Dental Care

The NHS covers dental care for free, but only for young people, some students, people over 65, and those receiving benefits. As someone on a visa, you likely aren’t eligible for the free NHS services. But, you can choose the NHS flat fee for certain procedures, like fillings, crowns, and root canals.

UK dental service is a bit different than in the US. When you find a dentist and book an appointment, you’re booking an exam. The hygienist, which in my experience is always part of the deal with a US dental appointment, is a separate visit and cost. Without any NHS cover, a check-up can cost £30 (including a couple of x-rays), and a hygienist visit can cost over £70.

In my case, I also needed a root canal. I could have paid £60 for NHS care, which would have been delayed and likely used adequate but old technology. I instead chose to pay a bunch more to go to a private dentist. Yes, just like in the US, people who have access to money are always going to be okay, but at least here, if you don’t have a few hundred pounds to spare, you can still get your dental health needs met.

Getting a Job: Your National Insurance Number

When you picked up your biometric residency permits after arriving in the UK, you may have noticed that the employed partner has been assigned a National Insurance (NI) number but you haven’t. If you want to work in the UK, you’ll need one of these, but it’s pretty easy to get in my experience.

First, clarification: your NI number is not the same thing as your NHS number. I associate health care with insurance, so it took awhile for me to sort this out. Think of it as the UK’s version of a Social Security Number. I don’t think it maps exactly, but close enough. You need it so that the taxes that are withheld from your paycheck are associated with you, and while you’t don’t need it to get a job, you will need it soon after you start working.

The bad news? You can’t apply for this online. But it’s still an easy process.

First, you call the number listed on this site. They’ll ask for your address, and a couple of other questions. Within about a week or so you’ll receive a paper application to complete. It’s straightforward; you just need to include copies of your passport, visa, and biometric residency permit (there are instructions included). You mail that all in and either you’ll get called in for an interview, or you’ll just receive a letter with your NI number included.

I didn’t have to go through the interview process, so I’m not sure what that involves.

If getting a job in the UK is high on your list, consider calling for that application as soon as you have your address. You can get the process moving quickly and hopefully have your NI number within the month.

UK Taxes: Yup, You’re Paying These

The UK tax year runs from April 6 – April 5. That sounded kind of odd to me, so I did a little research, and apparently it’s because of this:

On the old British Calendar the tax year began on March 25 (the old New Year’s Day). In order to ensure against losing revenue it was decided by the British Treasury that the tax year, which started on March 25 1752, would be of the usual length (365 days) and therefore it would end on April 4, the following tax year beginning on April 5.

Huh. Okay. Well, we’ve not yet experienced a UK tax season, but we do know that money is deducted from my partner’s paycheck every month, and presumably it is the correct amount. Watch this space in April / May for an update.

US Taxes: Yes, You Still Have to Pay Them

Before we moved, we met with our tax guy, who told us about the tax rules related to earning money overseas. He prepares US taxes for another client who lives and works abroad, so he’s well-versed in what that entails.

As I understand it, the US is one of like two nations that taxes the income you earn outside of the US. I know. I went to graduate school with a guy who had lived in the UK for a couple of decades and was trying to drop his US citizenship because he was never moving back, but it was really hard because the US likes collecting those taxes. (I’m sure there are other reasons they make it hard, but that’s got to be one of them).

Regardless, no matter how annoying it is, YOU MUST PAY YOUR US TAXES EVERY YEAR.

Good news though: the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion means that as long as you’re out of the country for at least 330 days a year, you’re only taxed on foreign income earned above a certain amount, and that amount is per adult. It’s something like $100,000, so if you’re making less than that each year, you’re fine. Anything above that will be taxed, and it’ll be your responsibility to keep track of that so you have the money available to pay come April next year.

We are lucky that we moved to the UK on January 10; as long as we don’t spend more than 25 days in the US the rest of this year, that income exclusion will apply to us when we file our taxes next year. If you move in the middle of the year, however, or end up spending more than 35 days in the US in any given year, that exclusion will not apply, and you’ll owe taxes on that income.

To recap:

  • If you’re going to be in the US for more than 35 days in a year, you should save some money each paycheck, as you’re going to owe taxes on that next year.
  • Make a note on your calendar in February to do your US taxes; the UK has a different tax year, so you won’t be seeing the same reminders that bombard us in the US every February and March.
  • If possible, find a CPA to talk to before moving to see if there are other things you should know specific to your own financial circumstances.