Cross-border journey to work may get more taxing after Brexit
As a cross-border worker, I have a host of problems and issues to contemplate ahead of the UK's formal withdrawal from the EU. I am the Chartered Accountants Ireland's UK tax specialist, but tax and getting to work are some of the things I worry about when it comes to the UK leaving the EU in 2019. I travel on the Enterprise train every day and have done every week since 2010.
But what will that be like on March 30, 2019?
Travel and work rights
Sitting on the train, I realised that working cross-border was about to get more complicated. On a typical day I leave home, get on the train, and get off in Dublin. Now I'm worrying about having to carry (and apply for) two passports, if there will be less in my pay packet each month, getting a work permit, and whether I will need to phone my boss every Monday morning to say: "I'm held up at the border". And I don't even want to consider what going on holiday might be like.
Will I need an Irish passport at the Newry/Dundalk border? Will I need a British passport on my return journey? Born in Northern Ireland, I am entitled to apply for both. Before Brexit, I have a choice which to apply for but now, I may not have that choice. And not holding both could be the difference between getting to work and many phone calls to my boss to say I have been refused entry to Ireland at the border. Ultimately, will I have to look for work closer to home or move house?
Also, I know what the bottom line is every month in my pay packet but is that about to change? Will the Irish Government decide to take away the personal tax credit that reduces my Irish tax? Let's say I pay Irish income tax of 20%. That could mean paying €330 more in tax every year. Or if I earn enough to fall into the 40% tax bracket, I could be €660 out of pocket.
Is the grass always greener?
It could be even worse travelling from Ireland to the UK for work. If I was travelling in the opposite direction and I was to lose entitlement to the UK personal allowance, I could be worse off by as much as £5,175 annually.
When I was offered the role of UK taxation specialist, neither I nor my employer had to think about, or even consider, whether a work permit was necessary.
Thousands of people travel across the border to work every day. I'm just one of those people. Will we now have to apply for work permits to continue in a job we have done for years?
At the minute, I am entitled to carry the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which covers basic healthcare services when in another EU country. I have never had to use it but what if it was taken away? You know that saying "You never miss what you didn't have"? I suspect that may be a bit of a misnomer if you are in an Irish emergency department in need of urgent medical care.
Also, will I need to pay more for travel insurance? It is good practice to have it to cover those 'extras' the EHIC doesn't. A knock-on effect of not having the card will probably mean being out of pocket due to higher travel insurance costs. I suspect the 'free' travel insurance I have with my bank won't be so free anymore.
Living my life
Post-Brexit, the UK might adopt its own customs regime, meaning that exports from Ireland would become more expensive for the UK buyer of those goods.
In reverse, buying from the UK would, for Irish consumers, (in the absence of a trade agreement) be subject to EU customs duty, thereby pushing prices up. And yes, my online shopping too will probably be more expensive.
Sterling plunged in value after the referendum outcome and it remains low. So depending on what side of the border you are, now might be a good time to indulge in some online shopping.
After all, Christmas is only a few months away. Some UK retail outlets aren't great at passing on currency savings to Irish shoppers but nowadays, you don't have to travel to the likes of Newry or Lisburn to enjoy the current favourable exchange rate.
Thanks to the internet, you can take advantage of it from the comfort of your own sofa.
But watch out for delivery costs, customs and VAT.
As for EU roaming charges, which were abolished in June this year, will I be getting the usual roaming charge texts again when I cross the border? I dread to think what could happen if I needed to use my phone in an emergency and couldn't.
The end is not nigh
I know what my Brexit strategy is. Keep calm and plan ahead.
That will involve me keeping an eye on Brexit developments.
If you are a cross-border worker like me, whatever side of the border you are coming from, I would encourage you to start thinking now about how Brexit will affect you. Maybe then we won't be so blue when it comes to Destination: Brexit.
- Leontia Doran is UK taxation specialist at Chartered Accountants Ireland