be a seafarer working onboard a vessel accepted as a ship for Seafarers’ Earnings Deduction purposes
  • fill in a Self Assessment tax return each year
  • have a contract of employment of at least 12 months

If you don’t have a 12 month contract, you must have been in continuous employment with the same employer for at least 6 months, working outside the UK.

If the employment against which you wish to claim code NT ceases or changes so that you no longer qualify you’ll need to tell HMRC immediately.

If it later transpires that you were not entitled to the code NT then you’ll be asked to repay any tax underpaid in one lump sum.

HMRC won’t issue an NT code until after they’ve processed your first claim to Seafarers’ Earnings Deduction.

This claim can be made either 12 months from the start of your seafaring employment or the start of the tax year previous to the year of claim – whichever is the later.

You can use form R44 to request the issue of tax code NT.

Time limits

There are time limits for claiming Seafarers’ Earnings Deduction:

Tax year Tax year ending on Claim by
2013 to 2014 5 April 2014 5 April 2018
2014 to 2015 5 April 2015 5 April 2019
2015 to 2016 5 April 2016 5 April 2020
2016 to 2017 5 April 2017 5 April 2021
2017 to 2018 5 April 2018 5 April 2022
2018 to 2019 5 April 2019 5 April 2023

If you were a seafarer who wasn’t resident in the UK or an EEA State

You can’t claim the Seafarers’ Earnings Deduction but you may be able to get your tax back by completing form R43M Repayment Claim if you pay UK tax because you work for UK shipping companies.

Further help

If you need help or advice, you can call the Seafarers’ Helpline.

Published 2 October 2014
Last updated 17 June 2022 + show all updates
  1. The time limits for claiming Seafarers' Earnings Deduction have been updated to include the current tax year.

  2. The table of time limits for making a Seafarers Earnings Deduction claim has been updated.

  3. The time limit for making a Seafarers Earnings Deduction claim for the tax year 2014 to 2015 has been added.

  4. First published.