Let’s Talk About Tax

If there’s one thing to be learned from working on board Yachts, is that it can be a very lucrative way to earn money; high salaries, tips, bonuses and very few living costs.

However it can also be a bit of a minefield when it comes to knowing anything about the implications of your tax status. Only once you’re in the industry do you become aware of how important paying your tax is. Sometimes working on board Yachts can feel like an escape, a bubble, an institution but at some point you will want to sign on a property, invest, start a business or a family. Whatever it is you decide to do with your life, you need to know be tax compliant.

It took me 2 years to really understand that I should probably let HMRC (as a British passport holder that’s who I’m required to declare my income to) and it was terrifying. It can be very easy to bury your head in the sand and just hope no one notices. Maybe they never will, but that’s not a risk you need to or should take. Most tax authorities are able to look back position as far back as 6 years, so during your time on Yachts it’s best to be honest and transparent.

Having done our research, most tax accountants will charge between 100 Euros – 250 Euros per year to file a tax return on your behalf. All you need to do is enter your pay information, personal details and proof of income and they can take care of the rest. This takes away the worry, the pressure and severe implications of being caught out further down the line.

Whether or not you’re required to pay tax is entirely dependant upon your country of residence. In the UK, for example, a minimum number of days outside British waters working on a vessel per fiscal year is required to be declared non resident and tax exempt. In many other countries, Australia for example you may be taxed on your worldwide income. Seafarer or not.  

See below for the tips I picked up during my 10 years working at sea:

1. Always keep your payslips. It may be an annoying email you want to send to trash, but it’s the best evidence you have for your paid work.

2. Get a physical folder and keep hold of physical receipts of flight tickets, taxi and train ticket receipts or even any purchases you’ve made overseas. This can be very useful when stating your case.

3. Get your Seamans Book stamped. I cannot stress this enough, but for however long you were employed, where the vessel was, how big the vessel is, it’s so important to get your SDB stamped and signed by Captain, Chief Officer or Purser.

4. Watch your days in your residential company. Be aware of how many days you’re required to be out of the company to be declared as a seafarer, and stick to that.

Please see below our recommendations for tax advisors for the United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa. All other nationalities, please comment below with your experiences and any recommendations for advisory companies where you are!

Don’t let all the goals you have in the future be undermined by what you don’t do today.

CrewFO – United Kingdom

Seafarers Global – South Africa

Expattaxes - Australia

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