The Business Year

Mahmud P.K. Merali

UAE, ABU DHABI - Economy

Of Benefit to All

Managing Partner, Merali’s Group


Mahmud P.K. Merali is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England & Wales, a Certified Public Accountant in Kenya and Zambia, and an Associate Member of the Institute of Taxation in the UK. Currently an Executive Partner of the Baker Tilly Meralis Group, he is the Regional Head for the Middle East and South East Asia, and takes the lead as the group’s International and Financial Consultant. He also sits on the boards of three Saudi-owned Investment Funds, as well as being the Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors of a Turkish retail chain.

When businesspeople come to Abu Dhabi, what are the key points that they need to understand? Over the past decade, Abu Dhabi has become one of the world’s fastest growing […]

When businesspeople come to Abu Dhabi, what are the key points that they need to understand?

Over the past decade, Abu Dhabi has become one of the world’s fastest growing economies. As a result of its oil and gas resources, Abu Dhabi is a significant global exporter of goods and services, linked to the world’s largest economies through trade. Abu Dhabi has shown remarkable growth and is highly instrumental with its progress. Currently, the Commercial Companies Laws do not specify any accounting standards framework for the preparation of financial statements. The Central Bank of UAE has made it mandatory for banks to prepare their accounts as per International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Listed companies also do so. In the absence of any specific standards framework in the UAE, most of the practicing firms apply IFRS in the preparation of audited financial statements, and apply International Standards of Auditing when conducting audits of financial statements.

What do you see as a major advantage of registering a company in Abu Dhabi?

According to major economic indicators, Abu Dhabi currently enjoys an enviable position; economic growth is accelerating and per capita income is one of the highest in the world. Abu Dhabi’s citizens are wealthier and healthier than ever before. If one has a viable business plan and wants to tap into of one of the safest, most affluent and fastest growing markets in the world, Abu Dhabi is the right place to set up. Whether you are planning to start a new business in the Emirate or open a branch of a company based outside the country, the procedures are transparent and flexible. In most cases, it takes only a few days to complete the procedures if you fulfill all the requirements of the relevant authorities.

What draws international businesses to Abu Dhabi’s free zones?

With the intensified global trend toward trade liberalization, the government of Abu Dhabi, which is keen to take full advantage of various opportunities and challenges created by the integration into the global economy, provides remarkable support for businesses established within the free zones. Abu Dhabi free zones attract international investors by providing a multitude of incentives, such as 100% foreign ownership of companies eliminating the need for a local partner, low-cost operational environment, full repatriation of capital and profits and exemption from import, export, corporate, and personal taxes. Abu Dhabi also has subsidized port utilities. That is what makes Abu Dhabi an attractive place, especially, when it comes to semi-skilled labor. The ability of Abu Dhabi to bring in skills from neighboring countries and attract even the skilled neighbors is surpassed by none. This was made possible by changes to the labor laws.

Can you talk about how the tax system affects expatriates?

Being an expatriate, no extra tax will be charged, which is what makes the Emirate so attractive. Also, people generally pay taxes in the country they work in and there are treaties in this regard. In Abu Dhabi, if you are a resident here you will not pay tax, which is a great advantage.

The silver and gold trade is intensely popular here. What are some of the customs issues people face?

Gold is popular in the UAE, which is known as the Middle East region’s gold hub and the world’s largest re-exporter of gold. The gold souks here have a breathtaking choice of jewelry including silver, pearls, and diamonds. The gold is generally 18 carat and sometimes 22 or 24, and styles range from Indian to traditional Arab and contemporary Italian. The UAE as a whole is remarkably attractive in specific reference to the privileges it offers in free trade. There is a huge Indian market for gold, which is made into traditional ornaments. People from around the world travel here specially to buy gold ornaments. Abu Dhabi not only provides these facilities, but also a variety of precious metals and stones.



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