There is no precise definition of domicile in UK law. It is generally a question of fact whether or not a particular individual is UK-domiciled. Whenever the issue has come before a court, the approach of the court has generally been to examine the facts and circumstances of that particular individual’s life.

It is not possible to have more than one domicile at any given time, for the same purpose.

Domicile is different from “residence”; it is also different from citizenship.

There are three categories of domicile:

  • domicile of origin: under common law, every individual acquires a domicile at birth. This is the domicile of origin. Normally, an individual is deemed, on birth, to have acquired his father’s domicile. If his his parents were not married, he is deemed to have acquired the domicile of his mother.
  • domicile of choice: this category applies to individuals who have actively chosen to acquire a particular domicile. The law does not prescribe any particular thing that one must do, in order to be deemed to have actively chosen a particular domicile. However, HMRC and the courts will look at several factors, including the individual’s presence in a particular jurisdiction, and his settled intention to remain there indefinitely. This is a “facts and circumstances” test.
  • domicile of dependence: this is the domicile that is imputed to an individual due to his dependence on another, and also because that individual does not have legal capacity. This category includes children.

The UK has tax rules that apply to individuals who are resident there, but domiciled abroad. The above categories help in determining whether an individual is domiciled there.

Domicile is relevant in UK tax law for income tax, capital gains tax, and inheritance tax purposes. The tax treatment of a UK resident individual may be impacted by  his domicile (i.e. whether or not he is domiciled in the UK).

An individual could be treated, as not UK-domiciled under common law, but “deemed domiciled” under UK tax law. This will be the case where certain conditions are met.

For more on deemed domicile, see this blog post.