Information for people employed or engaged as an officer or member of a British ship (merchant seamen)
An exemption from tax can be claimed for any wages, fees, benefits etc., arising from any employment as a merchant seaman, that are considered to be overseas earnings. A merchant seaman is defined in the Income Tax (Guernsey) Law, 1975 (ITL) as "an individual employed or engaged as an officer or member of the crew of a British ship". A British ship is defined as having the meaning given to it by the Merchant Shipping (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law 2002, but it doesn't include a fishing vessel. The Merchant Shipping Law states:
"A ship is a British ship if -
(a) the ship is registered in Guernsey under Part II of this Law, or
(b) the ship is, as a Government ship, registered in the United Kingdom in pursuance of an Order in Council under section 308 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, or
(c) the ship is registered under, (i) Part II of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, or (ii) the law of a relevant British possession, or
(d) the ship is a small ship other than a fishing vessel and (i) is not registered under Part II of this Law, but (ii) is wholly owned by qualified owners, and (iii) is not registered under the law of a country outside Guernsey."
Overseas earnings mean wages, fees, benefits etc, in respect of duties performed outside the Bailiwick of Guernsey, the Bailiwick of Jersey, and the UK, by a merchant seaman, during a continuous period of 365 days or more. During that period of 365 days the individual must not spend more than 183 continuous days in Guernsey, or more than 50%, in aggregate, of the total number of days of that period of absence. If a claim is to be made for the overseas earnings to be exempt from tax in Guernsey, it must be made within two years after the end of the year the earnings relate to, and the claim must be made on the form "Merchant Seamen - Application for Exemption from Tax on Overseas Earnings" available in the downloads section of this page. All the information on the form must be supplied for a claim to be considered.
Where a claim is made for overseas earnings to be excluded from the tax assessment, the individual is not entitled, for that year of assessment, to any other allowance, relief, or deduction in respect of their income or the income of their spouse. This means that no personal or other allowances, no relief for mortgage interest paid or for any other deductions (such as pension payments, subscriptions, or statutory repairs on rental income) will be given in the tax assessment for the relevant year of charge. Should the spouse of a merchant seaman have unused personal allowances after 1 January 2023, those allowances can't be transferred to the merchant seaman for any year that a claim is made for overseas earnings to be excluded from assessment.
Social security contributions
Under the Social Insurance (Guernsey) Law 1978, a merchant seaman may still have a liability to pay Guernsey social security contributions on earnings that are excluded for tax purposes.
A mariner is defined in the Social Insurance (Classification) (Guernsey) Regulations 1978 (SICGR)1as a person who is employed either as a master or member of a crew on any ship or vessel. It also includes someone whose contract is entered into in Guernsey, where they are employed in any other capacity on board any ship or vessel, where that employment is for the purpose of the ship or vessel or her crew or any passengers/cargo or mail carried by that ship or vessel.
A mariner will be liable to pay Guernsey social insurance contributions if they are;
- employed on any Guernsey ship (a ship or vessel registered in Guernsey where the owner or manager resides of has their principal place of business in Guernsey), or
- employed as master or a member of the crew of any ship or vessel other than a Guernsey ship (where the contract was entered into in Guernsey or the owner has a place of business in Guernsey), or
- employed as a radio officer on any ship or vessel.