Personal tax – guidance

National Insurance if you work on a ship

Find out about National Insurance if you're a mariner (seafarer) so you can pay in the right country and get a refund if you have overpaid.

Introduction

Social Security arrangements and National Insurance (NI) for mariners (also known as seafarers) depend on:

  • where you are legally resident or domiciled
  • where your employer, or the person who pays your wages, is based
  • where your vessel is registered
  • whether you work inside or outside UK waters
  • the type of work you do
  • agreements between the UK and other countries

Check your employment contract to see where your employer or the company that pays your wages is based.

Check where the vessel is registered with the master.

Complete the Mariner’s Questionnaire or Contact the HMRC Mariners Unit if you need to:

  • check that you are liable to pay NI
  • check that you are paying the correct amount
  • get advice on making voluntary contributions
  • check the status of your employer
  • claim a refund

UK resident

National Insurance should be deducted from your pay by your employer if you work:

  • for or are paid by a company based in the UK
  • on a ship registered in the UK or the Isle of Man
  • on a ship registered in the UK for an employer based in the European Economic Area (EEA) or in a country that has a Reciprocal Agreement with the UK
  • on a ship registered in the UK that is owned in Bermuda or another country that has a Reciprocal Agreement with the UK
  • on a ship registered outside the UK, but your employer is based in the UK and your contract was signed in the UK
  • on a ship registered in Bermuda and owned in Bermuda, but that calls regularly at UK ports
  • in UK inshore waters or between UK ports (with no visits to a foreign port in-between)
  • in the designated UK sector of the Continental Shelf on a ship engaged in exploration or exploitation of oil or gas

If you’re not paid through PAYE

A foreign employer will not usually deduct National Insurance payments if all the following conditions apply:

  • your employer is based outside the EEA, in a country that does not have a Reciprocal Agreement with the UK
  • your work is outside UK waters
  • you work on a vessel registered outside the EEA, in a country that does not have a Reciprocal Agreement with the UK

If your employer does not operate a PAYE scheme or make NI contributions, but you are liable to pay NI, make your payments directly to HMRC. Contact Seafarers: National Insurance.

If you work on a vessel registered outside the UK, for an employer based outside the UK, but the vessel is owned in the UK and your contract was signed in the UK, make your payments directly to HMRC. Contact the HMRC Mariners Unit.

Irregular payments

If you are paid at irregular intervals (for example, you get a lump sum at the end of a voyage), you will have to pay NI contributions based on the number of weeks the voyage lasts. This includes all periods of paid leave at the end of the voyage.

Payments of bonuses, commission, allowances, late payments and leave pay may not be included in your general wages at the end of the pay period, but you will be liable to pay NI contributions on these as well.

Voluntary contributions

If you are not liable to pay National Insurance contributions, you may be able to make voluntary contributions to make a year ‘qualify’ for certain benefits and count toward your State Pension.

Check whether you are eligible to make voluntary contributions by completing the Mariner’s Questionnaire or Contact the HMRC Mariners Unit.

Claim Seafarer’s Earnings Deduction

If you are resident in the UK and work on a ship outside the UK for long enough, you may be entitled to the Seafarers’ Earnings Deduction.

Even if you qualify for tax relief, you may still have to pay NI.

Social Security in the EEA

If you are a UK resident employed by or paid by a company in the EEA and you work on an EEA registered vessel, your employer makes Social Security payments in the country where the vessel is registered. However, if you are paid by someone in the UK you pay UK National Insurance. Payments made on behalf of a UK resident in an EEA country will count towards Social Security and pension claims in the UK.

Example

A UK resident is employed by a Spanish company to work on a Belgian registered ship. The Spanish employer makes Social Security payments to the Belgian Government, which then count towards his UK State Pension.

EEA resident

If your employer is in the EEA they will usually make contributions for Social Security in the country where the ship you work on is registered. However, if you are paid by someone in the country where you are resident, you may have to pay social security contributions in that country.

If you work on a ship engaged in exploration or exploitation of oil or natural gas in the designated UK sector of the Continental Shelf, you pay NI in the UK.

If you have a valid A1 or E101 certificate, you do not pay NI in the UK.

Resident of a country with a Reciprocal Agreement (RA) with the UK

Some countries have made Reciprocal Agreements with the UK about tax and Social Security. Some of these contain rules about people working at sea. Depending on the agreement, you may have to pay UK NI when working on a vessel registered in the UK.

If you work on a vessel engaged in the exploration or exploitation of gas or oil, in the designated area of the UK Sector of the Continental Shelf you are treated as working in the UK for tax and NI.

Residents of other countries

Your employer will make NI contributions on your behalf in the UK if you:

  • work for, or are paid by, a company based in the UK
  • work on a ship registered in the UK or Isle of Man
  • work in UK inshore waters
  • work on a ship engaged in exploration or exploitation of oil or gas in the designated UK sector of the Continental Shelf.

To check your NI liability, complete the Mariner’s Questionnaire or contact the HMRC International Caseworker.

Refunds and underpayments

If you think that you have underpaid National Insurance or overpaid and you want to claim a refund, complete the Mariner’s Questionnaire.

You can claim back UK Income Tax for work on a vessel outside the UK using form R43M.