VAT has not impacted deal flow, according to experts
Among the sectors identified as significantly affected by VAT are construction, real estate and export industries
The implementation of 5 percent value-added tax (VAT) in the UAE and Saudi Arabia has not impacted deal flow in the GCC, even as many companies found themselves unprepared, according to experts speaking at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) corporate finance faculty roundtable in Dubai.
According to the panellists, despite the fact that the flows of deals was not impacted there remain uncertainties regarding the items subject to the tax, as well as a “sentiment of denial” across businesses that affected their ability to be ready on time. Now, however, businesses are embracing VAT.
“We are living in a very exciting period,” said Michael Armstrong, FCA and ICAEW regional director for the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA). “There is no doubt that VAT implementation will improve business conditions and create more stable economies over the long run.”
The panel noted that many businesses do not have access to consultants with VAT experience, which means that smaller businesses with no access to tax advice are struggling with the compliance processes.
The panellists added that while some businesses experienced a negative consumer reaction to the implementation of VAT, it is likely to only be a short-term effect that is negated by the positive long-term economic impact of VAT.
Among the sectors that the panellists identified as significantly affected by VAT are the construction, real estate and export industries. They noted that because of the long tenure of construction projects, businesses with existing contracts hadn’t factored in VAT when planning and found it difficult to pass the cost of the tax onto their customers.
Many panellists applauded the UAE government’s efforts to provide guidance to make the tax’s implementation process as simple as possible for stakeholders.
“As a young legislative body, it’s tough for the UAE tax authority to address all concerns raised by businesses,” Armstrong added. It has been a hasty incorporation process, but as time unfolds, VAT will create a more transparent, credible and internationally accepted economy.
“Time will tell whether this increased transparency will make the UAE more or less competitive,” he added.
Consumer or supplier? FTA clarifies who’ll pay VAT
Suppliers will be liable for the tax in two cases.
The UAE’s Federal Tax Authority (FTA) on Saturday clarified whom between suppliers and end-consumers should pay value-added tax (VAT) on goods and services delivered in 2018.
As per the FTA’s statement, the only case where consumers are directly responsible for paying VAT on services are those that were delivered fully or partially after VAT went into effect from January 1 and it stated that the amount due is exclusive of tax.
According to the FTA’s statement, suppliers will be liable for VAT in two cases: if the contract states that the amount received against the good or service is inclusive of VAT; or if the contract issued to the consumer did not refer to VAT.
In the latter case, if the goods or services recipient is registered for tax, the amount due is treated as exclusive of tax. So the supplier has to ascertain whether the recipient is registered and the recipient ability to recover tax as per Article 70 of the VAT Executive Regulations.
The authority stressed that in all cases, the supplier remains liable for accounting for the tax and paying it to the FTA.
Massive 55% tax coming to the UAE
Good news for the UAE: No value-added tax (VAT) increases for upcoming 5 years.
UAE Minister of State for Financial Affairs Obaid Al Tayer said at the Arab Fiscal Forum the government has no plans to raise the rate of VAT or excise tax in the near future.
He was answering to a January note by S&P Global Ratings which believed some GCC countries may double the rate of VAT to 10% to raise government revenues, by between 1.7% to 2% of GDP.
Not so good news: The framework for corporate tax is under study, as per Al- Tayer.
Corporate tax is already applied on certain sectors but will now be expanded to include all UAE businesses.
We’ll get to that.
But what impact has the 5% VAT had or will have on the country?
No Impact: study
In a study, the Alliance Business Centers Network (ABCN) saidUAE businesses will be least affected by the imposition of VAT because it is one of the lowest rates in the world.
“Also the government will also be pumping back tax funds into the development projects which, in turn, will boost a number of industries in the country including investments in artificial intelligence, ICT and other traditional investment sectors,” says a new study.
Among Arab countries, the study showed that Tunisia imposes the highest VAT at 18%, Algeria 17%, Egypt 14% and Lebanon at 11%.
The ABCN report said Expo 2020 plans and projects will not be affected, evidenced by 2018 federal and local budgets showing government spending on development is increasing.
Some impact: JLL
Property consultancy Jones Lang Lassalle (JLL) said VAT in the UAE may impact parts of the real estate market in 2018, in particular the retail and office segments.
“Softer conditions and about 2% added to consumer prices will force landlords to take on additional costs, so if anything it’s going to be a negative, but not a big negative,” Craig Plumb, head of research at JLL Mena (Middle East and North Africa), told media last week.
While commercial buildings are subject to a 5% VAT, residential buildings are largely excluded.
Plumb said JLL witnessed an increase in real estate deal making in December 2017 before the tax came into effect.
“I think a lot of it was people bringing forward transactions to avoid the VAT, and January has been definitely a quieter month because of that,” he said.
No plans to raise UAE VAT Rate in next 5 Years: UAE Minister
The UAE’s government has no plans to raise the rate of value-added tax (VAT) or excise tax in the near future, according to Minister of State for Financial Affairs Obaid Al Tayer.
“If you’re referring to the next five years, we don’t see anything [about] increasing the VAT rate of the excise tax,” Al Tayer told reporters at the Arab Fiscal Forum.
“I also want to confirm that there aren’t any subsidies or any legislation or any legislation regarding introducing income tax.”
However, Al Tayer noted that the UAE is in “the early stages” of studying the framework needed to implement corporate tax.
In a January note, S&P Global Ratings said it believed some GCC countries may double the rate of VAT to 10 percent to account for the difference between “statutory and effective tax rates”, which in turn would raise government revenues, on average, by between 1.7 and 2 percent of GDP.
Speaking at the forum, International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde said that the implementation of VAT “is an important step toward diversifying revenue and building tax capacity.”
“There is of course scope to do more as domestic revenues are very low, averaging only 10 percent of GDP,” she added. “This must be done with equity and fairness in mind, both of which are conditions for the acceptability of taxation.”