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If they weren’t on cruise ships HMRC would probably argue that they were employees but in the case of cruise ships they argue the opposite.
Pete Matthews (1) Keith Sidwick (2) v Revenue & Customs  UKFTT 24 (TC)
Mr Sidwick was a musician and played piano on a series of cruise ships. Mr Matthews was a juggler, similarly entertaining passengers on cruise ships. Both were subject to a close degree of control by the ships officers but the First-tier Tribunal found that this degree of control was required by the context of a cruise ship.
The First-tier Tribunal concluded that the entertainers were not employees ‘…but earn their living by entering into a series of separate engagements with a number of different cruise lines in a similar way to actors…’
The reason why HMRC argued against employment was to stop a claim for Seafarers Earnings Deductions.
To get the deduction you must:
- work on a ship. Oil rigs and other offshore installations aren’t ships for the purposes of Seafarers’ Earnings Deduction – but cargo vessels, tankers, cruise liners and passenger vessels are
- work all or part of the time outside the UK. This means that for each employment you must carry out duties on at least one voyage per year that begins or ends at a foreign port
- be resident in the UK or resident for tax purposes in a European Economic Area (EEA) State (other than the UK) – find out more by following the link ‘Check your residence status’ in the section below
You get the deduction from your earnings as a seafarer if you have an ‘eligible period’ of at least 365 days that consists mainly of days when you are absent from the UK.
From 6 April 2013 the rules that determine if someone is resident in the UK for tax purposes have been put on a statutory basis. These rules are known as the Statutory Residence Test (SRT).