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HMRC internal manual

Employment Income Manual

Seafarers’ Earnings Deduction: days of absence from the United Kingdom

Section 378(4) ITEPA 2003

The two conditions in Section 378(1)(b) and (c) apply independently:

  • the duties of the employment are performed wholly or partly outside the United Kingdom and
  • any of those duties are performed in the course of an eligible period (see EIM33004).

Days of absence for the calculation of an eligible period

A day counts as a day of absence if at midnight the employee is outside the United Kingdom (see EIM33004). It does not matter whether work has been carried out on that day or not. Similarly, it is not necessary for duties of the employment to be performed during each and every period of absence. See EIM33031 for guidance on the meaning of “duties performed wholly or partly outside the United Kingdom”.


A seafarer who has been working abroad for 330 days who returns to the United Kingdom for 30 days and then goes abroad again for a 7 day holiday will have an eligible period of at least 365 days.

Voyages beginning or ending in the UK or outside the UK

The question where a voyage begins and ends must be one of fact. For the purposes of calculating days of absence for an eligible period a person shall not be regarded as absent from the UK on any day unless he is absent at the end of it - at midnight. For this purpose, the casting off from a UK berth (if allied to passage to an overseas port) is taken as the time of departure from the UK, and equally a ship would be regarded as arriving in the UK at the time of berthing.

But if the voyage is between UK ports, the day of absence is not determined by the time of leaving or arriving at its berth. Rather it is determined by the ship’s position at midnight.

Some items of guidance were published during the 1980’s and 1990’s which stated that voyages between UK ports were subject to the same concession as if the journey were allied to passage to an overseas port. These publications include form P84 and the booklet “Seafarers - Notes on Claims to 100% Foreign Earnings Deductions” (also known as the Blue Book). With effect from 14 February 2014 any publication containing such guidance must not be used in the preparation of a claim to Seafarer’s Earnings Deduction.

The merely incidental duties concept does not apply to days of absence

For the purposes of calculating an eligible period, presence in, or absence from, the United Kingdom is a question of fact. If on a particular day an employee is in the United Kingdom performing duties that are merely incidental to the work he or she does abroad, that day is treated as what it is, namely, a day spent in the United Kingdom. See Section 383(4)(b) ITEPA.