Domicile describes the country that you consider to be your home or where you have your permanent home. It is not the same as nationality, citizenship or residence.
You can only have one domicile at a time and the domicile that is allocated to you defines which system of law will be applicable to you in relation to things like marriage, divorce and succession.
The UK has three different types:
- Origin – where you are born, take father’s if married or mother’s if unmarried
- Dependency – children under 16 acquire their parents’ domicile (women would take husband’s when getting married prior to 1973)
- Choice – physical presence and an intention to stay ‘indefinitely’
Can I change my domicile?
Everyone acquires a domicile at birth. If you wish to change your domicile of origin or dependency then you need take a number of steps:
- Purchasing property in new domicile, and abandoning property in old
- Obtaining a new domicile passport and relinquishing the old one
- Closing accounts and opening accounts in new domicile
- Moving family and children’s education to new domicile
- Drawing up a will and arranging to be buried in new domicile
It is very difficult to acquire a new domicile and the intention must be proven that not only do you intend to stay in the new domicile permanently, but to spend your final days there.
What does ‘deemed domiciled’ mean?
Once a person has been tax resident in the UK for at least 17 out of the preceding 20 tax years they will be ‘deemed domiciled’ in the UK. They will not have a choice about this and will not be able to change their domicile unless they can prove their physical presence and an intention to stay ‘indefinitely’ in another domicile outside of the UK.
Figuring it out
If you are uncertain of your domicile it would be prudent to speak to an expert, since a UK-domiciled person will be subject to UK inheritance tax on their worldwide assets.
*Although it is common to refer to UK domicile, for tax purposes a person is actually domiciled in England & Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.