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Understanding Corporate Tax: Everything You Need to Know

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Ministry of Finance made an announcement in January 2022 regarding the introduction of Corporate Tax throughout the country. According to the Ministry, this new Corporate Tax legislation will come into effect on June 1, 2023. The implementation of Corporate Income Tax will vary based on the financial year of businesses, with applicability beginning on or after June 1, 2023. Corporate Income Tax is a direct tax imposed on income.

It's important to note that the UAE is not alone in practicing corporate tax globally. Countries such as the US, India, France, as well as other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations like Oman, Kuwait, and Qatar have already implemented Corporate Tax systems. Comparatively, the UAE has the lowest corporate tax rate at 9%. In a G7 countries meeting held in 2021, Gulf countries reached an agreement introducing a global minimum corporate tax rate of 15%.

The administration, collection, and enforcement of UAE Corporate Tax will be under the purview of the Federal Tax Authority. However, the Ministry of Finance will continue to act as the competent authority for bilateral or multilateral agreements and international exchange of tax-related information.

The implementation of Corporate Tax has historically proven beneficial in supporting the economies of countries. Likewise, the introduction of corporate tax in the UAE aims to strengthen corporate governance, ultimately bolstering the nation's economy. It can be seen as a catalyst for the UAE's strategic economic transformation. By adopting Corporate Tax, the UAE strives to solidify its position as a prominent global hub for businesses and investments, expedite national development, and demonstrate its commitment to adhering to international tax transparency standards while preventing unauthorized tax practices.

Corporate tax is a significant aspect of business operations that every entrepreneur should be familiar with. To ensure compliance and make informed financial decisions, it's crucial to have a comprehensive understanding of corporate tax regulations. Here's what you need to know:

  • Definition and Scope: Corporate tax refers to the direct tax levied on the profits earned by corporations. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), businesses are subject to corporate tax if their annual profits exceed AED 375,000. The implementation of this tax law took effect from June 2023 across the UAE.

  • Filing Process: When it comes to filing corporate taxes in the UAE, businesses must follow specific procedures. It involves maintaining accurate financial records, including transfer pricing paperwork such as the master file and local file, as required by the Corporate Tax Law. Additionally, businesses may need to submit a transfer pricing disclosure form along with their corporate tax return.

  • Qualifying Free Zone Persons: The Corporate Tax Law introduces the concept of "Qualifying Free Zone Persons" (QFZP). These entities, such as free zone firms or branches, can enjoy certain tax benefits. While QFZPs are subject to corporate tax, their qualifying income may be taxed at a rate of 0%. However, they have the option to pay the ordinary corporate tax rate instead.

  • Tax Planning and Optimization: Proper tax planning is crucial for businesses to minimize their tax burden and optimize their financial strategies. Strategies such as accelerating depreciation charges for assets, investing in tax-efficient assets, and introducing employee incentives can help reduce tax liabilities and increase overall profitability.

  • Compliance and Documentation: To ensure compliance with corporate tax regulations, businesses must provide accurate and relevant information to tax authorities during the filing process. It's essential to understand the tax legislation and stay updated on court rulings related to taxation. Adhering to the formulated laws set by the Ministry of Finance is crucial for effective tax planning.

By familiarizing yourself with corporate tax concepts, procedures, and strategies, you can navigate the complexities of taxation and make informed financial decisions for your business. Ensure you stay updated on any changes in tax laws and seek professional advice to optimize your corporate tax management effectively.

Businesses and Incomes Exempt from Corporate Tax: A Comprehensive Guide

Exemption from Corporate Tax: Types of Businesses and Incomes Not Subject to Tax

In the context of corporate tax in the UAE, certain businesses or income sources are exempt from taxation, provided they meet specific criteria. Below are the key categories of entities or income that are exempt from corporate tax:

  • Individual Income: Individuals are exempt from corporate taxes. Therefore, any income earned from employment, real estate, share investments, or other personal sources unrelated to a trade or business in the UAE is not subject to corporate tax.

  • Foreign Investors: Foreign investors who do not engage in business activities within the UAE are also exempt from corporate tax.

  • Free Zone Businesses: Free zone businesses that meet all regulatory requirements continue to enjoy the existing corporate tax advantages available to them.

  • Capital Gains and Dividends: UAE businesses receive tax-free treatment on capital gains and dividends derived from qualifying shareholdings.

It's important to note that these exemptions do not apply to eligible intragroup transactions and restructurings.

By understanding these exemptions, businesses can better navigate the corporate tax landscape in the UAE and make informed decisions regarding their tax obligations.

Who should pay corporate tax in the UAE?

Any business generating a taxable profit (net) exceeding 375,000 AED is liable to pay corporate tax, wherein a predetermined percentage of their net profit must be allocated as corporate tax. This requirement applies to UAE companies that are either incorporated or managed and controlled within the UAE, as well as certain entities operating in a free zone. In order to support small enterprises and newly established businesses, a corporate tax rate of 0% will be applied if the net profit remains below 375,000 AED.

Below are the categories exempted from Corporate Tax:

  • Natural resource extraction enterprises are excluded from Corporate Tax as they will continue to be subject to the existing Emirate level corporate taxation.

  • Corporate Tax will not be applicable to dividends and capital gains derived by a UAE company from its qualifying shareholdings.

  • Qualifying intra-group transactions and reorganizations meeting the necessary conditions will be exempt from Corporate Tax.

  • Salary and other employment income received by individuals, whether from public or private sources, are not subject to Corporate Tax.

  • Individuals' interest and other income earned from bank accounts or savings plans are exempt from Corporate Tax.

  • Income from dividends, capital gains, interest, royalties, and other investments by foreign investors is not subject to Corporate Tax.

  • Individuals investing in real estate on their own behalf are exempt from Corporate Tax.

  • Individuals who own shares or other securities in their personal capacity and receive dividends, capital gains, and other income are not liable for Corporate Tax.

Here are the deductions allowed while calculating corporate tax:

Certain expenses, in accordance with general accounting rules, may not be eligible for tax deduction in corporate tax calculations. Instead, they are added back to the accounting income to determine taxable income. Here are some examples:

  • Depreciation or amortization expenses for capital assets.

  • Business setup, license renewal, and other government fees and charges directly associated with the business.

  • Value-added tax (VAT) that is not recoverable under VAT legislation.

  • 50% of client's leisure costs.

  • Interest costs on debt funding up to 30%.

  • Deductibility of loans to related parties if they serve a legitimate business purpose.

  • Payments made to a mainland branch of a Free Zone entity that may be deductible.

However, there are certain expenses that cannot be deducted while calculating corporate tax:

The UAE Corporate Tax regime restricts or prohibits the deduction of specific expenses to prevent abuse or excessive deductions, ensuring that only necessary expenditures for generating taxable income are eligible for relief. The following expenses cannot be deducted from a taxable person's taxable income during a taxable period:

  • Expenses not paid in the course of the taxable person's business.

  • Expenses incurred to receive exempt income.

  • Losses unrelated to the taxable person's business.

  • Additional spending authorized by a Cabinet decision in response to a minister's recommendation.

The Ministry of Finance has provided the following information regarding Corporate Tax rates:
  1. 0% for taxable income up to AED 375,000

  2. 9% for taxable income above AED 375,000 and

  3. An additional tax rate (not yet specified) for multinationals that meet the 'Pillar two' criteria of the OECD's Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Project.

Calculating and Filing Corporate Tax in the UAE

In the UAE, Corporate Tax is an annual obligation that taxable persons assess and pay through the filing of a Corporate Tax Return with the Federal Tax Authority. The process involves the following steps:

  • Starting point for calculation: Taxable persons determine their taxable income based on their accounting income, which is the net profit or loss before tax as reflected in their financial statements.

  • Adjustments for taxable income: To accurately determine taxable income, certain adjustments must be made. These adjustments include accounting for income that is exempt from Corporate Tax and expenses that are either wholly or partially non-deductible for Corporate Tax purposes.

  • Corporate Tax rate: The UAE Corporate Tax rate is set at 9% of the net profit recorded in the company's financial accounts. However, if the net profit is below 375,000 AED, it is taxed at a 0% rate.

For instance, if the net profit is 575,000 AED, the Corporate Tax would be 18,000 AED (575,000 - 375,000 X 9/100). Once the taxable net profit reaches 375,000 AED, the 9% Corporate Tax rate is applied.

  • Self-assessment and filing: The calculation and payment of Corporate Tax in the UAE are carried out through a self-assessment process. Taxable persons are responsible for filing a Corporate Tax Return with the Federal Tax Authority. It is crucial for them to have a clear understanding of the necessary adjustments to accurately determine their taxable income.

By following these steps, businesses can ensure compliance with Corporate Tax requirements and fulfill their obligations in the UAE.

Financial Records Required for Corporate Tax in the UAE

To ensure compliance with corporate tax regulations in the UAE, businesses must maintain proper financial and other records that support the information outlined in the corporate tax return. These records should be submitted to the Federal Tax Authority (FTA). Even entities exempt from UAE corporate tax need to maintain records for the FTA to determine their exempt status.

When registering for Corporate Tax in the UAE, businesses should be prepared to provide the necessary documents. The registration and payment of business taxes are typically done online. The following documents may be required for Corporate Tax Registration:

  • Copies of Trade License (valid and not expired).

  • Photocopies of passport(s) of the license owner(s)/partners (valid and not expired).

  • Emirates ID(s) of the license owner(s)/partners (valid and not expired).

  • Power of Attorney (POA) or Memorandum of Association (MOA).

  • Contact information (mobile number and email).

  • Company contact information (complete address and P.O. Box).

  • Report on the Annual Financial Audit.

It's worth noting that a group of companies can form a tax group in the UAE and be treated as a single taxable entity, provided certain conditions are met. In such cases, only a single tax return needs to be filed for the entire group. Additionally, foreign investors can offset the foreign corporate tax paid on UAE taxable income against their UAE Corporate Tax liability as a tax credit.

Corporate tax returns in the UAE need to be filed for each financial period, typically once a year. There are no provisions or requirements for advance Corporate Tax filing under the UAE Corporate Tax regime. As per the Ministry of Finance, Corporate Tax returns should be filed electronically and do not necessitate any advance UAE Corporate Tax payments.

Furthermore, if certain conditions are met, excess tax losses can be carried forward and applied against taxable income in future years. This provision applies to tax groups as well, where tax losses from one company can be utilized to offset taxable income.

By adhering to these guidelines and maintaining proper financial records, businesses can effectively manage their corporate tax obligations in the UAE.

Precautions for Business Entities to Reduce Tax Burdens

Business entities can take various precautions to mitigate tax burdens and optimize their tax positions. Some of these precautions include:

• Accelerating Depreciation Charges: Businesses can consider accelerating depreciation charges for their assets, allowing them to deduct larger depreciation expenses in earlier years and reduce taxable income.

  • Investing in Tax-Efficient Assets: Investing in tax-efficient assets, such as corporate bonds, can help businesses lower their tax burdens. Diversifying contributions towards tax-efficient account types, like inflation-protected bonds, zero-coupon bonds, and tax-efficient mutual funds, can further optimize tax liabilities.

  • Investing in Long-Term Assets: Investing in long-term assets offers potential tax advantages. Long-term investments often qualify for preferential tax rates or capital gains tax treatment, providing tax savings for the business.

  • Claiming Company Entity Expenses: Businesses should diligently claim all legitimate expenses incurred in the course of their operations. Proper documentation and record-keeping are essential to support these expense claims and reduce taxable income.

  • Introducing Employee Incentives: Implementing various employee incentives, such as awarding stock options or providing benefits for employees' dependents, can help reduce tax liability while increasing employee morale and loyalty.

By implementing these precautions, businesses can effectively manage their tax burdens and optimize their tax positions, ultimately enhancing their financial performance and overall success.

Key Considerations Before Tax Filing

Before filing taxes, businesses should take into account several important points to ensure compliance and optimize their tax positions. These considerations include:

  • Provide Accurate Information: It is crucial for the firm to provide correct and relevant information to the tax authorities during the filing process. Accurate documentation is essential to meet regulatory requirements and avoid potential penalties or audits.

  • Stay Informed on Tax Legislation: Businesses should stay well-versed in the implementation of tax legislation and remain updated on court rulings related to taxation. This knowledge helps ensure that the firm is following the latest tax laws and regulations.

  • Follow Ministry of Finance Guidelines: Tax planning should be conducted in accordance with the formulated laws provided by the Ministry of Finance of the United Arab Emirates. Adhering to these guidelines ensures compliance with the legal framework and minimizes the risk of tax-related issues.

  • Align Tax Planning with Business Objectives: Tax planning should align with the firm's overall business objectives. It should consider the flexibility of future incorporations and anticipated changes within the company. By aligning tax planning with business goals, the firm can maximize tax benefits and anticipate any potential future tax implications.

  • Engage in Proper Tax Planning: Adequate tax planning should be conducted before filing taxes. Poor planning can lead to overpayment of taxes or failure to utilize available tax deductions and credits. Engaging in thorough tax planning helps minimize tax liabilities and ensures the firm pays the appropriate amount of taxes.

By considering these points, businesses can navigate the tax filing process effectively, optimize their tax positions, and maintain compliance with tax regulations in the United Arab Emirates.

Understanding Free Zones and Tax Exemptions

In the realm of corporate taxation, it is important to grasp the concept of free zones and their tax implications. The Corporate Tax Law introduces the concept of a "Qualifying Free Zone Person" (QFZP), which encompasses free zone firms or branches meeting certain criteria. These criteria include:

  • Maintaining Substantial Presence: A QFZP must demonstrate sufficient substance within the UAE. This means establishing a physical presence and conducting legitimate business activities within the country.

  • Earning Eligible Income: QFZPs are required to generate eligible income as defined by a Ministerial Decision. This ensures that the income qualifies for the tax benefits associated with being a QFZP.

  • Meeting Transfer Pricing Requirements: QFZPs must adhere to transfer pricing requirements, which involve setting appropriate prices for intercompany transactions to ensure they are conducted on an arm's length basis.

  • Complying with Additional Conditions: QFZPs must fulfill any other conditions imposed by a ministerial decision, which could include specific criteria related to business operations or reporting obligations.

While QFZPs are still subject to Corporate Tax (CT), their qualifying income may be taxed at a rate of 0%. However, it is important to note that a QFZP has the option to forgo this advantageous tax regime and instead pay the ordinary CT rate if they choose to do so.

Understanding the concept of QFZPs and their tax exemptions is crucial for businesses operating in free zones. By meeting the necessary requirements and fulfilling their obligations, companies can take advantage of the tax benefits available to them within the UAE's free zone framework.

Filing Corporate Taxes in the UAE: A Step-by-Step Guide

To ensure compliance with the Corporate Tax Law in the UAE, businesses need to follow a specific process when filing their corporate taxes. Here is a step-by-step guide:

Maintain Transfer Pricing Paperwork: Businesses must keep transfer pricing (TP) paperwork, including the master file and local file, as required by the law. However, certain restrictions specified in a Ministerial Decision may apply. It is crucial to ensure the accuracy and completeness of these documents.

  • Submit TP Paperwork to the FTA: Within 30 days of receiving a request from the Federal Tax Authority (FTA), businesses must promptly provide the requested TP paperwork. This allows the FTA to review and assess the transfer pricing practices followed by the company.

  • Complete Corporate Tax Return: In addition to the TP paperwork, businesses are generally required to submit a Corporate Tax Return. This return provides detailed information about the company's financial activities, including income, expenses, and deductions, for the relevant tax period.

  • Consider TP Disclosure Form: Depending on the circumstances, businesses may also be required to submit a TP disclosure form along with their Corporate Tax Return. This form serves to provide additional details regarding the company's transfer pricing practices.

  • It's worth noting that the implementation of corporate tax in the UAE has made the country an attractive destination for foreign investments. With its favorable tax rates, strategic geographical location, and a range of investment opportunities, the UAE continues to entice global businesses.

Businesses should seize the opportunity to invest in a country that offers a favorable corporate tax environment. The UAE's low corporate tax rate, implemented from June 2023, makes it an appealing choice. Furthermore, the UAE boasts a high standard of living, advanced infrastructure, and attractive geographical locations, making it an ideal investment destination.

By adhering to the corporate tax regulations, businesses can benefit from the opportunities presented

in the UAE and contribute to the growth and development of the country's economy.


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