1 General Questions on VAT
1.1 What is VAT?
Value Added Tax (or VAT) is an indirect tax, also referred as a type of general consumption tax, imposed on most supplies of goods and services that are bought and sold.
VAT is one of the most common types of consumption tax found around the world. Over 150 countries have implemented VAT (or its equivalent, Goods and Services Tax), including all 29 European Union (EU) members, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia.
VAT is charged at each step of the ‘supply chain’. Ultimate consumers generally bear the VAT cost while Businesses collect and account for the tax, in a way acting as a tax collector on behalf of the government.
A business pays the government the tax that it collects from the customers while it may also receive a refund from the government on tax that it has paid to its suppliers. The net result is that tax receipts to government reflect the ‘value add’ throughout the supply chain. To explain how VAT works we have provided a simple, illustrative example below (based on a VAT rate of 5%):
1.2 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.
1.5 Why does the UAE need to coordinate VAT implementation with other GCC countries?
The UAE is part of a group of countries which are closely connected through “The Economic Agreement Between the GCC States” and “The GCC Customs Union”. The GCC group of nations have historically worked together in designing and implementing new public policies as we recognize that such a collaborative approach is best for the region.
1.6 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%.
1.7 How will the government collect VAT?
Businesses will be responsible for carefully documenting their business income and costs and associated VAT charges. Registered businesses and traders will charge VAT to all of their customers at the prevailing rate and incur VAT on goods / services that they buy from suppliers. The difference between these sums is reclaimed or paid to the government.
1.8 Will VAT cover all products and services?
VAT, as a general consumption tax, will apply to the majority of transactions of goods and services unless specifically exempted or excepted by law.
1.9 Will the cost of living increase?
The cost of living is likely to increase slightly, but this will vary depending on the individual’s lifestyle and spending behaviour. If your spending is mainly on those things which are relieved from VAT, you are unlikely to see any significant increase.
1.10 What measures will the government take to ensure that businesses don’t use the VAT implementation as an excuse to increase prices?
VAT is intended to help improve the economic base of the country. Therefore, we will include rules that require businesses to be clear about how much VAT you are paying for each transaction. You will have the required information to decide whether to buy something or not.
2.1 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.
2.2 What are the VAT-related responsibilities of businesses?
All businesses in the UAE will need to record their financial transactions and ensure that their financial records are accurate and up to date. Businesses that meet the minimum annual turnover requirement (as evidenced by their financial records) will be required to register for VAT. Businesses that do not think that they should be VAT registered should maintain their financial records in any event, in case we need to establish whether they should be registered.
VAT-registered businesses generally:
If you’re a VAT-registered business you must report the amount of VAT you’ve charged and the amount of VAT you’ve paid to the government on a regular basis. It will be a formal submission and it is likely that the reporting will be made online. If you’ve charged more VAT than you’ve paid, you have to pay the difference to the government. If you’ve paid more VAT than you’ve charged, you can reclaim the difference.
2.3 What does a business need to do to prepare for VAT?
Concerned businesses will have time to prepare before VAT will come into effect in January 2018. During that time, businesses will need to meet requirements to fulfil their tax obligations. Businesses could start now so that they will be ready later. To fully comply with VAT, We believe that businesses may need to make some changes to their core operations, their financial management and book-keeping, their technology, and perhaps even their human resource mix (e.g., accountants and tax advisors). It is essential that businesses try to understand the implications of VAT now and once the legislation is issued make every effort to align their business model to government reporting and compliance requirements. We will provide businesses with guidance on how to fully comply with VAT once the legislation is issued. The final responsibility and accountability to comply with law is on the business.
2.4 When are businesses supposed to start registering for VAT?
VAT will come into force on 1 January 2018. Any business that is required to be registered for VAT and charge VAT from 1 January 2018 must be registered prior to that date.
To enable businesses to prepare for introduction of VAT and comply with this registration obligation on time, the electronic registrations is open now for VAT to ensure that there is no last minute rush from businesses to register for VAT before the deadline.
2.5 When are registered businesses required to file VAT returns?
Taxpayers must file VAT returns with the FTA on a regular basis (quarterly or for a shorter period, should the FTA decide so) within 28 days from the end of the tax period in accordance with the procedures specified in the VAT legislation. The Tax returns shall be filed online using eServices.
2.6 What kind of records are businesses required to maintain, and for how long?
Businesses will be required to keep records which will enable the Federal Tax Authority to identify the details of the business activities and review transactions. The specifics regarding the documents which will be required and the time period for keeping them will be stated in the relevant legislation.
2.7 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.
2.8 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).
2.9 Can businesses offset customs duty against VAT payments?
VAT shall be payable in addition to the custom duties paid by the importer of the goods and cannot be deducted. VAT shall be computed on the value that includes the customs duties.
2.10 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.
2.11 What sectors will be zero rated?
VAT will be charged at 0% in respect of the following main categories of supplies:
2.12 What sectors will be exempt?
The following categories of supplies will be exempt from VAT:
2.13 Will there be VAT grouping?
Businesses that satisfy certain requirements covered under the Legislation (such as being resident in the UAE and being related/associated parties) will be able to register as a VAT group. For some businesses, VAT grouping will be a useful tool that would simplify accounting for VAT.
2.14 Will there be bad debt relief?
VAT registered businesses will be able to reduce their output tax liability by the amount of VAT that relates to bad debt which has been written off by the VAT registered business. The legislation will include the conditions and limitations concerning the use of this relief.
2.15 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.
2.16 How will partial exemption work?
Where a VAT registered person incurs input tax on its business expenses, this input tax can be recovered in full if it relates to a taxable supply made, or intended to be made, by the registered person. In contrast, where the expense relates to a non-taxable supply (e.g. exempt supplies), the registered person may not recover the input tax paid.
In certain situations, an expense may relate to both taxable and non-taxable supplies made by the registered person (such as activities of the banking sector). In these circumstances, the registered person would need to apportion input tax between the taxable and non-taxable (exempt) supplies.
Businesses will be expected to use input tax (ratio of recoverable to total) as a basis for apportionment in the first instance although there will be the facility to use other methods where they are fair and agreed with the Federal Tax Authority.
2.17 What are the cases that would lead to the imposition of penalties?
Penalties will be imposed for non-compliance.
Examples of actions and omissions that may give raise to penalties include: