United Arab Emirates

Corporate - Taxes on corporate income

The United Arab Emirates does not have a federal corporate income tax regime. Instead, corporate income tax is determined on a territorial basis under the respective Tax Decrees issued by the government of each individual Emirate (of which there are seven that make up the United Arab Emirates). Some of the Emirates have also issued specific Banking Tax Decrees, which impose corporate income tax on branches of foreign banks operating in each respective Emirates.

Under the Tax Decrees, corporate income tax is payable under a progressive rate system, with rates up to 55%. Branches of foreign banks are subject to corporate income tax at a flat rate of 20%.

Notwithstanding the above, corporate income tax is currently practically only enforced on foreign oil companies engaged in upstream petroleum activities, certain companies engaged in petroleum related activities and branches of foreign banks.

In addition, free zones across the various Emirates have their own rules and regulations, and typically they offer “tax holidays” or tax exemptions (usually reference to corporate income tax) to businesses set up in the respective free zone for a period between 15 and 50 years (generally renewable).

On the basis of the above, most entities registered in the United Arab Emirates are currently not required to file corporate tax returns in the United Arab Emirates, regardless of where the business is registered.

Given the current tax position as described, matters of expense deductibility, (potential) double taxation of dividends and gains and the ability to carry forward tax losses are currently of limited practical relevance from a domestic corporate income tax perspective to most businesses operating in the United Arab Emirates.