Oliver Heslop, founder of Global Expatriate Tax Services (GETS) and Expatriate Tax Services London Ltd, is a highly experienced UK tax specialist dealing with expatriate cross border issues. He is also the official Expat Focus UK Taxation partner and is available to answer readers’ UK tax questions. In this interview we learn more about Oliver’s background and the services he can offer to British expats abroad and foreign nationals in the UK.
Hi Oliver, you are the MD of Global Expatriate Tax Services or GETS. Can you tell us about your career and how this enabled you to work with Expat Focus?
I started my 25-year tax career with a law degree from the London School of Economics. Next, I worked for the “Big Four” accounting firms for 14+ years. This was mainly at Deloitte, and I thoroughly enjoyed that. Having taken exams in personal and business taxes, I moved on to specialise in expatriate taxation, often known as global mobility, which covers “everything expat”. I have been running my own tax businesses for more than 10 years.
And how do you work with Expat Focus?
Very well! I am the go-to person for UK tax advice for expatriates, through the Expat Focus website. I field tax questions from people anywhere on the planet. I have also been a guest on quite a few Expat Focus podcasts, which are all available online. In addition, you may have seen some of my recent tax videos, which cover a number of topics, such as coming to the UK and moving to Hong Kong.
Do you enjoy your work?
I love it!
What type of tax services do you provide?
We are always required to deliver the standard work, such as: tax returns, expatriate payrolls, registrations in the UK, managing leavers from the UK, pension calculations, tax equalisations, writing assignment letters, etc. But this is just the beginning of our work. My skill or specialism lies in tailoring advisory work to client needs. For example, an Australian in the UK with a property may need help managing both the UK tax world and Australian taxes.
We also have many US and EU nationals living in the UK, with stock options and restricted stock based elsewhere. That is a very challenging and interesting area of tax – cross-border compensation work. We work hard to minimise costs.
What has been the impact of Brexit in the last few years?
We won’t dwell on the history of recent years; it’s history. It’s far better to talk about 2021 and the future. The short answer is that people still need to move abroad and come to work in the UK. Large corporates re-organise, but just as a French bank may relocate its headquarters out of the UK, another multinational will relocate to London. In other words, the global economy keeps turning, and people still want to live in London, just as Brits still want to move to Spain, France, etc.
Let’s discuss general issues that always apply to moving abroad. What should any expatriate do when arriving in the UK or leaving it?
Every person must talk to a tax advisor. You may have one chat and then never use that advisor again, but you will need a guide in the beginning. There are many pitfalls (and bonuses) to discuss.
Is an expatriate tax return like a normal tax return?
Unfortunately, no. There are many more complications, but this complexity can produce significant tax reliefs. UK and foreign governments greatly need certain migrant labour.
Is social security a.k.a. national insurance contributions (NIC) in UK parlance a major issue?
Yes, it really is a massive issue. It is definitely a key part of our business and one which is very rewarding for clients. The calculation of liabilities can be confusing for anyone, but there can also be massive state pension rewards for people (via UK NIC).
What is the best part of your job?
I like to help clients de-stress. In many cases, our clients dread sorting out their taxes, or they imagine they will be punished by HM Revenue & Customs. The punishment idea is wholly false – I have never seen that. In terms of stress levels, I can reduce these dramatically and often immediately.
Do you agree with the UK Government’s tax policies?
We never ever comment on these things, and it is not our place to do so. When a chancellor introduces a new incentive for people to move here, that’s great. However, we remain apolitical.
Let’s end on a little controversy. Could your job disappear one day, if your industry automates the tax process?
This is not a realistic prospect. The tax returns may use more “AI” or full automation, but the Government IT can never be prepared for the unlimited variety of cases that we see. For example, one Canadian client had a civil partnership with his Australian spouse, then divorced. They require inheritance tax planning in relation to their properties in Spain and Jersey. Their children were born in the UK. It’s a fairly common scenario to have three or four different countries involved.
Oliver, thank you – and it’s always good to put you under pressure!
I am here to help. I am ready to answer expat tax questions about anything.
Readers who would like to contact Oliver may do so through the enquiry form here.