Investing from the UK for US citizens and US permanent residents

From Bogleheads

US taxable persons in the UK face a unique combination of obstacles and opportunities for investment. For the purposes of this article, US taxable persons means US citizens (including citizens who have never lived in the US, sometimes known as "Accidental Americans") and permanent residents (green card holders, including those whose green cards may have expired but who have not formally abandoned the status by filing USCIS form I-407). For brevity, this article uses the term "US persons" to cover this group.

UK investors who are not US persons should see Investing from the UK instead.

This article assumes UK taxpayers are filing on the arising basis, as is typical for US persons. Filing on the remittance basis[1] introduces very different considerations, and the information below may be misleading in this case.


The combination of US and UK tax and investing regimes creates some unique challenges for US persons in the UK.

United States tax rules

The United States is almost unique in imposing its full tax code on the worldwide earnings of all US persons, regardless of their residency. Combining the extensive nature of US tax rules with the often unanticipated consequences of living abroad can create distinctive challenges.

Before reading further, please ensure you are familiar with Taxation as a US person living abroad and the US tax pitfalls for a US person living abroad, as this article does not attempt to cover the entirety of the situation regarding US taxes, only considerations around investing in equities and bonds as a US person in the UK. Subjects such as inheritance tax, real estate, expatriation tax, and so on may be relevant to your situation, but are not covered here.

The most important US tax rules for our purposes are:

United Kingdom tax rules

The United Kingdom generally does not tax its citizens abroad, but does tax its residents, regardless of citizenship. The UK has some special rules on foreign income, affecting the investments of US persons residing in the UK.[2] Most important are:

  • The UCITS, MiFID, and PRIIPs constellation of regulations. These are EU regulations that the UK imported into its own law as part of Brexit. They are extensive regulations, but the most relevant requirement is that retail investors can only be "marketed" packaged investments (such as funds) that publish a Key Information Document (also known as a Key Investor Information Document, KID or KIID). No US domiciled funds publish such a document, making it difficult for UK investors to purchase US domiciled funds, although there are some workarounds covered later. Critically, these rules apply to the brokerage, not to the investor. Holding US domiciled funds that do not publish a KID is not a problem, if you are able to access them.
  • The HMRC reporting funds regime. By default, the UK taxes capital gains from "offshore" funds (generally, non-UCITS funds domiciled outside the UK and EU) at income tax rates, rather than the generally lower capital gains rates (dividends are generally treated as foreign dividends, at the intermediate "dividends" tax rate). However, funds can elect to "report" to HMRC, enabling investors to take advantage of those lower rates. A full list of reporting funds is maintained by HMRC, and includes many Bogleheads-friendly US domiciled ETFs. However, these funds are still subject to the KID restrictions above, which may make it challenging to purchase them.
  • Many US brokerages are unwilling to knowingly have customers who are not resident in the US, because this can subject them to the rules of the "other" country. This varies significantly from broker to broker, and even from customer to customer.

The US/UK tax treaty

There is a silver lining in all these restrictions - the US/UK tax treaty. While the "savings clause" in Article 1 paragraph 4 dramatically limits treaty benefits for US persons in the UK, there are some critical provisions. At a very high level, these include:

  • Protection from double taxation. There are very few circumstances where a US person in the UK would pay both US and UK tax on the same income. You will generally pay the higher of the two rates, which could result in paying the lower rate to one country and the difference to the other, but not paying both full tax rates. You will also generally receive the lower of the two tax-free allowances, if any.
  • Pensions are generally well protected, including US 401(k)s and IRAs, and UK workplace pensions and Self-Invested Personal Pensions (SIPPs). There are some nuances and grey areas around some of these, but they are typically the top investment priority for US persons living in the UK. Critically, other non-pension tax-advantaged accounts are NOT recognized by the other country. This includes UK Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs) or Premium Bonds in the UK, and 529 plans or Health savings accounts in the US.
  • The treaty enables some things that are not always a good idea - it is one set of rules, but there are cases where you can choose to apply IRS or HMRC rules and not invoke the treaty. The most common case for this is that the treaty allows you to exclude UK pension contributions from US income; there are situations where including pension contributions in your US income can be more tax-efficient than excluding it.

The treaty offers significant protections, but it is a legal document subject to interpretation, and which tries to integrate two complex tax systems. This article is not legal advice, and there are cases where you should seek advice from a qualified legal professional.

Intersection of US and UK rules

Putting these restrictions together results in nearly a catch-22:

  • US PFIC tax rules make ownership of UK domiciled and EU domiciled (UCITS) funds, and UK investment trusts, very painful.
  • UK PRIIPs KID rules make it very challenging to buy US domiciled funds, and if they are not HMRC reporting funds, holding them is somewhat painful.

However, there are several primary (legal) options that can "thread the needle" of these overlapping rules. In very rough order of operations, and with many caveats about nuances, individual circumstances, legal interpretations, and so on, these are:

  1. UK workplace pensions and SIPPs are recognized as tax advantaged by both countries via the treaty, and PFIC rules do not apply on investments within a pension.
    • There are some potentially important grey areas around reporting these to the IRS as foreign grantor trusts on IRS form 3520 and form 3520A.
  2. IRAs are also recognized as tax advantaged by both countries and PFIC rules do not apply. Either invest in US domiciled funds (if your broker will let you) or in UCITS funds, despite them being PFICs.
    • Critically, you must have US taxable income to invest in an IRA. Typically, this means using the Foreign Tax Credit (FTC) rather than the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE), or earning more than the FEIE limit.
    • If you want to use a traditional IRA and deduct the contributions from UK taxes, this is generally considered to be allowed by the treaty but requires the IRA to have been open prior to moving to the UK. Since Roth IRAs are not deductible, this is not a concern for them.
  3. Use a US address to invest via a US brokerage, in US domiciled ETFs that are HMRC reporting. This will be subject to both US and UK tax, but not to any punitive provisions.
    • Only you can decide if you are willing to be less than forthcoming with your brokerage and use a US address where you are not actually resident. This is not typically considered illegal, but may be contrary to your brokerage's terms of service.
    • Alternatively, you may find a brokerage that does not care about following the KID rules, in which case you can still invest in US domiciled ETFs that are HMRC reporting. This compliance risk would be on the broker, not the investor.
  4. Invest in individual stocks, ideally in as passive a way as possible. If you are going to go this route, it is likely advantageous to use an ISA and at least avoid UK tax and reporting requirements.
  5. Buy options on US domiciled ETFs and exercise them in order to get the underlying fund.[note 1] While the ETFs themselves cannot be marketed to retail investors, options on them are allowed.
    • This is an advanced tactic and not covered further in this article, but is used by some UK and EU residents to get around the KID requirements, even if they are not US persons.
  6. Become an "elective professional client"[3] (sometimes known as an accredited or qualified investor) within the meaning of the MiFID KID rules, which means that the retail investor protections are no longer required and you can buy US domiciled funds without issue, as well as other complex products that are generally not Bogleheads-friendly. To qualify, you must request the status from your broker and satisfy them that you meet at least two of these requirements:
    • Carried out transactions, in significant size, on the relevant market at an average frequency of ten per quarter over the previous four quarters;
    • Financial instrument portfolio (not including your primary residence) of at least €500,000;
    • Worked or working in the financial sector for at least one year that requires knowledge of the transactions or services you want to use.
  7. Become a client of an investment professional. This may not be Bogleheads-compatible unless you can find a very low-fee, passive-focused professional.

Investment account options

The accounts below are listed in the typical rough order of preference for US persons in the UK, although individual circumstances will vary.

UK employer pensions

UK employers must auto-enrol employees into a workplace pension,[4] although you can opt out. You get free money from the employer match (at least 3%, but your employer may offer more), it is tax-deferred in both the US and UK, and has no PFIC concerns. It is typically your number-one priority if you are an employee. The main catch is that you cannot access your money until age 55 (rising to 57, and later to 58). And the early access exceptions are extremely limited, for example terminal illness, and much more stringent than a US 401(k) or similar.

Note that the UK commonly refers to both "defined benefit" and "defined contribution" plans as "pensions." In US usage, a "pension" is commonly only a defined benefit plan, with 401(k) or other specific account types used to describe defined contribution plans. In both countries, defined benefit plans are increasingly rare, largely confined to government or government-adjacent employers.

Defined contribution pensions operate similarly to a 401(k), with the provider offering a range of funds, typically including some index funds and a lifestyling option (effectively a target date approach).

UK pension rules are complicated and subject to change. The UK personal pensions article provides an overview, but you need to consider it alongside US tax rules as well. It is worth spending some time to understand the key constraints around UK pensions, such as annual allowances and the lifetime allowance.

There is also a treaty question here, where some interpretations indicate that a UK pension becomes a "foreign grantor trust" if you contribute more than your employer, subject to somewhat painful IRS reporting on IRS forms 3520 and 3520A, and opens you up to PFIC pain. See the section below for further information.

In addition, the treaty limits the amount of UK pension contributions you can exclude from your US income to that allowed to US residents in a "generally corresponding" US pension. As a general rule, UK annual pension contribution limits will be considerably higher than US pension contribution limits, so that under the treaty, you may be unable to contribute fully to UK pensions.

A further treaty question is whether you want to invoke the treaty to exclude your pension contributions from your US income. This decision depends on your situation, but there are many cases where it is equivalent or better to not invoke the treaty and instead to include your (and your employer's) contributions as US income. Often, your UK taxes will be adequately higher than your US taxes, so that there is no US tax liability, but you build up a post-tax basis in the pension.

A final treaty question is how the US treats the 25% portion of withdrawals that are free of UK tax. The most common reading is that the 25% is taxed by the US, but interpretations vary. Seek legal advice if you have questions.


Both the US and the UK recognize Roth IRAs, with tax-free growth of after-tax contributions. Crucially, you must have US earned income in order to contribute to an IRA. You cannot exclude this under the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE), and it must be earned - not gifts, interest, dividends, welfare, capital gains, but earned. The FEIE is typically inferior or equivalent to the Foreign Tax Credit for US persons in the UK anyway, although individual circumstances will vary.

The biggest challenge with a Roth IRA is finding a broker who will work with a US citizen abroad; see US brokerages below. And even when you find a broker, they may restrict your ability to purchase US domiciled funds, and few brokers offer the workaround of investing in UCITS funds (Interactive Brokers is an option for this, but there may be others). In this case, you can use any of the funds typically suggested for UK investors without PFIC concerns.

There is a treaty question about whether a Roth IRA must be opened prior to leaving the US for the UK to recognize its tax-advantaged status. Interpretations vary, so seek legal advice if you have questions. Regardless, it is almost certainly easier to open the account prior to leaving the US, so that is the preferred option.

You do not need to hold HMRC-reporting funds in an IRA, although many good Vanguard funds are HMRC reporting anyway. This is obviously not a concern if you take the route of investing in UCITS funds.

There are also some questions around how HMRC treats traditional to Roth conversions, hinging on the definition of a "lump sum." Do your research before performing any conversions, and seek legal advice if appropriate.

UK Self-Invested Personal Pension

A SIPP is broadly very similar to a workplace pension, with the difference that it is unrelated to any employer, meaning there are usually no employer contributions. This means that the "foreign grantor trust" question gets uglier, because there are no employer contributions, so that if you take that interpretation of the treaty, any SIPP is a foreign grantor trust and requires the informational IRS form 3520 and 3520A filings. That said, some employers do offer contributions to a SIPP, making a SIPP very similar to an employer pension from a US tax and treaty perspective.

Otherwise, a SIPP is a strong option if you do not have a workplace pension. It is also a common option to transfer old or previous employer pensions to a SIPP to keep them consolidated and manage fees. You may also have more and better investment options.

UK stocks and shares ISA

This is where the options become complicated. An Individual Savings Account (ISA) is not a pension. Superficially it somewhat resembles a Roth IRA (after-tax contributions, tax-free growth), but it has no age limits for withdrawals. You can withdraw at any time without a penalty, which is hugely flexible, but not a characteristic of a pension, and as such it is therefore not tax-advantaged to the IRS. That also means it is not shielded from PFIC pain - you do not want PFICs in an ISA.

This makes an ISA challenging to manage as a Boglehead. You essentially cannot and should not have any index funds.[note 2] So you are stuck with individual stocks, managed as passively as possible.

Therefore, using an ISA is not a straightforward decision for US persons in the UK. You have to weigh the additional complexity against the UK tax advantages. As general guidance, an ISA is not advisable in any of the following situations:

  • If you do not need your investments until after pension access age, and you have pension annual and lifetime allowances available, a pension (workplace or SIPP) is preferable.
  • If you can access a Roth IRA, it is generally preferable.
  • If you are not comfortable managing individual stocks, do not use an ISA.
  • If you plan on moving back to the US in the near or middle future, an ISA is probably not worth the marginal benefit.
  • If you have enough cash savings that you are exceeding the UK Personal Savings Allowance,[5] you may want to use some or all of your ISA allowance for a Cash ISA instead.

An ISA may be advantageous in some or all of following circumstances:

  • You expect to accumulate more than about £12,500 fairly quickly (within a few years). This is approximately the cutoff where you would exceed UK dividend allowances (as of 2022, and subject to change), and is very roughly the point where UK capital gains tax becomes a concern. This is not a strict cutoff, but a rough guideline - if you anticipate only investing a few thousand GBP a year or less, an ISA is not going to bring any tax benefit but adds complexity.
  • You are unable to access non-PFIC, HMRC-reporting index funds in a taxable account. Essentially, you are forced into individual stocks anyway, so you may as well use an ISA.
  • You are a tax-optimizing investment nerd, like many Bogleheads.
  • You do not mind the extra record-keeping, the reduced diversification, and can manage impacts on your asset allocation due to more concentrated holdings in individual stocks.

ISAs also come in Cash and Innovative Finance flavors. As with other ISAs, these are UK tax-free but US taxable. Cash ISAs are savings accounts; Innovative Finance ISAs are for peer-to-peer lending.

Junior ISAs are intended for investing for children, and come in Stocks and Shares and Cash flavors. The rules are generally the same as adult ISAs, with lower limits.[note 3] As a US person, you may find it hard to open a Junior ISA, even if the child for whom you are opening it does not personally hold US citizenship.

UK stocks and shares Lifetime ISA

A Lifetime ISA (LISA) is a special flavor of ISA. The UK government tops up your contributions with a 25% bonus (which is US taxable), but you cannot access your funds except for a first home purchase or after age 60. Other withdrawals mean you lose the bonus and pay an additional 5% penalty.

Other than that, a LISA is the same as an ISA, but with a much lower contribution limit. It is up to you if you want the tradeoff of the bonus versus the restricted access. There is also no prohibition on using some of your ISA allowance on a LISA and the remainder on an ISA.

US and UK taxable brokerage (general investment account)

These have no limits, but also no tax advantages. With the possible exception of pure money market funds,[note 4] you need to stick to non-PFIC funds that are HMRC-reporting funds, or individual stocks, which is the challenge. These accounts are typically your last resort for investments after filling pension, IRA, and possibly ISA allowances. You may also find it difficult to find a broker that is prepared to have you as a customer.

UK and US dividend and capital gains tax regimes are somewhat different. The UK has comparatively generous dividend and capital gain allowances, although they are a target for the government's attempts to raise revenue. The US differentiates between long and short term capital gains, and between ordinary and qualified dividends, the UK does not. Both countries generally tax (long term, US) capital gains and (qualified, US) dividends at lower rates than earned or interest income. Capital losses (including tax loss harvesting) and wash sale rules are broadly similar. Definitely do your research on how both countries tax investments in an unsheltered account prior to investing, as this is only an extremely high level summary.

US Health Savings Account (HSA)

HSAs are a sort of flipped version of an ISA, in that they are US tax-advantaged, but HMRC sees them as a vanilla taxable brokerage account, and therefore subject to capital gains, dividend, and interest taxes. HSAs are also subject to the HMRC reporting funds regime, so any funds held in them should preferably be HMRC reporting, otherwise the UK taxes earnings in them at the higher income rates.

In addition, you are likely no longer eligible to contribute to an HSA after moving to the UK, as you will generally no longer be a member of a high deductible health plan.

US traditional IRA

Traditional IRAs have two major tax treaty implications that you need to consider:

  1. The treaty is quite clear that an IRA must be opened prior to leaving the US in order for the contributions to be UK tax deductible. You cannot deduct contributions to accounts opened after moving to the UK from UK taxes.
  2. Some interpretations of the treaty indicate that a traditional IRA is simply not UK tax deductible, regardless of where the account was opened. Legal advice is advisable prior to trying to deduct traditional IRA contributions from UK income.

These concerns, combined with the relatively low contribution and income limits, mean that for most people it is more straightforward to use a UK pension or SIPP for tax-deductible contributions instead of an IRA. This also enables you to use your IRA allowance on a Roth instead, which has clearer UK and US tax advantages.

US employer accounts (401(k), 403(b), Thrift Savings Plan, SIMPLE, SEP, etc.)

The treaty respects these accounts well as "pension schemes", but generally you will not be able to continue to contribute. There is usually no issue leaving these accounts as they are, provided the brokerage will continue to service customers living in the UK. They can also be transferred to an IRA. PFIC and HMRC reporting rules do not apply within these "pensions."

There are some caveats as to how withdrawals are taxed. In summary, a "lump sum" is taxed by the US but not the UK; while "recurring payments" are taxed specifically for US persons by both the UK and the US (the latter occurs because of the treaty "savings clause"), with credits where necessary to prevent pure double-tax. "Lump sum" is not a well-defined term, and interpretations vary.

US 529 college savings account

Like an HSA, the UK sees a 529 plan as a taxable brokerage account, subject to HMRC reporting rules. However, few if any 529 plans offer any HMRC reporting funds, so earnings are likely to be taxed as income, at higher rates.

In addition, a 529 plan might be a trust in the eyes of the UK. This is not necessarily good or bad, but it is complicated, and likely requires the advice of a professional.

UK university expenses are not as high as in the US, and are subsidized by considerably more friendly student loans than in the US. A 529 plan may be eligible to be used for UK university fees, but the scale of the tuition challenge is considerably smaller than is typical in the US.

Put all that together and 529 plans are typically not recommended for US persons in the UK. In some cases, it is advantageous to liquidate any existing 529 plan prior to moving to the UK, so that it is only subject to US capital gains taxes and penalties, rather than UK income tax.

You may also consider keeping the 529 so that the beneficiary is taxed on the gains upon withdrawal for a qualifying educational expense. Given UK tax allowances, and the US tax-advantaged status of a 529, even in non-reporting funds there may not be any tax due. Most beneficiaries are students with income less than the Personal Allowance. You must satisfy yourself as to any trust requirements in this case.

Brokerage options

US brokerages

Many US brokerages are unwilling to knowingly have customers living in the UK,[6] due to the increased compliance required to follow UK as well as US rules. Two brokers are known to be specifically friendly to US persons in the UK:

  • Interactive Brokers offers taxable brokerage and IRA accounts, and will allow customers to have a UK address without issue. Interactive Brokers does enforce KID rules, making it a challenge to invest in US domiciled funds. They support the purchase of UCITS funds within an IRA, which is one way around the challenges. Interactive Brokers also has extremely low-cost currency transfers, as long as your primary purpose is investing.
  • Schwab International is also friendly to customers with a UK address. It also enforces KID rules, and it appears to offer UCITS funds in an IRA only via phone orders, at an additional fee.

Other US brokerages vary, and many seem to make customer-specific decisions. It is typically considered prudent to have a backup brokerage in place before you inform a broker of a UK address, in case of adverse action. Responses are reported to range from no action at all, to restricting purchases of mutual funds, or ETFs, or both (including reinvestment of dividends), through to full account freezing and even forced closure. Not having a backup account in the case of forced closure can result in you facing an unpleasant and unwanted realization of taxable gains.

UK brokerages

Because of onerous FATCA requirements, few UK brokerages support US customers. As of 2022, the brokerages listed below are the only ones known to support US persons, but the list may change over time.

  • Interactive Brokers UK (UK entity, same parent company as above) offers taxable brokerage and ISA accounts (but not LISA). They do not support SIPPs for US citizens.
  • Hargreaves Lansdown offers taxable brokerage, ISA, LISA, and SIPP accounts to US persons. Hargreaves Lansdown is not generally considered a low fee broker, but costs can be managed by taking a highly passive approach and using monthly investments wisely, instead of on-demand.
  • AJ Bell (formerly Youinvest) only supports SIPPs for US persons, although it does offer other types of account to non-US citizens. AJ Bell's fees are similar to those of Hargreaves Lansdown. Note that Dodl by AJ Bell is restricted to investors who are solely UK citizens.

Related topics

Foreign grantor trusts and IRS forms 3520 and 3520A

Caution: this topic is a particularly grey area. This article does not constitute legal or tax advice.

The IRS requires special tax filings for accounts that are considered a foreign grantor trust, specifically form 3520 and form 3520A. These can be quite complex forms, with high fees when prepared by professionals. There are also draconian penalties for late or non-filing when required, typically $10,000.

This topic typically relates to workplace pensions, particularly when the employee contributions exceed employer ones, and SIPPs, although there are also some opinions that ISAs could be considered a foreign grantor trust.

There are roughly three schools of thought when considering this topic:

  1. These accounts are foreign grantor trusts and filing of forms 3520 and 3520 are required every year.
  2. These accounts are foreign grantor trusts, but the IRS does not really care so do not bother with forms 3520 and 3520A.
  3. These accounts are not foreign grantor trusts, but even if they are, they are protected by the US/UK tax treaty, and the whole conversation is an excessively conservative reading of the rules. Filing of forms 3520 and 3520A is not required and is generally a waste of time and money.

Some adherents to views number 2 and number 3 point to IRS revenue procedure 2020-17, which exempts some non-US pensions from form 3520 and 3520A requirements. A close reading of this procedure clearly shows that UK pensions and SIPPs do not meet the requirements for exemption, as contributions can be from money that is not employment or other personal services income, and the contribution limits are (or can be, depending on currency exchange rates) in excess of the requirements. That said, it does indicate a general inclination of the IRS towards not requiring excessive reporting for non-US pensions.

There is no clear consensus on this topic. Each investor must make their own determination, and should seek professional advice if appropriate.


  1. Forum member "finrod_2002" provides details of how an investor might use options trades to work around PRIIPs restrictions, in Bogleheads forum post: "Re: European, dutch investor here: Is investing in VTI and VXUS still a good choice?". February 17, 2019. Viewed October 28, 2019.
  2. Until and unless somebody finds a creative way to get US index funds into an ISA. "Elective professional investors" may be able to do this via Interactive Brokers. If you are able to get US index funds in an ISA, it's not necessary that they be HMRC reporting, as there's no UK tax inside an ISA anyway.
  3. A key caveat of a Junior ISA is that the account becomes the property of the child at age 18, whether they are ready for it or not.
  4. US domiciled money market funds are designed retain a stable $1.00 net asset value, and to instead distribute all interest and dividends regularly. Because these funds do not normally generate any capital gains, the UK's disadvantageous tax rate for capital gains from funds that are not HMRC reporting does not affect them. Money market funds are not especially common outside the US, but a non-US domiciled one would come under US PFIC tax rules. In this case, provided any non-US domiciled money market fund maintains a stable net asset value and generates no unrealised gain, electing PFIC mark to market treatment avoids disadvantageous US tax.

See also


  1. "Guidance note for residence, domicile and the remittance basis". Retrieved Nov 26, 2022.
  2. "Tax on foreign income: Overview". Retrieved Nov 26, 2022.
  3. "COBS 3.5 Professional clients - FCA Handbook". Financial Conduct Authority. Retrieved Nov 26, 2022.
  4. "Workplace pensions: Joining a workplace pension". Retrieved Nov 26, 2022.
  5. "Tax on savings interest: How much tax you pay". Retrieved Nov 26, 2022.
  6. "Why US Brokerage Accounts of American Expats are Being Closed". Creative Planning. Retrieved Nov 26, 2022.

External links

Focused on US persons in the UK and elsewhere:

Not focused on US persons, but otherwise reliable UK sources: