Relocation, relocation, relocation

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Finding a job and moving house are two of the most stressful things you can do, but what if you do them both at the same time? AAT member Caroline Smith did just that when she relocated to the Isle of Man from Yorkshire. She shares her experience and offers tips for making a move a success

The thought of changing job, whether by choice or forced upon you by circumstance, can be very daunting. Eight years ago, I found myself in this position.  Following redundancy, my husband was relocated from our native Yorkshire to the Isle of Man.

Admittedly, the idea of moving away for a couple of years and living somewhere different had some attraction to my sense of adventure.  We already knew a few people there and it was an ex-colleague of my husband that had offered him the job.  So, in some ways it didn’t feel like such a big move, although we didn’t have much time to think about it.

Neither of us knew very much about the Isle of Man.  However, after a visit and talking to a few people we knew, we were left in no doubt that as beautiful as it is, it is very expensive.  Having to ship many things in and take into account economies of scale (the population is about 80,000) makes for expensive living.

In our first winter, we paid in a four-month period for gas alone what we had paid for both gas and electricity in a year in Yorkshire.  Also, we did not want to sell our house in Yorkshire as we were expecting to return after a few years.  Financing a new property from scratch is expensive wherever you are and property prices were similar to London.  Finding paid employment became crucial for me.

I had only recently completed my AAT studies and so I hoped this would make finding work easier, although I would still need a work permit.  While this was not necessarily going to be a problem, it would mean that a Manx person would have the right to be offered any job first.

Having the AAT Accounting Qualification would narrow the field down and, ultimately, I was the only person who applied for the job I now have. As it happens my background is in manufacturing which is suitable for my role, but there was perhaps a little luck involved as the Isle of Man economy is largely based on finance and financial services.  Prior to having confirmed employment, I had been concerned that I could be at a disadvantage.

Once I took my place in the office there were all the usual things you find in a new role.  You have to work out who everyone is and where they fit into the company; you need to know the ‘house style’ for documents and how to use the computer system; and most importantly, you need to know the drinks rota.

On the Isle of Man, it was also necessary to get used to a myriad of accents.  Scottish, Welsh, Irish and South African are all well represented along with the local Manx, which is similar to a Liverpool accent.  Also, names can be very strange to a ‘comeover’ as people like me are called.

In one of my early days I made the mistake of thinking that I would easily be able to find a sales account in the name of Quayle as it is so unusual.  Wrong. It’s the most common name on the Island. And as for some of the strange road names (how do you pronounce Droghadfayle?).

In terms of accountancy there are a few differences as well.  The main one is tax and I’ve lost count of the number of payroll software companies that have cold called to sell me their product without realising that we have different tax bands, rendering their product useless.

Personal allowances are approximately twice that of the UK and the upper tax rate is 18%. Overall there is a tax cap at £115,000 and inheritance and capital gains aren’t taxed at all.  It is easy to see why people assume the Isle of Man is a tax haven.  In reality though, only a handful of people benefit from the tax cap, and the high cost of living means that even if you are earning twice what I was earning in Yorkshire you could still be struggling.  Salaries do tend to be higher for the same or similar job though.

There are some frustrations to living on this Island.  Most things have to be shipped in, which increases costs and causes delays.  During bad storms this winter, restricted sailings left the supermarket shelves half empty and some mail order companies don’t deliver at all.

The small population means competition isn’t always great.  Service with a smile isn’t always available and finding a reliable tradesman isn’t always easy.  However, if you do need to put an extension on your house you will only pay 5% VAT.  Also, obviously, the relatively low population means that it isn’t possible to support a large shopping centre and the joke is that we suffer from “chairman’s wife syndrome.”  AKA acute stress brought on by lack of shopping opportunities.

The weather may be harsh, and at times you may feel isolated, but on a clear sunny day, a walk on Douglas Promenade or a trip up the mountain where you can see England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, are things that money just can’t buy.  It looks as if this ‘comeover’ could well be a ‘stopover’.

If you are thinking of making a big move, my top tips are:

  1. Do your research: you may need certain legal papers or to contact the relevant embassy/consulate
  2. Make sure your professional qualifications are acceptable
  3. Investigate the housing market and make sure you can afford a suitable property
  4. Take into account how well you cope with any extra travel
  5. Think about whether any job offer will pay you enough to meet the costs of living
  6. If possible speak to someone who has already made the same move
  7. When you do make the move don’t be tempted to return home every weekend-you will never settle
  8. Don’t be surprised if you find it stressful!

 You can search for AAT jobs all over the UK on the dedicated AAT jobs website. AAT members have access to a careers section of the AAT website which offers a wealth of tips and advice.

Caroline Smith is a MAAT.

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