Domicile vs Residence - What is the difference between them?

Updated: March 17, 2021 | 11 minute read

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Introduction - Domicile vs Residence

If you are reading this article, then you have almost made up your mind to take up a second residence.
One of the many queries that not only you but many others have when moving abroad is...
"What is the difference between Domicile and Residence?"
It is often considered to be the same, but in fact, are very different.
It is crucial to understand both for income tax purposes as well as to avoid serious financial consequences.
But, understanding whether you are domiciled, or resident is not straightforward.
It is essential for you to seek advice about your residency and tax status from a qualified tax adviser.
Our team of well-qualified tax advisors can help you at every step of the way to ensure you are not evading tax - whether accidentally or otherwise.

What does Domicile mean?

Domicile means the country where you officially have a permanent home or have a substantial connection with.
If you aren’t living there right now, then it’s the place to which you intend to return and make your home indefinitely.
In simple words, your domicile is your home — the state you consider to be your primary residence. You can have more than one residence, but only one domicile.
When you are born, you are automatically assigned to the same domicile as your parents. This is your domicile of origin.
If your parents were not married at the time of your birth, your domicile status would be the same as that of your mother. This may vary depending on each individual's circumstances.
Your domicile of origin continues until you acquire a new domicile. Even if you move abroad, it is unlikely that your domicile will change.
What does Domicile mean?

Why is your domicile important?

With many things, it is crucial to determine your domicile for tax purposes.
Your tax liabilities can be divided into three main areas:
  1. Your Income Tax (from investment or employment);
  2. Capital Gains Tax; and
  3. Inheritance Tax.
Your domicile would be of particular importance if you were to own property or financial assets in foreign jurisdictions. It is also an essential factor when determining how your (individual) estate should be passed on in the event of your demise.
The actual management of your estate will vary depending on each situation. Still, it's necessary to understand the concepts of residence & domicile whether you live abroad or have assets located overseas.
We assume that now you are fully aware of what it means and why is it important. But another important question which cannot be ignored is ‘Can you change your domicile?
Let us explain to you how;
 Why is your domicile important?

Changing your domicile

After the age of 18, you can change your domicile.
For this, you will be required to satisfy several criteria with evidence of each one.
The criteria for changing your domicile are varied, and each case will be judged on its merit combining with the evidence provided.
The basic principles for changing your domicile will typically include as an absolute minimum:
  • Leaving the country in which you are domiciled and settle in another country.
  • Provide strong evidence that you intend to live in your new location permanently or indefinitely.
If we talk about Maltese jurisdiction, it isn't easy to get domicile status in Malta.
You are required to break all ties with other countries to be domiciled in Malta.
Once you get the status, you will be taxable on a worldwide basis.
Under the Maltese jurisdiction, you can have multiple residences but only ONE domicile.
Also, Malta does not have any deemed domicile rules.
It is crucial to mention that if you are a third-country national and have taken up Maltese citizenship by investment, you will remain domiciled in your native country.

Malta Citizenship does not grant you domicile.

Changing your domicile

What is Non-domiciled (non-dom) status?

To be a non-domiciled (non-dom), you will typically be a foreign national living in Malta, which means you or your parents are not of Maltese origin.
While you may be considered a tax resident, your domicile will typically remain as your country of birth. If you are recognised as a "non-dom", you cannot live in Malta indefinitely.
We hope that by now you know everything related to domicile.
Let us move forward and answer another question,
What is Non-domiciled (non-dom) status?

What does Residency mean?

You will be considered a resident (for tax purposes at least) if you're present in a country for 183 days or more per tax year or if not, by visiting the country very frequently and have the intention to reside there.
It also means that you have the legal right to live, work, set up business, travel or even study in a particular country.
The Malta Residency programs like Malta Residency and Visa Program (MRVP) and Global Residence Program (GRP) give the opportunity to non-European nationals and their families to settle in Malta.
If you are a resident in Malta, it doesn't mean you are a tax resident as well.
Being a tax resident in Malta is very different from being a resident,
Let us explain to you how:

Tax Residency It is a common misconception that Malta residency and Malta tax residency are the same. In general, individuals who spend more than six months in Malta in a calendar year are likely to be Maltese tax residents [the reference is made to Article 13 of the Income Tax Act].

Tax residency in Malta is a facts-based test, and the following factors are usually taken into account to determine the residency of individuals:

  • Place of abode;
  • Physical presence, i.e. > 183 days;
  • Regularity and Frequency of visits;
  • Intention to reside in Malta;
  • Ties of birth;
  • Ties of the family; and
  • Business Ties.
Tax treaties usually solve issues of dual residence. In cases where the person cannot determine his/her tax residence, it is ideal to consult with a tax advisor.
Our team of tax advisors can guide and resolve your every query. Get in touch today by sending us an email at
We will take this opportunity and also explain you the difference between Tax Residency Certificate and Tax Residency Status.
Tax Residency  in Malta

Tax Residency Certificate

Tax residency certificate can be applied for and issued to you by the Maltese tax authorities on a yearly basis.
Unlike residency through MRVP which can be obtained without being physically present in Malta; For Tax residency certificate, you have to be physically present on the island.
For the issuance of this certificate, several documents are required:
  • Proof of Utility Bills (water and electricity);
  • Bank Transactions (money spent in Malta);
  • Rental/Purchase agreements.
All these are required to prove that you were physically present in Malta.
In other words, we can say that you have actually been the tax resident in Malta for a particular year.
Tax Residency Certificate

Malta Tax Status

It is the tax status which is given to you when you take up residence through the Malta residency schemes like GRP (if you are a non-EU) and Residency program (if you are a European Union national).
It means that your income will now be treated under source and remittance basis of taxation.
Being a beneficiary of one of the programs, any income received in Malta. Capital gains arising outside Malta even if received in Malta would still not be taxed in Malta.
Our team of Tax experts can assist and resolve every doubt you may have. 
Reach out to us at 
Malta Tax Status
Moving on, let us now focus on another important question:

What is Ordinary Residency?

To be 'ordinary resident', the country has to be your ordinary home, where the definition of ordinary means that you spend the majority of your time there, every year and don't take major trips abroad.
It is common to be 'ordinary resident' but not 'resident'. It is often where someone travels overseas for a period of time (include a full tax year).
If you are a foreigner, ordinary resident in Malta, then you would also be interested in knowing about the tax rates for expats in Malta.
What is Ordinary Residency

Taxes for Expats in Malta

In Malta the taxation of an individual's income is progressive; i.e. the higher an individual's income, the higher the tax paid.
To attract highly qualified personnel from abroad, Malta has introduced an incentive scheme targeting foreign executives.
Professionals in the financial services, gaming and aviation sectors can benefit from a flat personal income tax rate of 15% on income up to €5 million. Any income over that figure is tax-free.
To qualify for this tax incentive, the employee must earn a minimum of €85,016 per year among other criteria.
EU nationals can benefit from the reduced tax rate for an unlimited period, EEA and Swiss nationals for a period of ten years and third-country nationals for four consecutive years.


Our professional team of Tax advisors can guide and resolve your every query. 

Taxes for Expats in Malta


Domicile and Residency usually go together, but for certain taxation purposes (e.g. Income Tax or Inheritance Tax Malta) your particular mix of residency, ordinary residence, domicile and domicile of origin will make a difference to what tax you have to pay.
If you are unsure about your Residency or Domicile status and would like to clarify your situation, connect with us at 
Find out more about Malta Residency by Investment
We can help you understand your tax situation and offer suggestions for how you could reduce any unnecessary tax liabilities.