Finer Details

Taxation in the UAE

Merali's reflects on the concept of taxation at the federal and emirate level in the UAE, especially those affecting business in Dubai.

The income tax decrees that have been enacted in each Emirate provide for tax to be imposed on the taxable income of all bodies corporate wherever incorporated, as well as their branches that carry on trade or business, at any time during the taxable year through a permanent establishment in the relevant Emirates. Bodies corporate are taxed if they carry on trade or business directly in the Emirate or indirectly through the agency of another body corporate.


According to the Dubai income tax decree, all companies carrying out trade or business in Dubai are required to pay tax on their earnings. The rates of tax are on a sliding scale up to a maximum of 55%. In practice, however, only:

b) Branches of foreign banks pay tax at a flat rate of 20% on annual profits. The taxable income of banks is calculated by reference to their audited financial statements.

The Dubai Income Tax Ordinance of 1969 and Dubai income tax decree (and its amendment 1970) specifies that an organization that conducts trade or business in Dubai shall be subject to taxation as follows:

A “chargeable person” means a body corporate wherever incorporated, or each and every branch thereof, carrying on trade or business of any type during an income tax year through a permanent establishment situated in the Emirate whether directly or through the agency of another body corporate (and not entitled under an agreement with the Ruler to an exemption from liability to income tax). Two or more such branches of a body corporate so carrying on trade shall each be treated as separate chargeable persons. The fact that a body corporate has a secondary body corporate carrying on trade or business through a permanent establishment in the Emirate shall not in itself constitute that parent body corporate as a chargeable person.

“Carrying on trade or business” means:

a) Selling goods or rights in good/s in the Emirate;

b) Operating any manufacturing, industrial, or commercial enterprise in the Emirate;

c) Letting any property located in the Emirate; or

d) Rendering services in the Emirate (excluding the mere purchasing of goods, or rights in such goods in the Emirate).

A chargeable person in Dubai shall be charged taxes on a sliding scale as described above except that the tax so charged shall be reduced by the credit aggregate of oil dealt in for that fiscal year so long as the total of all reductions granted to all chargeable persons in that fiscal year shall not exceed the credit aggregate of oil dealt in for that fiscal year.

Taxable income is computed after the deduction of all costs and expenses incurred by a chargeable person earning such income.

Deductible costs and expenses include acquisition cost of goods, the expenses of operating the business, allowances for depreciation, obsolescence and exhaustion of both tangible and intangible assets, and losses sustained by the chargeable person in connection with the business.


Dubai has free zones that offer tax and business incentives aimed at making Dubai a global business and commercial center. The incentives usually include tax holidays for a guaranteed period (most free zones offer a tax holiday of 50 years), 100% foreign ownership, no customs duty within the free zone, and one-stop shop administrative services.


There are no withholding taxes in the UAE.


No personal taxation currently exists in the UAE.


There is no capital gains tax in the UAE. For taxpaying entities, capital gains are taxed as part of business profits.


Customs duties are low and there are many exemptions. They are generally levied at the rate of 5%. Goods imported and intended for re-export often benefit from customs duty as do manufacturers on the import of their machinery, raw materials, and spare parts used for industrial purposes.


There is no value-added tax in the UAE at present.


The UAE does not impose social security taxes on expatriates. UAE national employees contribute to retirement and pension funds in accordance with specific regulations.


Municipal taxes are imposed on hotel services and cinema shows. Service charge percentages vary among the Emirates. A service charge of 5% to 10% is levied on food purchased in restaurants. Hotels charge a 10% to 15% service charge per night on room rates. These charges are usually included in the customer’s bill, which the municipality will collect from restaurants and hotels. Hotels also charge an additional 15% service charge on the services they provide. In most of the Emirates, property tax is payable by residential and commercial tenants by reference to the annual rent of residential property, generally at a rate of 5% and for commercial property at a rate of 5% to 10% payable to the local municipality.


A sale registration fee of 1% of the value of the sale is imposed on the seller, payable to the Dubai Land Department. A purchase registration fee of 1% of the value of the sale is payable by the buyer of the property. The rate can differ in other Emirates.


There are no exchange controls on the remittance of profits or repatriation of capital and there are virtually no restrictions on foreign trade.


The UAE has entered into tax treaties with several countries, including Algeria, Armenia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, New Zealand, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, and Yemen. Treaties have been concluded with Bosnia-Herzegovina, Jordan, Luxembourg, Malta, Mongolia, the Netherlands, Philippines, Seychelles, Sudan, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan, but they have not formally entered into force.