The UAE comprises of a federation of seven emirates – namely, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain and Ajman – which have their own rules and regulations.
The UAE has a vibrant free economy with a significant proportion of its revenues arising from exports of oil and gas. Successful efforts have been made to diversify away from dependence on hydrocarbons and a solid industrial base has been created, together with a strong services sector.
The United Arab Emirates has won the right to host the 2020 World Expo in Dubai, sparking national jubilation in UAE as the business and tourism hub secured a fillip to its recovering economy.
Five years after the damaging economic crisis, Dubai became the first Middle Eastern country to host the expo, fending off competition from Ekaterinburg in Russia, Izmir in Turkey and Sao Paulo, Brazil in the international vote held in Paris.
Expos dating back to the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, are held every five years and allow nations to create pavilions to show-case national development in science and culture.
“Expo 2020 will trigger higher levels of tourism, economic and investment activity in the UAE, further boosting the business environment,” said Khalid Howladar, Dubai-based senior credit officer at Moody’s, the rating agency.
According to the World Bank, the UAE provides the easiest and quickest way for foreign investors looking to set up in the Arab world.
But a revival of trade and tourism, bolstered by the emirate’s status as a haven in the turbulence of the Arab spring, has helped lift economic growth. The Expo could cement the city’s renaissance, with Dubai’s commercial sector anticipating an estimated €28.8 bn economic boost and the creation of 277.000 jobs.
Official statistics show Dubai’s economy grew 4.9 per cent in the first half of 2013, the highest level in six years, as the emirate enters into a new boom.
The UAE is an attractive hub for investors to locate their business interests for the following reasons:
• no corporate and income taxes, no exchange control restrictions and possible to have unrestricted repatriation of income and capital
• amongst the most liberal trade regimes in the Gulf region and attracts strong capital flows from across the region
• focused on economic diversification in trade, logistics, banking, tourism, real estate and manufacturing and provides opportunities in various industries
• has a well established infrastructure, strong banking system and a stable political system
• provides a favourable tax environment for most industries
• a high number of expatriate workers at all levels of the economy such that expatriates account for over 80 percent of the work force
• culture is driven by Islamic traditions, however, with over 150 nationalities, expatriates are able to practice their own cultures, and
• provides a safe and secure family environment with one of the lowest crime rates in the world
Under UAE federal law, foreign businesses have three main entities to choose from in order to conduct business in the UAE: a local limited liability company (“LLC”), a free zone entity (“FZE”), and an international business company (“IBC”).
Companies can also operate by setting up a branch of a foreign company, a representative office of a foreign company, a private or public joint stock company, a general or simple limited liability partnership, a joint venture or providing services as a professional or a consultant through a civil company.
Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
A LLC can be formed with a minimum of two and a maximum of 50 persons whose liability is limited to their shares in the company’s capital. Companies with expatriate partners typically opt for this form of
company. The voting rights in the company may not exceed 49 percent profit and loss distribution, and the share in allocation of liquidation proceeds can be mutually agreed upon. LLCs can sell directly to the local market.
If the scope of the activities in the UAE is limited, a branch or representative office can be considered. Such an office would also need a local sponsor. However, the sponsor in this case does not gain any
voting rights and the role is limited to dealing with local and federal government requirements.
Free Zones Entities (FZEs)
If there is no need to sell goods directly to the local market, but office space and local staff are required, then setting up in a free zone is often more attractive than using a local company. Free zone companies also meet the growing necessity in international tax planning of having necessary substance. This is often impossible to deliver from the traditional offshore jurisdictions since they typically only offer an IBC regime.
The main advantages of setting up in one of the free zones in the UAE are as follows:
• 100 percent foreign ownership is allowed
• guarantee for 15-50 years against the future imposition of corporation tax. It is not clear
whether the guarantee would provide exemption
against an imposition of VAT as well
• import of goods duty free, provided the goods are
not supplied to the local market
• streamlined procedures: all formalities are typically dealt with through the free zone authorities instead of the various government departments
• no restrictions on hiring expatriates
International Business Companies (IBCs)
Dubai, through its Jebel Ali Free Zone, and Ras al Khaimah, through 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. This includes any passive investment activity eg holding shares in local or free zone companies, holding UAE real estate, or trading activities outside
the UAE. IBCs cannot rent office space nor can they apply for staff visas and they are not allowed to trade with parties inside the UAE.
RAK IBCs have the following attractive features:
• not necessary for the owner or manager to visit the UAE in person
• no requirement to deposit capital in a bank account
• the only data on public record is the name of the company and date of incorporation
• no requirement to submit financial statements
As with local and free zone companies, offshore companies can benefit from some of the tax treaties concluded by the UAE, by setting up a free zone branch.
Branch of a foreign company
Foreign companies can establish a branch office in the UAE. A branch office may not carry out any commercial activity in its own name, it may only negotiate and enter into contracts on behalf of the parent company, and if goods and services are required to fulfill that contract, they have to come directly from the parent. Support activities by the branch are allowed.
A foreign company may also establish a representative office in the UAE. Such representative offices may undertake marketing and promotional activities on behalf of their parent company, but are not permitted to trade.
WHAT CAN DUBAI OFFER
• Pro-business government regulations
• Secrecy, asset protection and no international exchange of information agreements
• Global headquarters centre
• Distinguished and unique lifestyle
• Best retail hub and experience
• Talented and diverse labour pool
• World class logistics and IT infrastructure
• Strategic location on the trade routes of East and West
• Wide network of Double Tax Treaties
Tax free environment:
NO income tax
NO corporate tax
NO limit on repatriation of profit