What is domicile?

Domicile is a general legal concept which in basic terms is taken to mean the country where you permanently belong. However, determining domicile status can be complex. In fact, HMRC guidance states that domicile cannot be defined precisely, but the concept rests on various basic principles.

  • Every individual must have a domicile at all times. The law ascribes a domicile to those individuals it regards as lacking capacity to choose one.
  • An individual cannot have more than one domicile at the same time for the same purpose.
  • An existing domicile is presumed to continue until it is proven that a new domicile has been acquired.

Your first domicile, known as a domicile of origin, is based on that of your parents, usually your father. Your domicile will only change if you acquire a new domicile of choice. To do this, you usually have to move to another country and establish a permanent intention to remain there.

Although domicile can change, there is generally a presumption in favour of the continuation of an existing domicile. To change a domicile, lots of factors are taken into account for example, the location family, property and business interests. This issues that need to be considered are one of the primary reasons that many of these complex cases end up with the courts having to determine the issue.

It is also possible in certain circumstances for an individual to have two domiciles although this is unusual. There is also a concept in the UK of deemed domicile – under new rules introduced from 6 April 2017, any person who has been resident in the UK for more than 15 of the previous 20 years will be deemed to be domiciled in the UK for tax purposes.

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