What do I owe Her Majesty the Queen?
January 31, 2012 7:21 PM   Subscribe

Help an American citizen with British income tax on book royalties.

I published an university press book that did moderately well, as those things go, and received royalties of US $188 in 2011, or about 119 GBP.

Since the press publishes simultaneously in the US and in the United Kingdom, I also received a mass of red tape about British income tax on royalties from the press. This was general information; I don't know if it applies specifically to me. Do I have to pay British income tax on 119 GBP?

What about my total SE income, which includes other writing gigs solely in the U.S., and totals about 1600 dollars US? I have a day job (U.S. only) from which payroll tax has been withheld in the usual way.
posted by bad grammar to Work & Money (6 answers total)
Response by poster: I just found out that the British tax deadline is tonight. There isn't time to do this properly, and I am afraid I will have to pay the fine of GBP 100.
posted by bad grammar at 7:25 PM on January 31, 2012

Given the deadline, I think you need to call them directly at +44 135 535 9022. If you're resident in the US (citizenship aside), you might be covered under a Double Taxation Treaty (see) but you might still need to file one of these forms.

Good luck!
posted by gingerest at 8:13 PM on January 31, 2012

The UK tax helpline was on strike yesterday (oh joy), so we have an extra two days' grace and nothing bad will happen if you don't file before tomorrow night. If you're resident in the US, though, you earn income in the US; I'd be surprised if you have to pay UK tax (though you may well have to pay US tax on the money). I think it's still worth calling to ask.

My background: I work in the UK but perform translation services to clients in a variety of countries, including the US, France and Switzerland, and am required to pay income tax only in the UK. My US clients sometimes ask me to sign a form to prove that I am not a US taxpayer.

If you have any self-employed income, surely you should be declaring it? In the UK that would be advantageous (as well as obligatory) as you would then be able to deduct legitimate business expenses from that amount, and it may well reduce the tax you pay overall, as you're employed as well.
posted by altolinguistic at 1:18 AM on February 1, 2012

Note that the £100 fine for late payment of income tax is downgraded if the amount of unpaid tax is less than the fine. Eg if you fail to pay £5 then the fine is a whole extra £5. So do not despair!

(I know this thanks to accidentally forgetting to do my tax return altogether recently. It happened to be a year when my income outside my main job (where tax is taken directly out of my pay by my employer) was about £10, so the fine was a whole £1 or so...)

Is the Inland Revenue page on non-residency any help?
posted by pharm at 8:15 AM on February 1, 2012

Roughly speaking, you will probably not have any deductions in the UK, so will pay income tax at the UK basic rate on £119.00. You then will probably get an earned income tax credit in the US, deducting some of the tax you paid in the UK, and since the US tax is likely less than the UK tax, you might not pay anything on it in the US. The rough basic idea is you pay a portion in both countries, up to the amount you would pay in the higher-taxing country. So if the UK tax rate was less than the US, you would pay the difference in the US. BUT, Quicken can do the math for your US side, once you've paid the UK side.
AND, there are limitations to how much you can take in one year, so you may end up with carryovers to the next year, of unused credit.
Plus, I frequently get money back later from the UK tax authorities, which I then have to report again as income, and pay US tax on it. So keep track.
IANAA - but basically look carefully at the UK non-residence forms, follow the destructions carefully, then do your US return afterward.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 1:02 PM on February 1, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks, people. I found the royalty statements in my files and it looks as if British tax has already been withheld, and in any case is a small amount of money. I have contacted the publisher's royalties department to ask them if my impression is correct, but I haven't heard from them yet

I don't know how highly successful commercial authors whose works are published in many countries manage their taxes on royalties.
posted by bad grammar at 1:19 PM on February 1, 2012

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