VAT in UAE

Value-Added Tax or VAT is a tax on the consumption or use of goods and services levied at the point of sale. VAT is a form of indirect tax and is used in more than 180 countries around the world. All OECD countries except for the US have VAT (or a variation). While it feels exactly the same as a general sales tax to end-consumers, VAT is a more sophisticated tax and overcomes many challenges that affect the general sales tax.

VAT is charged at each step of the 'supply chain'. End consumers generally bear the VAT cost while registered businesses collect and account for the tax, in a way acting as a tax collector on behalf of the Federal Tax Authority.

Only VAT registered businesses will need to charge and account for VAT.

Why is the UAE implementing VAT?

The UAE Federal and Emirate governments provide citizens and residents with many different public services – including hospitals, roads, public schools, parks, waste control, and police services. These services are paid for from the government budgets. VAT will provide our country with a new source of income which will contribute to the continued provision of high quality public services into the future. It will also help government move towards its vision of reducing dependence on oil and other hydrocarbons as a source of revenue.

When will the VAT go into effect and what will be the rates?

VAT will be introduced across the UAE on 1 January 2018 at a standard rate of 5%.

Who can or will be able to register for VAT?

A business must register for VAT if their taxable supplies and imports exceed the mandatory registration threshold of AED 375,000.

Furthermore, a business may choose to register for VAT voluntarily if their supplies and imports are less than the mandatory registration threshold, but exceed the voluntary registration threshold of AED 187,500.

Similarly, a business may register voluntarily if their expenses exceed the voluntary registration threshold. This latter opportunity to register voluntarily is designed to enable start-up businesses with no turnover to register for VAT.

How long must a taxable person retain VAT invoices for?

Any taxable person must retain VAT invoices issued and received for a minimum of 5 years.

How should a business determine the place of supply?

The place of supply will determine whether a supply is made within the UAE (in which case the UAE VAT law will apply), or outside the UAE for VAT purposes.

For a supply of goods, the place of supply should be the location of goods when the supply takes place with special rules for certain categories of supplies (e.g. water and energy, cross border supplies).

For the supply of services, the place of supply should be where the supplier is established with special rules for certain categories of supplies (e.g. cross border supplies between businesses).

How will real estate be treated? 

The VAT treatment of real estate will depend on whether it is a commercial or residential property.

Supplies (including sales or leases) of commercial properties will be taxable at the standard VAT rate (i.e 5%).

On the other hand, supplies of residential properties will generally be exempt from VAT. This will ensure that VAT would not constitute an irrecoverable cost to persons who buy their own properties. In order to ensure that real estate developers can recover VAT on construction of residential properties, the first supply of residential properties within 3 years from their completion will be zero-rated.

What sectors will be zero rated?

  • Exports of goods and services to outside the GCC;
  • International transportation, and related supplies;
  • Supplies of certain sea, air and land means of transportation (such as aircrafts and ships);
  • Certain investment grade precious metals (e.g. gold, silver, of 99% purity);
  • Newly constructed residential properties, that are supplied for the first time within 3 years of their construction 
  • Supply of certain education services, and supply of relevant goods and services;
  • Supply of certain Healthcare services, and supply of relevant goods and services.

What sectors will be exempt? 

The following categories of supplies will be exempt from VAT:

  • The supply of some financial services (clarified in VAT legislation);
  • Residential properties;
  • Bare land; and
  • Local passenger transport

Will there be transitional rules?

Special rules will be provided to deal with various situations that may arise in respect of supplies that span the introduction of VAT. For example:

  • Where a payment is received in respect of a supply of goods before the introduction of VAT but the goods are actually delivered after the introduction of VAT, this means that VAT will have to be charged on such supplies. Likewise, special rules will apply with regards to supplies of services spanning the introduction of VAT.
  • Where a contract is concluded prior to the introduction of VAT in respect of a supply which is wholly or partly made after the introduction of VAT, and the contract does not contain clauses relating to the VAT treatment of the supply, then consideration for the supply will be treated as inclusive of VAT. There will, however, be special provisions to allow suppliers to charge VAT in situations where their recipient is able to recover their VAT but where there is no VAT clause.

Will there be a margin scheme?

To avoid double taxation where second hand goods are acquired by a registered person from an unregistered person for the purpose of resale, the VAT-registered person will be able to account for VAT on sales of second hand goods with reference to the difference between the purchase price of the goods and the selling price of the goods (that is, the profit margin). The VAT which must be accounted for by the registered person will be included in the profit margin. The legislation will include the details of the conditions to be met in order to apply this mechanism.