When leaving the UK to go backpacking long term it is potentially useful to file what is known as a P85, which is the official tax form to complete when leaving the UK. Depending on your circumstances this can be a very effective way of getting some extra funds for your travelling. When I completed this form I got around £900 back that has definitely come in handy! It did take around 2 month to be processed but I got it eventually!
There are however some of the usual caveats that comes with claiming back tax. If you own any properties or have any incomes still in the UK, i.e. rental property, then you are unlikely to qualify for a tax return in this way. Also it is important to mention that if you have an outstanding student loan it is important to inform the Student Loan Company as well because the HMRC will pass on your details to them. This is probably due to the fact that, (in my case at least) they will also pay off a small chunk of your loan as part of the tax return as well. In my case this was about £300 worth. If you fail to do this and also fail to provide the information they ask for then this could result in a financial penalty.
But no need to let that put you off! The only thing the Student Loan Company will ask for is information on how you plan to support yourself abroad. So if you’re on a working holiday this would be a contract at a job etc. and they may ask you to pay some loan contributions depending on your earnings. But with the type of work you typically do travelling it is unlikely you will have to pay much back if any at all. And anything you do pay back will be miniscule if the potential return is around £1000 like it was for me.
However, if you are just leaving University and have not really had a job in the year or two before going travelling then this would not be a great option as you are not likely to get as high a return if any, to only then be forced to make loan contributions which you wouldn’t have to if you didn’t disclose you were leaving the country anyway. So before doing this it is worth working out what return you are likely to get to make sure it is worthwhile cost/benefit wise.