Domicile: Enquiries into domicile status: Change of domicile
As an individual’s circumstances change so can an individual’s domicile, which means that a person’s operative domicile today might not be the same as his or her operative domicile as a child, and that the individual’s operative domicile in future might be different again.
An individual’s ‘operative domicile’ is the domicile that the laws of the UK would regard as applying to that person at the ‘relevant time’. For UK tax purposes this might, for example, be the time at which the individual made a capital gain on assets located outside the UK or the date when he or she made a lifetime transfer to a settlement.
The laws of the UK make it clear that domicile is not easily changed, and so it is unlikely that an adult‘s operative domicile will alter unless the individual makes profound and extensive changes to his or her lifestyle, habits and intentions. A change in an individual’s operative domicile is never to be assumed, it always has to be demonstrated by reference to the facts.
Domicile is a personal matter. During the course of any enquiry in this area personal information will have to be obtained and reviewed. In more complex cases the nature and extent of such information can be extremely wide ranging, deeply personal, time-consuming to provide and involve not only the individual but also family and close friends.
Not only is domicile a personal matter, it is also one that potentially has consequences apart from any effect it has upon an individual’s tax liability in the UK. These consequences could affect other people, particularly any children of the individual.
An individual can only have one domicile at any one time for the same purpose. So HMRC would not expect an individual to assert a common law domicile for a specific purpose which the person would not wish to apply more generally to his or her affairs. HMRC will consider statements made about domicile and an individual’s intentions that are provided for purposes such as immigration and nationality, marriage and the care of children.
Although information given to HMRC is treated as confidential, the UK courts can order HMRC to produce it.