Strict adherence to ESR requirements necessary, experts say
Companies across the UAE need to be up to date and comply with the UAE’s economic substance regulations (ESR) unless they want to incur heavy fines for their failure to comply, experts have said.
In a recent webinar organised by the Dubai Chamber, in collaboration with Al Tamimi & Company, experts highlighted the latest developments and provided guidance with respect to the economic substance regime and compliance requirements. The webinar, titled ‘Key Aspects of Economic Substance Regulations’, noted that the UAE has issued the Economic Substance Regulations in April 2019 and followed them with an updated guidance on relevant activities by the Ministry of Finance to help businesses to demonstrate economic presence in the UAE.
The UAE adopted new economic substance regulations in Cabinet Resolution No. 31 of 2019. These regulations provide that a company engaged in one of a number of specified sectors must have sufficient economic substance in the territory to access the territory’s tax regime. The changes were in response to pressure from the EU on a number of territories, following recommendations from its EU Code of Conduct Group, and apply for financial years starting on or after January 1, 2019. The key activities identified by the European Commission Code of Conduct Group are: banking, insurance, fund management, financing and leasing, shipping, intellectual property, collective investment vehicles, and holding companies that generate income from any of these key activities.
Shiraz Khan, head of Taxation at Al Tamimi & Company, said that tax is a key revenue generation for many countries that don’t have an abundance of natural resources. “These countries generally rely on taxes to fund their public expenditure.”
One of the biggest concerns during the 2008 downturn, he said, revolved around tax evasion. “Many international companies around the world, with the advent of globalisation, were essentially operating in multiple countries and moving money from high tax jurisdictions into low tax jurisdictions and therefore paying less tax as a result.”
The UAE Ministry of Finance (MoF) in August 2020 announced the details of the Cabinet Resolution No. (57) of 2020 concerning Economic Substance Regulations. The Resolution was issued in consultation with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the European Union Code of Conduct Group, in order to direct companies that engage in one or more relevant activities. The resolution amended and repealed the Cabinet of Ministers Resolution No. (31) of 2019 concerning Economic Substance. Under the resolution, the UAE Federal Tax Authority (FTA) was appointed as the National Assessing Authority for the purposes of the UAE Economic Substance Regulations.
According to the resolution, the definition of a Licensee was amended to be limited to juridical persons and unincorporated partnerships that are registered (whether by way of commercial/trade license or other form of permit) to carry out a Relevant Activity. Natural persons, sole proprietorships and other business forms that are not juridical entities are no longer within the scope of the UAE economic substance regulations.
Noff Al-Khafaji, senior associate, Corporate Structuring at Al Tamimi & Company, noted that the UAE Ministry of Finance, in May 2020, issued a Covid-19 advisory extending the notification filing deadline and consideration of the impact of the pandemic on businesses. In January 2021, the MoF announced that the December 31, 2020 filing deadline for ESR notification and report (if applicable) was extended to January 31, 2020. Failure to provide notification and any relevant information or documentation will result in a Dh20,000 fine, she said. Also, providing inaccurate information will result in a Dh50,000 fine. Failure to submit an ES report can result in a fine of Dh50,000 in the first year, and a fine of Dh400,000 in the second consecutive year of failure.
Owner of multiple ‘sole firms’ needs just one tax registration
The UAE’s Federal Tax Authority (FTA) clarified on Monday that an individual (natural person) owning multiple sole companies is required to obtain only one tax registration for all of them, and not for each one separately.
The FTA said in a statement that a sole establishment (sole proprietorship) is a legal form of business which is 100 per cent owned by a natural person, and it does not have a legal personality independent of its owner, as the sole business and its owner are considered to be the same person.
This announcement was issued in a new public clarification regarding the VAT registration of sole establishments, which recorded a 1.3 per cent surge to 304,948 at the end of January month-on-month, reflecting the robust activity of the sector, which recently attracted many investors from both inside the country and abroad.
The National Economic Register’s recent figures show that relevant authorities issued over 4,000 new licences for sole establishment around the country in January 2021.
According to statistics, sole proprietorship account for nearly 41 per cent of total commercial licences of 740,717 at the end of January.
Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah account for 78.6 per cent of the total sole establishments operating in the country.
The FTA clarification on tax registration seeks to educate people with the aspects of the tax rule which need simplified explanations, “enabling them to apply the tax principles accurately and efficiently,” the tax authority said.
The FTA clarified that the sole proprietorship rule does not apply to a One-Person Company LLC or other similar legal entities, which are seen as “distinct and separate legal persons” from their owners (unless the applicable legislation treats such entity and the natural person as the same person). For the avoidance of doubt, it should be noted that a legal person (e.g. a company) cannot own a sole establishment.
In certain cases, tax registrations by taxpayers are reviewed with regards to sole establishments and such persons will be informed of the corrective measures to be taken, if needed, the FTA explained.
The tax authority noted that the taxable supplies made by a natural person, in addition to his sole establishment(s), must be considered collectively in order to determine whether the person exceeded the mandatory VAT registration threshold of Dh375,000.
The FTA said the registrant must inform the FTA of any undeclared output tax by submitting a voluntary disclosure in accordance with Federal Law No. 7 of 2017 on Tax Procedures, for example where the registrant disregarded any of his sole establishments or taxable supplies made in his personal capacity for VAT purposes. “This includes instances where a person failed to register for VAT on the basis that the mandatory VAT registration threshold was not exceeded on a stand-alone basis by that natural person or his sole establishment(s).”
A natural person is also required to notify the FTA if it failed to register for VAT and take the necessary corrective action to account for any outstanding dues.
Asian stocks set for strong start after day of gains on Wall Street
The Biden administration is expected to push through a nearly $2 trillion US fiscal stimulus plan.
Asian markets were set to rise on Thursday after US stocks closed at record highs on hopes that newly inaugurated US President Joe Biden would put in place further economic stimulus to offset damage wreaked by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Asian stocks are primed to follow their US peers higher on optimism that US federal spending will revive growth and corporate earnings,” said Ryan Felsman, a senior economist at CommSec in Sydney. “That’s all pointing to a positive day in Asia.”
The Biden administration is expected to push through a nearly $2 trillion US fiscal stimulus plan.
Felsman said tech stocks in Asia may also rise in response to positive news from Netflix Inc, whose shares surged 16.85 per cent after the company said it would no longer need to borrow billions of dollars to finance its TV shows and movies.
MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.07 per cent.
Australia’s ASX 200 jumped more than 0.80 per cent in early trade Thursday.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index futures rose 0.23 per cent.
The Nikkei 225 index closed down 0.38 per cent on Wednesday, and the futures contract is up 0.74 per cent from that close.
Along with Netflix, the rest of the FAANG group, scheduled to report results in the coming weeks, jumped. Google parent Alphabet Inc rose 5.36 per cent.
The dollar fell against most currencies on Wednesday, as investors’ risk appetite held up.
Oil prices rose on the hopes that Biden delivers on the economic stimulus, a move that will increase demand for oil.
US Treasuries did not move much on Wednesday, with the market looking past the inauguration at this point.
Dubai Startup Hub records 236% surge in membership during H1
Over 8,200 entrepreneurs have benefitted from Dubai Startup Hub programmes, services and events since its launch in 2016
Dubai Startup Hub, an initiative of Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, recorded a 236 per cent year-over-year surge in membership during the first half of 2020, as accelerated digital transformation led many startups in Dubai and abroad to capitalise on emerging opportunities and bring new solutions to the emirate
Dubai Startup Hub membership reached 1,568 in H1-2020, compared to 466 in the same period last year, while a 13 percent in average monthly growth was observed. Meanwhile, 1,200 entrepreneurs benefitted from Dubai Startup Hub’s programmes and 23 webinars, bringing the total number of beneficiaries to over 8,200.
UAE nationals accounted for a quarter of all Dubai Startup Hub beneficiaries in first half of 2020, while 30 Emirati entrepreneurs are now one step closer to launching their businesses after graduating from the first-ever Emirati Development Programme earlier this year.
In light of Covid-19’s impact on the business landscape, Dubai Startup Hub realigned its offerings and resources to meet the evolving needs of startups in Dubai, while organising virtual events that addressed matters of importance to startups and SMEs such as funding, banking, global expansion, market research and data and digital innovation.
From a global perspective, Dubai Startup Hub collaborated with more than 70 business incubators in countries across the world during Q1 and Q2, including India, USA, UK, Russia, Hungary, Germany and China, and received more than 50 percent of international startup applications for its core programmes.
Among new members, Dubai Startup Hub attracted a large volume of high-potential startups specialising in fintech, healthtech, education, e-commerce, sustainability, wellness and supply chain that emerged in response to changing market conditions, signalling a resurgence in entrepreneurial activity.
In addition, Dubai Startup Hub witnessed growing interest and record participation among international startups, and within the Indian, Chinese and African markets in particular. In an effort to meet this growing demand, Dubi Startup Hub aligned its efforts with Dubai Chamber’s international offices to attract high-potential businesses to the Dubai market.
Hamad Buamim, President & CEO of Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Dubai Startup Hub’s performance and achievements reflects the strong entrepreneurial spirit that exists in the UAE, as well as the crucial role that startups are playing in bringing unique business concepts that fill market gaps.
Despite new challenges posed by Covid-19, he noted that the pandemic has created an opportunity for technology startups, in particular, that have demonstrated greater resilience as they capitalised on new market opportunities and benefitted from the various programmes, initiatives and support offered under Dubai Startup Hub, which continues to drive Dubai Chamber’s entrepreneurship strategy.
Going forward, startups and SMEs will have a major role to play building the UAE’s post-Covid-19 economy and developing new industries, he explained, as this segment of the business community serves as an engine driving innovation and supporting the country’s transition to a digitally-driven economy.
Established by Dubai Chamber in 2016, Dubai Startup Hub is the first initiative of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa region. The initiative is designed to emphasise the value of public and private sector collaboration and embodies the aim of encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship as a main driver of the economy of Dubai and the UAE.