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Certificates of Sponsorship (Work Permits) and Taxation

By Jacey Bedford

JaceyIf you are entering the country to work and you don't have a British or an EU passport then you will need to have you paperwork in order prior to travelling. Don't try and blag your way in as you'll find yourself on the next flight home. Our immigration staff at airports are much more polite than (say) in America, but don't let that fool you. They still have the power to refuse you admission.

Work Permits


Yes you need authorisation to enter the country if you are doing gigs in the UK, even if it's only a few gigs and you're not being paid much (even if you're not being paid anything, in fact). It's no longer called a work permit but think of it as that if it helps. It's now called a Certificate of Sponsorship. Only a licensed sponsor can apply for a certificate on your behalf, so even if you arrange your own tour you will need to pay someone with a sponsor's licence (like me) to apply for your certificate.

Sports and entertainment come under the new Tier 5 - and that's what I'm licensed to apply for - Tier 5 sponsorship certificates.

For the record, I can sort out sponsorship for artists not already on my agency roster, but because of the legal implications (for me) I do require a contract between us. And, of course, I charge a fee. Why? Because the work is time consuming, and because I have to fulfill serious legal requirements, too. A big responsibility.

And don't forget that you have to fulfil legal requirements too, like only doing work within the category you've applied for and not overstaying your allocated time etc.

Under the new system the application process is relatively straightforward if you are a citizen of a country that does not require a visa to travel to the UK (though there's a lot of careful form-filling to be done and you have to give a lot of personal information). A Certificate of Sponsorship comes in the form of a number. It's a virtual certificate - not a paper one. All you have to do is present that number to the immigration officials and it will enable them to find you (and your certificate) on their database.

Note: anyone coming in for longer than three months, or anyone coming in from a country where a visa is a pre-requirement for travel - such as South Africa - has to jump through hoops by getting documentation in their passport in their own country (called Entry Clearance) before travelling. For this you need your Certificate of Sponsorship number. Allow plenty of time. You need to apply to the British Embassy or High Commission in your own country. You can find detauls and download forms on the web. NOTE: I DO NOT DO THIS FOR YOU!

Foreign Entertainers' Taxation - The Rules Changed in July 2012

Until July 2012 there was a liability for any venue paying a foreign national more than £1000 to withhold tax at the approipriate current rate. As of July 2012 that changed and venues do not need to withhold tax if they are paying less than £8105 (figures as of 2012) in one fee to one individual or band. (Note: a band, in this instance, only has the same limit as an individual regardless of how many members. It is a single entity.)

The annual limit which can be earned by any one person or group (paid as a group) in any one tax year (April to March) is now £8105 as of July 2012. This applies to nationals of many countries, but you need to check the status of your own country. Canadians and South Africans do have this tax allowance, for example, but Americans do NOT and therefore still have no personal allowance limit. They pay British tax from the get-go on all profits from a tour.

If you earn more than £8105 (profit after expenses) in any one tax year you should ask the Foreign Entertainers' Unit for the relevant paperwork so you can submit a return. Don't worry, you can claim it against tax to be paid in your own country when you come to do your own tax returns. You should not have to pay tax twice on the same amount of income, though the responsibility for checking this rests with you.

Foreign Entertainers Unit, Inland Revenue,
St John's House Unit 401
Merton Road
L69 9BB
+ 44 151 472 6488

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