Latest info on the introduction of VAT

VAT Value Added Tax
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Tax; such a small, unassuming word – with the power to strike fear into the hearts of everyone who hears it.

The Tax Procedures Law issued this week paves the way for the collection of taxes, mainly VAT, which will be introduced at a rate of 5 per cent on January 1 next year and excise taxes, which will be brought in, in the fourth quarter of this year. The formal tax document plus executive regulations setting out exactly what will be taxable and exempt is expected in the coming months. Introducing VAT is a turning point in the region’s glory years of tax-free living.

But what exactly does it mean for you, the future taxpayer living and buying things here? Let us tell you…

What is VAT?

Value-added tax (known in some countries as goods and services tax, or GST). This is a consumption tax imposed on a product at each stage of production, before the final sale. Take, for instance a computer manufacturer: the company is taxed on all the supplies it purchased to make and produce the computer before it reaches the shelf. Then you, the customer pays the VAT (the tax the company had been liable for during the production process) as a percentage of the total price. VAT is not usually an extra or add-on to the sale price.

What is excise tax?

While commonly referred to as a tax, excise is for all intents and purposes, a levy. It’s imposed on the manufacturer, not the customer, during the creation of a product. It often comes in the form of customs duties (if goods needed to produce the product cross a border). But as with VAT, the manufacturer again passes the buck on to the consumer by including it in the product’s price. Aside from that, the main differentiating factor that sets excise tax apart from VAT is that it’s only imposed on certain goods. In fact, it’s sometimes dubbed the “sin tax”, because it’s generally placed on products deemed ‘bad for society’ – such as tobacco, alcohol, confectionery, soft drinks and fast food. It explains why those commodities cost so much in other countries.

What will be taxed?

Non-essential consumer items. Namely, anything other than basic food and essential commodities, such as medicines or hospital and school bills. There is a list of just under 100 items or categories of goods and services that will not be subject to tax. Planning on buying a brand-new television Dh8000? That will be another Dh400.

Experts said this could lead to some items being withdrawn from the market or altered, to substitute the products for similar but untaxed products.


When will it come into effect?

VAT: January 1 2018. Businesses can register for VAT three months before the launch date (October 1, 2017).

Excise tax: The fourth quarter of 2017.


Who will be taxed?

Companies: In the UAE, Businesses which provide taxable goods or services with annual revenue of more than Dh375,000 will be required to register for VAT. Businesses with tax­able supplies below Dh375,000 but over Dh187,500 will have the option to register for it. Companies that provide health and education services can reclaim value added tax from the Government

Consumers: If you’re buying any non-essential commodity, you’re going to pay more – but at 5 per cent, you might not notice it so much. However, if you’re a regular customer of sugary drinks, soft drinks, or tobacco, you’ll inevitably feel the pinch – with these being subject to the highest price hikes.

Homebuyers: Property developers and the first sale of new homes will not be taxed. This means property developers will be able to claim back any VAT they have to pay from the Government.

Tenants: Residential tenants’ leases will not be leased, but commercial tenants can expect to pay VAT. Offices, shops and other commercial property will be subject to it.

Home sellers: All sales of commercial property by VAT payers will attract VAT at a standard rate.

Importers/ re-exporters: As the GCC is a customs union, duties are only paid once at the point of entry to the area. As long as the goods are moved to their final destination within a defined period of time, duties are not payable. But this is where things get tricky. If goods are imported into the UAE, and set for re-exportation (with paperwork to prove it), they would be subject to customs duties in the UAE, but only attract VAT in their final destination. But, if the goods coming into the UAE have an uncertain final destination, VAT is also payable in the UAE. This is supposed to be reclaimable.


What exactly is the tax law?

Well, we don’t actually know yet. The draft VAT Law is yet to be published, together with the Executive Regulations that are expected to accompany it.


Why now?

The six Arabian Gulf states, agreed to slap VAT and excise taxes GCC-wide as part of measures aimed at shoring up government income, diversifying government revenues as economies adjust to lower oil prices and ensuring more efficiency in the economy.  The IMF said in October 2015 that the Gulf states would have a combined fiscal deficit of between 2015 and 2019 that would exceed US$700 billion if they did not undertake reforms.

VAT is expected to yield Dh12bn in the first year of its implementation and up to Dh20bn during the second year.


Will my income be taxed?

Not yet, at least there’s been no indication to the contrary. The was no reference made to personal income tax in the Tax Procedures Law, and government officials have previously said there are no plans to tax individuals on their earnings.



The most common arguments against the introduction of VAT are consumers worried about an increase in their expenses.

Others have responded with an air of nonchalance, or hopefulness the extra cost will be able to be managed. Some businesses admitted they have yet to look at the issue, but are aware it is looming.


What is the Tax Procedures Law? Here are some key points: 

– Take records: anyone conducting any business must keep accounting records and commercial books of their business.

– Learn Arabic (or make friends with someone who does): any material related to tax must be submitted to the FTA in Arabic. It’s not a catch all rule – the FTA can accept material in any language but they can request a translation.

– Learn the definition for “taxable persons”: there’s no specific definition yet, but this will be a crucial one to learn. The same goes for Legal Representatives and Tax Agents. The latter must be listed in a Register and licensed for the purpose.

What is the GCC UVAT?

The Unified Agreement for Value Added Tax, known as GCC/UVAT, is an agreement signed by the six GCC members to ensure the arrival of VAT at a flat rate of five per cent by 2018.

Saudi Arabia is the first of the five GCC countries to implement VAT. It’s quite the turnaround for the country who attempted to bring it in in 1988, before swiftly cancelling it sixteen days before its launch.

You can attend a VAT training course. However, these aren’t cheap – a couple of days will set you back up to US$2,000.

Saudi Arabia recently published its draft VAT legislation and it is being seen as setting precedence.

Source credit – The National

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