UAE Free Zones – A Relaxed Tax Regime

by Sean Bryant on October 24, 2012

Thousands of foreign-owned companies, lots of them from the United States, are benefiting right now from the easy regulation and relaxed tax regime surrounding the dozens of free zones which have been set up in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over recent years. A highly developed business banking sector, driven by multinationals with a long history of involvement in the UAE and the wider Middle East, is helping many of these companies to grow and to take advantage of the guilt-edged opportunities presented by emerging markets in the region. Such a symbiotic relationship is not only a winning one for the companies and the banks concerned, it also assists the UAE in terms of revenue generation, employment and improvement of the country’s skills base.

Corporate bank accounts come in all sorts of shapes and flavours to fit in with the needs of both the small and not-so-small business. It’s the same whether the business is based in the UAE or the United States. However, there’s one important proviso. Banks operating in a business’s sphere of operation are likely to be more highly tuned to local market conditions, regulations and opportunities. Hence, any business intelligence and advice provided by a local bank – and local is used in its widest possible sense – is always well worth considering and could make the difference in terms of a healthy bottom line. After all, there’s little profit to be had in unintentionally re-inventing the wheel! HSBC is one of the multinational banks with a track record second-to-none within the UAE and the wider Middle East. The bank is definitely worth checking out.

From payments and cash management services, loans, credit lines and insurance to the corporate credit card issued as part of your business account, running a company without the support of a good bank behind it could spell disaster, especially at times of seasonal fluctuation or business expansion which may leave you, not to mention any employees you may have, feeling vulnerable, exposed and out on a rather precarious limb! While not the answer to every worry or concern, a positive and strong working relationship with your bank will at the very least boost business confidence. And let’s face it, that’s surely half the battle won.

Finally, it would be well worth spelling out the benefits of expanding or setting up a new business within one of the free zones in the UAE. If we take the excellent location of the country as a given, the other advantages are many-fold, with 100% foreign ownership perhaps the most important. However, if you want to market products and services directly to the local market, you’ll have to partner with a UAE national. Even then, under the rules, you can only own up to 49% of any such business. The UAE national must own a 51% stake.

Other free zone benefits include: zero corporate and personal tax liability; repatriation of capital and income allowed; negligible import and export duties; no currency restrictions; quick company formation; competitive energy costs; and large labour recruitment pool with little or no restrictions.

Thousands of expatriates, from the United States and across the world, have successfully set up all manner of businesses in the UAE. So why don’t you join them?

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Sean Bryant

Sean Bryant created OneSmartDollar.com in 2011 to help pass along his knowledge of finance and economics to others. After graduating from the University of Iowa with a degree in economics he worked as a construction superintendent before jumping into the world of finance. Sean has worked on the trade desk for a commodities brokerage firm, he was a project manager for an investment research company and was a CDO analyst at a big bank. That being said he brings a good understanding of the finance field to the One Smart Dollar community. When not working Sean and he wife are avid world travelers. He enjoys spending time with his daughter Colette and dog Charlie.

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