Setting up your Business in UAE Issues to consider

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1 The UAE has a vibrant free economy, a significant proportion of its revenues arising from exports of oil and gas. The establishment of free zones has been an important feature of a diversification policy and reform of property laws gave a major boost to real estate and tourism sectors. Dubai and Abu Dubai have been ranked the top two cities in the Middle East region for quality of life, according to the latest edition of a global survey. Long-time investors include a wide range of multinational companies headquartered across the globe. Special economic zones and free zones offer 100 per cent ownership, repatriation of profit and capital as well as exemptions from taxes. Corporate taxes are reserved only for branches of foreign banks and oil-producing companies. Infrastructure in the UAE is second to none. Telecommunications, including mobile and fixed telephony as well as internet access is on par, if not better, than the world s largest international business hubs. Investors benefit from an abundant supply of human resource skills, courtesy of professionals migrating to the emirate from nearly every country in the globe. E-government websites, free zone authorities as well as chambers of commerce and industry provides new entrants with helpful information and guidance.. However there are a number of issues which you must consider when you are looking to set up your business in UAE. This document takes you through some of the common questions we come across and gives you practical information about the issues you need to consider. What type of Business Structure should we use? There are advantages and disadvantages to all of them, and there is no one correct answer, it s all dependent on your specific business circumstances and needs. A brief overview of the main structures is below: Establishment (a branch of your overseas business) Not a separate legal entity but an extension of the overseas parent company No limited liability or ring-fencing of the UAE operations Must file Branch office accounts, prepared under UAE Company Law, at Ministry of Economy. General Partnerships:- Only for two or more UAE nationals. Jointly and unlimitedly, to the extent of their personal assets, responsible for the company s liabilities.

2 Limited Partnerships:- This entity is comprised of at least one jointly associated partner liable for the partnership s obligations to the full extent of their assets, along with at least one inactive partner liable for the partnership s obligations limited to this partner s capital contributions. This entity usually has one active partner who manages the company and a silent partner who does not participate in day-to-day management. Joint Participation (Ventures): - This entity is an association between at least two partners who will share the profit and loss in one or more commercial businesses conducted by one of the partners in his or her own name. Public Joint Stock Companies:- This entity comprises any company whose capital is split into publicly subscribed negotiable shares of equal value or any company in which a UAE public body holds any share capital. There is a minimum capital requirement of AED 10 million and that capital must adequately achieve the objectives of the company. This entity requires a minimum of 10 founding members. It is important for foreign companies to understand that anyone who signs the initial memorandum and articles of association will be regarded as a founding member and therefore liable. UAE businesses involving banking, insurance or investment of funds on behalf of third parties must take the form of a public joint stock company. Private Joint Stock Companies:- This entity requires a minimum of three founding members who, between them, fully subscribe to a minimum capital of AED 2 million. The shares of private joint stock companies may not be offered for public subscription. Private joint stock companies may be converted into public joint stock companies if (i) the company has operated for two or more financial years, (ii) the shares are fully paid up, (iii) the company has achieved net profits distributable to shareholders of an average of at least 10% of its capital during the two years preceding the application to convert, and (iv) a majority of the shareholders holding at least 75% of the company s shares adopt a resolution of the extraordinary general assembly to convert. Limited Liability Companies:- This entity is defined as an association with a maximum of 50 partners and a minimum number of two partners. Each partner s liability is limited to the extent of its share participation in the capital of the company. LLCs are no longer required to meet the minimum capital requirements of AED 300,000 (in Dubai) and AED 150,000 (in Abu Dhabi and the other Emirates). A new test of sufficient capital is to be adjudged by the Department of Economic Development of the relevant Emirate (including consideration of the size and planned activities of the company). Foreign companies wishing to establish an LLC in the UAE should seek guidance on the current practice of the relevant Emirate regarding minimum share capital.

3 Partnerships Limited with Shares:- This entity is formed by general partners who are jointly liable to the extent of their personal assets and participating partners who are liable to the extent of their share participation in the company. General partners must be UAE nationals. The minimum capital required to form a partnership limited with shares is AED 500,000, and participating partners are prohibited from being involved with the day-to-day management of the partnership. They may, however, participate in its internal administrative affairs. Free Zones Companies:- The UAE allows foreign businesses to operate within free zones. Free zones allow for up to 100% foreign ownership and are subject to reduced or different trade barriers, tariffs, and quotas. However, free zone companies may only operate within the free zone boundaries and are generally limited to performing solely those activities listed in their license(s). If a free zone company chooses to operate outside these boundaries, it must adhere to the requirements of the UAE Commercial Companies Law in compliance with the licensing procedure in the applicable Emirate. Generally, free zones are designated by the government to a specific commercial sector. Branch Offices vs. Representative/Liaison Offices:- A branch office has the same legal identity as its parent company and conducts business under the name of its parent company. While each Emirate has its own licensing rules for branch offices, this type of entity can carry out a variety of activities (as approved by the Department of Economic Development of the relevant Emirate). Branch offices are regarded as fully-fledged businesses permitted to perform contracts or conduct other activities as specified in its license. How much Corporation Tax will the business pay? There are no corporate taxes in the UAE. The only exception is banks and telecommunications which are regulated under the Central Bank and the Telecommunications Regularity Agency (TRA) What if we use UAE to set up our holding company? There are no corporate taxes in the UAE neither on profit nor dividend paid. What if we make cross-border transactions between group companies? UAE follows internationally recognized Transfer Pricing (TP) rules where cross-border trading and financial transactions between affiliated entities have to be conducted on an

4 arm s length basis. The price and terms should be the same as if the transactions had been between completely independent parties. Typical transactions between affiliated entities that are covered by TP regulations are: Sale and purchase of goods Provision of management services Property rental charges Transfer of intangible assets e.g. trademarks, patents Sharing of knowledge, expertise, business contacts etc. Provision of financial support e.g. inter-group loans and charging a market interest on loans A business is not required to prepare a Transfer Pricing Report proving the arm s length basis of transactions. However even if an entity is exempt from the UAE s transfer pricing regime it may fall under the scrutiny of the other international tax jurisdictions where it transacts. There may also be other tax regulations which ensure transactions are undertaken at a commercial value. What Employment Taxes and Social Security will need to be paid? There are no Personal taxes in the UAE, no social security tax, only pension plan contribution is made for UAE nationals. What is Value Added Tax (VAT) and should the business be registered? There is no VAT in the UAE Can we provide Share option plans to our staff? Many companies see Share Option plans as being an important way of attracting, motivating and retaining key staff. UAE does not have approved share option plans and the only way to implement that is via share sale and transfer agreements as and when such shares become due provided other rules of company laws remain true such as the percentage of UAE nationals holding or the minimum value of a share. How else can we compensate our employees? UAE has a very comprehensive range of compensation and benefit options available for companies to offer their employees. Pensions, private medical insurance, life and disability cover are now commonplace

5 benefits provided by many [Country] businesses to their workforce. Flexible benefit packages are also gaining in popularity, giving employees options on how they wish to spend their benefits allowance; which can range from purchasing additional holiday entitlement to obtaining full family medical cover. To discuss your requirements please contact the International Office on +44 (0) or us directly. Kreston International Kreston International Limited is a global network of independent accounting firms. Offering reliable and convenient access to efficient and seamless advisory and assurance services through member firms located around the globe, Kreston: Is ranked the 13th largest accounting network in the world Covers 105 countries Has 700 offices Has a resource of 21,000 professional and support staff. Our members are accustomed to working together to deliver cohesive international solutions to ensure clients receive the highest quality of expertise available in their respective countries. Beyond assurance, quality and experience, clients will enjoy the unique synergy that stems from the trusted relationships that Kreston members have created globally and which support the consistent delivery of exceptional international service. This information is provided for guidance only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Neither Kreston International Limited nor its member firms accept any liability for any loss arising as a result of actions taken or not taken based on the information contained in this document. The information in this document was prepared as at 30 November 2013.

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