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.
FTA to issue tax residency and commercial activities certificates
The authority will begin receiving applications for the issuance of Tax Residency and Commercial Activities Certificates via its e-services portal as of November 14, 2020.
The FTA explained that there are two categories of tax certificates which are issued to companies and individuals. The first category is for the ‘Tax Residency Certificate’, a certificate issued by the FTA upon request to enable applicants to benefit from Double Tax Avoidance Agreements (DTAA) signed between UAE and other countries.
The second is the Commercial Activities Certificate which is a certificate issued by the FTA to enable applicants to refund VAT paid in advance outside the UAE, whether or not DTAAs are applicable.
The authority emphasized that the new service provides advantages and ease for the issuance of certificates to those registered with the tax system, as all their data is available in the FTA database so they can apply for Tax Certificates through direct and quick digital procedures.
Khalid Ali Al Bustani, director-general of the FTA, confirmed that this step is part of an ongoing cooperation between the FTA and the Ministry of Finance as a strategic partner to the authority, noting that a joint working group from both entities have made the necessary arrangements to ensure a smooth transfer for the digital issuance of Tax Residency and Commercial Activities Certificates from the ministry to the authority.
“Both Tax Residency and Commercial Activities Certifi-cates allow investors in the UAE, including companies and individuals, to benefit from double taxation avoidance agreements to which the State is a party, with the aim of preventing duplication, in addition to recovering VAT imposed on Emirati businesses in various countries in the event they were registered with the Authority,” Khalid Al Bustani said.
The authority clarified that eligible individuals can easily issue Tax Residency and Commercial Activities Certificates through a simple registration process via the Federal Tax Authority’s official website. The process is completed by submitting the required supporting documents and paying the fees specified in the UAE Cabinet Decision No. 65 for 2020. These specified fees were set as a requirement to apply for the Tax Residency Certificate, as an application is reviewed for any normal or legal person that is not registered with the authority and providing a print copy of the digital Tax Residence Certificate.
The Cabinet Decision also set the fees required to apply for a Commercial Activi-ties Certificate for businesses registered with the Authority, and to review the ap-plication and issue a digital Commercial Activities Certificate and to provide a print copy for the certificate that was issued.
India launches ‘transparent taxation’
At present, only the tax department/officer of the city where the PAN of the taxpayer is registered can scrutinise the tax records.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday launched a ‘transparent taxation’ platform, among other schemes, aimed at carrying forward the journey of direct tax reforms.
The move brings into effect faceless assessment of taxpayers, faceless appeals and the Rights’ Charter for taxpayers who would not be harassed or treated with suspicion from here on.
Speaking at the launch of ‘Transparent Taxation Honouring the Honest’, Modi said that India is among a few countries giving such rights and dignity to taxpayers. He said that the charter has been introduced with defined rights and responsibilities. From here on, the income tax department cannot doubt anyone without basis, he added.
Modi believes the structural reforms will add a new dimension, adding that these should be policy-driven and holistic. He cited that technology has changed, allowing for the scrutiny process to be distributed randomly. Furthermore, he said that the tax scrutiny rate was reduced by a fourth in the last few years; in fiscal year, there was only 0.26 per cent scrutiny.
Speaking of the recent measures, he said that nearly 300,000 cases were resolved under the Vivaad Se Vishwas scheme. He also appealed to citizens, sayin that those who are capable of paying taxes but not in the tax net should also voluntarily pay dues.
Even though the new ‘taxpayer’s charter’ is aimed at residents, non-resident Indians (NRIs) also will benefit from this proposal. India now joins countries like the United States and Canada, which have fundamental rights enacted under their income tax laws.
“For NRIs, this means less hassles from the tax bureaucracy; now, the taxpayer will know what to expect from the department. The new tax regime has also expanded the scope of faceless assessment and has done away with territorial jurisdiction while substituting individual discretion with team-based assessment,” said Bal Krishen, chairman of Century Financial.
“Many NRIs face problems due to the arbitrary nature in which some income tax officers behave; the new system will prevent this harassment. Nonetheless, the new system does have some drawbacks. For example, if there are complex international financial transactions, it might be challenging for the taxpayer to explain the transaction in the absence of a face-to-face interaction. Only a qualified tax officer will be able to take a well-informed decision and hopefully the entire department will be trained on these aspects. For the NRI, from an overall perspective, the new system is certainly a step forward.”
Dixit Jain, managing director at The Tax Experts DMCC, said: “A lot of transparency will come as there will be faceless interaction with assessees, which will reduce harassment and fair judgement without any manipulation. It will increase confidence; also, more and more people will file tax returns to contribute to the country.”
Jain added that earlier, a lot of NRIs were afraid to file tax returns as they used to think that if they file, they will get notices from the income tax department and will then have to face unnecessary trouble while dealing with officers.
“The introduction of the ‘No Influence’ policy and no face-to-face interaction will encourage NRIs to happily declare their eligible income and pay taxes or claim refunds without any worry. It is a brilliant move by the Modi government to encourage more people to file tax returns so it can contribute to the Indian economy.”
The launch of the Transparent taxation – honouring the honest is based on easing compliance for all taxpayers, more specifically for NRI’s – and is a welcome initiative. Few reforms were already in practice with most of the notice and assessments being conducted under e-proceedings, says Dubai-based Kinjal Bagadia Mehta, chartered accountant and tax consultant.
This initiate will lead to the digitisation of the functioning of the Income Tax department which will eventually eradicate corruption, harassment of the taxpayers and reducing litigation. At present, only the tax department/officer of the city where the PAN of the taxpayer is registered can scrutinise the tax records. By launch of Transparent taxation system, this will change now and with technology, scrutiny will be assigned to tax officers randomly. This will keep changing constantly.
“The idea of honouring honest taxpayers through such a platform will encourage many NRIs to participate in development and growth of India. This will also go a long way in making the tax filing process smoother and easier. A NRI will now be assured of fair, courteous, and rational behaviour from taxman. This people centric and public friendly approach will ease being tax compliant in India ultimately giving confidence to NRIs to file the tax returns, pay tax and also invest in India,” said Mehta.
FTA clarifies VAT application for e-commerce
The UAE’s e-commerce has been growing exponentially over the last few years.
The UAE’s Federal Tax Authority (FTA) on Wednesday further clarified that though five per cent value-added tax (VAT) will be applicable to general e-commerce purchases however there are a number of special rules that apply specifically to e-commerce transactions.
It said the tax will also be applicable on digital services including supply of domain names, web hosting and remote maintenance programmes and equipment, software, images, text and information provided electronically such as pictures, screen savers, electronic books, documents and other digitised files such as music, movies and games on demand and online magazines.
Other services identified under the banner of “electronic services supplies” include the supply of advertising space on a website and the rights associated with that advertisement, and political, cultural, artistic, sports, scientific, educational or entertainment broadcasts, including broadcasts of events, live streaming via the internet, the supply of distance learning services, and services of any equivalent type that have a similar purpose and mission.
The growth of e-commerce sector picked up even further in the wake of coronavirus pandemic with UAE residents on average spending over Dh6,000 a year.
“In light of the increasing importance of the e-commerce sector, clear mechanisms for procedures have been identified. Value-added tax, as it relates to the supply of goods and services through electronic means, contributes to supporting the activities of this vital sector, which depends on a locally developed digital and technological infrastructure,” said Khalid Ali Al Bustani, director-general of FTA.
It added that taxable persons should charge VAT to customers when supplying taxable goods or services at the standards rate of 5 per cent or at a rate of zero per cent where law permits. If the supplies are exempt from tax, these supplies are not treated as a taxable supplies and therefore no VAT needs to be charged on these supplies.
Anurag Chaturvedi, CEO of Chartered House, said many international service providers, who do not have place of establishment in the UAE, are still unaware of the registration requirement for VAT in the UAE when they provide services to the UAE consumers.
As per the Article (18) of Decree Law, a non-resident shall register for tax and makes supplies of goods or services, there is no threshold limit applicable to the non-residents. “This means if a consumer in the UAE buys a service/product from an online platform (social media, e-commerce, education, games, arts, fashion, music or any other services), the non-resident shall register for the VAT within the stipulated time and comply with local tax legislation,” added Chaturvedi.
As per the UAE legislation, the place of supply of electronic services shall be UAE if the use and enjoyment of the supply is within the country. Pursuant to Article (31) of the Decree law, provision of electronic services are subject to tax.
“If Netflix is being used by an end-user in the UAE, the service is subject to tax in the UAE. Many international service providers, who do not have place of establishment in the UAE, are still unaware of the registration requirement for VAT in the UAE when they provide services to the UAE consumers,” added Charuvedi.