03 Nov, 2023

Navigating Tax Issues in the UAE as a Foreign Company: Key Challenges and Strategies



The business landscape in the UAE is full of opportunities, but it also comes with its own set of tax complexities. Foreign companies operating in the region must overcome several common tax issues, which requires a strategic approach and a deep understanding of local tax regulations.

Complex Legal Framework:

The UAE's tax laws can be complex, with multiple jurisdictions and free zones, each with its own set of regulations. It's important to have a thorough understanding of applicable laws and ensure compliance at various levels.

VAT Regulations: Federal Decree Law No. 18 of 2022

The introduction of Value Added Tax (VAT) in the UAE added a layer of complexity for businesses. Foreign companies should understand the nuances of VAT implementation, including registration, proper invoicing, and how it impacts pricing strategies.

Withholding Tax Challenges: 

Now, there is no withholding tax in the UAE for source taxation. This may be introduced in the future. That does make UAE an attractive jurisdiction for having subsidiaries and establishing an investment company.

Transfer Pricing Compliance: Ministerial Decision No. 97 of 2023

Ensuring compliance with transfer pricing regulations is vital. Companies engaged in intra-group transactions must establish and document appropriate pricing to align with international standards and local regulations.

Economic Substance Regulations: Cabinet Resolution no. 44 of 2020

To combat harmful tax evasions, UAE joined forces with OECD creating Economic Substance requirements for multinational companies dealing in money and leasing within the UAE. 

Customs Duties and Import Taxes:

Foreign companies engaged in import/export activities must navigate customs duties and import taxes. Understanding the classifications, exemptions, and duty rates is essential to manage costs effectively.


Successfully operating a business in the UAE demands a proactive approach to address common tax challenges. Foreign companies should invest in professional advice, stay updated on regulatory changes, and tailor their strategies to ensure seamless compliance and sustainable growth in this dynamic business landscape.

The UAE's dynamic business environment means that tax laws are subject to change. Staying up to date on regulatory changes is crucial for foreign companies to adapt their strategies and ensure continued compliance.