DUBAI

The fifth-highest performing metropolitan economy in the
world, within a country that boasts one of the highest GDP
per capita in the world.

BASIC FACTS

 

Dubai is the fifth-highest performing metropolitan economy in the world for last year as trade and tourism positively impacted the emirate’s employment and GDP per capita during the period. During 2014, Dubai’s ranking was boosted by a 4.5% growth in GDP and a 6.5% increase in employment.

United Arab Emirates is one of the most developed countries in the Arab Gulf and has one of world´s highest GDP per capita. The country still has a commodity-based economy, with shipments of oil and natural gas accounting for 40 percent of total exports and for 38 percent of GDP. Yet, in order to diversify the economy and reduce the dependence on oil revenues, UAE has been making huge investments in the tourism, financial and construction sectors.

ECONOMIC FACTS

UAE’s main exports include oil and gas. Other key sectors include utilities, communications, construction, banking and financial services, manufacturing projects and tourism.

Dubai is the commercial hub of the UAE and has traditionally been a trading centre, serving as an entry port into the Middle East region and for the markets of the Near and Far East, Europe and the United States as well. Being a cosmopolitan city, it is a bustling place with lots of modern buildings, shopping malls and entertainment facilities.

Dubai’s non-oil activities now account for a significant proportion of its GDP. Its manufacturing base includes aluminium smelting; the production of copper cables, lubricating oil and cement; and a wide range of medium and small scale industries. With one of the world’s largest dry docks, it has facilities to accommodate and repair even the largest vessels.

Dubai set up several free zones to provide excellent facilities for trading, manufacturing, services and other industries. With the creation of ‘Dubai Internet City’, Dubai became the e-commerce capital of the Middle East with over several hundred IT companies. The ―Dubai International Financial Centre‖ – DIFC – was established as a Financial Centre in 2004, strengthening Dubai‘s position in the world‘s financial markets.

  • Dubai’s re-export trade is enhanced by the city’s role as a major regional shopping centre. It acts as a major entry port for the Gulf and beyond, with re-exporting accounting for a major portion of the import sector.

TAX FRAMEWORK

There is no federal corporate or income tax levied in the UAE (except on oil companies and foreign banks). Dubai introduced a local income tax under the Dubai Income Tax Ordinance of 1969; however, the tax has not been implemented and it is understood that there are no plans to do so. In addition, free zone entities are subject to a number of tax concessions. There is no value added tax or sales tax in Dubai or the UAE. There are no exchange controls on the remittance of profits or repatriation of capital and there are virtually no restrictions on foreign trade. Corporate governance Dubai has embraced the need to develop and encourage principles of good corporate governance in the Middle East which can only help to attract foreign direct investment.

Dubai’s serious attitude to developing corporate transparency and principles of good corporate governance and anti-money laundering is a beacon for the Middle East region and is a significant attraction to the international investment and financial community.

COMPANY FORMATION

INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS COMPANIES

Dubai, through its Jebel Ali Free Zone, the RAKIA Free Zone and the RAK Free Trade Zone, offer an International Business Company (IBC) regime.

These companies are ideal for any type of business that does not require a local office such as:

  • Passive investment activity (e.g holding of shares)
  • Holding real estate
  • Trading Activities outside the UAE

IBC’S cannot:

  • Rent office space
  • Apply for staff visa and they
  • Trade with parties inside the UAE.

Characteristics:

  • no requirement for the owner or manager to visit the UAE in person
  • no requirement to deposit capital in a bank account
  • no public record
  • no audit requirement or requirement to submit financial statements

Just like local and free trade zones, IBCs can benefit from some of the tax treaties concluded by the UAE. If a local corporate bank account is required to benefit from the strong client confidentiality rules applicable in the UAE, then using a local IBC will prevent otherwise significant attestation charges.

FREE ZONES

The main advantages of setting up in one of the free zones in the UAE are:

  • 100% foreign ownership
  • Guarantee for 15-50 years against future imposition of corporation tax
  • No exchange controls
  • Import duty free if the goods are not supplied to the local market
  • Streamlined procedures.

Each FTZ is focus on particular industries and services. For example, Jebel Ali free trade zone focuses on manufacturing, heavy industry and distribution. It also encompasses Dubai Cars and Automotive City, and Dubai Gold and Diamond Park. A full list of Dubai free trade zones is available upon request.

To operate in a FTZ, all businesses need a licence. The type of licence depends primarily on the nature of the activity undertaken. Generally, in most FTZs a combination of the following types of licences are available to the foreign investor:

  1. Trading Licence
  2. Industrial Licence
  3. Services Licence

As FTZs have their own laws and regulations, accounting and audit requirements can differ between free trade zones. As an example, Jebel Ali free zone and Dubai Airport free zone require limited liability entities to fine annual financial statements with an audit report within 3 months of the end of the entity’s financial year. However, limited liability entities in the Dubai Technology and Media free zone are not subject to the same requirements.

LOCAL LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY

A LLC is incorporated outside a freezone. LLCs can be formed with a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 50 persons whose liability is limited to their shares in the company’s capital. The capital requirement is AED300,000.

Characteristics:

  •  51% local partner (known as sponsor)
  •  No requirement to file annual accounts
  •  No audit requirements (unless the business is sold or liquated)

BRANCH OFFICE

Foreign companies as well as freezone companies can establish a branch office in the UAE through which they can service the local market after paying an import duty. A local service agent is required.

REPRESENTATIVE OFFICE

If the scope of the activities in the UAE is limited a representative office can be considered. Such representative offices undertake marketing and promotional activities only and are not permitted to trade. A local service agent is also required.

WHICH ENTITY TO CHOOSE?

With our professional experience in the field for over 10 years and the positive feedback from our clients worldwide, we consider ourselves specialists on corporate and tax planning. We can assist you on every step of the way to set up your new business or expand in Dubai and the UAE.