UAE to implement 5 per cent VAT from 1 January 2018

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Policy makers in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council are aiming to introduce a 5 percent value-added tax at the start of next year, despite administrative and technical obstacles, a senior United Arab Emirates finance official said on Sunday.

The GCC, its finances strained by low oil prices, has long planned to adopt the tax in 2018 as a way to increase non-oil revenues, but economists and officials in some countries have said privately that simultaneous introduction in all countries may not be feasible.

That is because of the complexity of creating the administrative infrastructure to collect the tax and the difficulty of training companies to comply with it, in a region where taxation is minimal.

However, Younis al-Khouri, under-secretary at the UAE finance ministry, said GCC governments were planning for early, simultaneous adoption.

“By 2018, January 1, we are aiming to adopt 5 percent VAT across the GCC,” he said in a joint interview with Reuters and fellow Thomson Reuters company Zawya. Other GCC members are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain.

Asked whether some sectors in the UAE might be exempt from the tax to reduce the drag on the economy, Khouri said the government was aiming for a 5 percent rate across the board but parts of seven sectors – education, healthcare, renewable energy, water, space, transport and technology – might get special treatment.

“There might be areas … but currently, as the Ministry of Finance, we are not aiming towards exemptions, which could create some leakages, some confusion.”

Khouri said the government expected around 12 billion dirhams ($3.3 billion) of revenue from the tax in its first year. That would be about 0.9 percent of the UAE’s gross domestic product of $371 billion in 2015, official data shows.

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From the start, authorities will seek to register all companies with annual revenues exceeding $100,000 for the tax, and anticipate 95 percent or more of companies will comply in the initial stage.

Revenues from the tax may increase gradually with economic growth but the government is not at present considering any increase of the tax above 5 percent, and would not raise it in the future without a thorough study of the economic and social impact, Khouri said.

Published on 12 February 2017

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