Thursday, September 29, 2011

Leaving London (The Exit Strategy) - 5 relocating tips

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A friend told me of his plans to leave London over lunch the other day. A job opportunity had opened up in Hong Kong and he finally decided to take the plunge after pondering over it for weeks. He isn't alone. I know of people moving to either Hong Kong, Singapore or Australia in search of greener pastures. Considering the fact that the sterling pound has weakened considerably over the last couple of years; one might have thought that things are not going to get better with the depressing headlines over the economy that dominate the news almost everyday. The recent riots in London didn't help matters a single bit.

As we talked about his future plans, he mentioned a couple of things that he had to get settled before flying out from Heathrow. He called it his exit strategy. I supposed that applies to all of us and I thought it would be a useful guide to those are thinking of relocating.

1. Tax refund

If you are an employee, HM Revenue & Custom (HMRC), collects your taxes on a pay as you earn (PAYE) basis. It considers your earnings for the entire year and then deducts your tax from your paycheck at source so you wouldn't even receive that portion to begin with. However, if you so choose to leave your job before the fiscal year ends on 5th April, you are eligible for a tax refund as you are earning less than you would have for that entire year if you had stayed on at the the job.

So do check with your HR with regards to the tax refund that you entitled to. Once processed, it would normally be refunded directly into your bank account. Considering the high income tax rates in the UK (up to 50%), the tax refund can be considerable.

2. Utilities bills

Depending on where you live, some utility service providers would charge you based on estimated meter readings. This is especially true for those whose meters aren't accessible for monthly checks. This is usually indicated on the bill itself (look out for "estimated meter reading"). The estimated meter readings can be obtained either from some historical seasonal changes (i.e. higher usage in winter months for heating purposes) or based on property size.

Just confirm whether you have been charged according to estimated meter readings. If so, find out where exactly the meter is and provide the utility company with the actual readings. You will be eligible for a refund should there be a shortfall. You'll be surprised that it's usually the case as utility companies do make rather liberal estimation over at their end.

3. Your bank account

There is a tendency for us to close our bank accounts whenever we leave a country. Just hold your horses for a moment for practical reasons. Firstly, it's not easy opening up a UK account in the first place with all the security checks. Who knows? You might head this way again and you wouldn't want to go through all the hassle again, would you?

Also, it would worth your while to maintain a UK bank account for refund purposes (see above). Having a local account means that you wouldn't need to provide a whole lot of details (International Bank Account Number being one) and worry that the funds might get stuck in cyberspace somewhere.

However, unless you are a premier account holder, it is likely that the bank would require that you have a UK mailing address. Unless you have got a pal whose willing to be your letterbox, you can set up a mail forwarding service to an overseas address (see Royal Mail Redirection Services).

4. Getting a reliable mover

This is of utmost importance. You want to get a reliable mover. The last thing you want is to have your entire wardrobe go missing. Unless your new employer has a preferred mover, you would have to handle the sourcing of the mover yourself. However, while I support local businesses, you would need to look out for those which actually does international shipping (John Mason being one of them). For more listings, check out UK Business Directory.

Most movers would provide a variety of packages ranging from DIY where only prepacked boxes would be transported to those that don't even require you to lift a finger. Personally, I would prefer the latter if your budget allows - the movers being more experience in the art of packing would ensure that your stuff wouldn't end up in pieces at the other end. Regardless, check out the insurance policy that the movers provide.

5. Leases and contracts

Most relocation decisions are hampered by the fact that rental lease for the current property is still running. Most wouldn't even consider moving until they can actually exercise the break clause, which is included in some rental lease agreement. Well, the rental period in the contract is not cast in stone and the contract can be terminated provided that the landlord agrees. Just drop the landlord a line and check with him the possibility of terminating the lease early. You never know, with the current tight rental market, the landlord might just be able to get a higher rent that the one that you are currently paying. Throw in some carrots if the landlord refuses; you can even forgo your security deposit if the numbers add up.

If you are holding ongoing mobile contract, consider transferring it to another person. Gumtree is definitely the best place to flog your wares. The phone company usually requires a transfer fee for this so check with them first before agreeing to any deals.

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These are the five main points to note if you are thinking of relocating. Did I miss out any?

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