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A Complete Guide to VAT on Entertainment Expenses in the UAE

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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) implemented Value Added Tax (VAT) on January 1, 2018 at a standard rate of 5%. This means most goods and services in the UAE now have a 5% tax added to them. Entertainment expenses are no exception.

What Qualifies as Entertainment Expenses?

Entertainment expenses refer to expenses incurred for leisure activities, entertainment events, shows, and personal enjoyment services. Some examples include:

  • Dining out at restaurants, cafés, etc.
  • Hotel accommodations
  • Health club, gym, spa and sports memberships
  • Movie, theatre, events tickets
  • Trips, tours, holiday packages
  • Sporting activities like golf, football, cricket
  • Amusement park and entertainment venue entries
  • Purchase of restricted media content
  • And more…

Essentially, if an expense is for personal leisure, enjoyment or recreational purposes, it falls under entertainment expenses.

VAT Rates Applicable on Entertainment Services

While the standard VAT rate in UAE is 5%, not all entertainment services attract this rate.

The following entertainment categories are exempt from VAT:

  • Public Transport: Buses, trains, taxis, shared rides, metros
  • Healthcare: Hospital, clinics, doctor fees
  • Education: School, university fees
  • Bank Charges: Fees on bank accounts

However, most other entertainment expenses are subject to the 5% VAT in UAE. This includes:

  • Restaurant dining
  • Hotel stays
  • Health club memberships
  • Event tickets
  • Trips and holiday packages

For example, if a meal costs AED 100 at a restaurant, the final bill with 5% VAT will become AED 105.

VAT Registration Threshold in UAE

Businesses and retailers with annual revenues greater than AED 375,000 must register for VAT in UAE. This is crucial for companies that incur high entertainment expenses to:

Charge 5% VAT to their customers

Claim input tax credit on VAT paid to suppliers

For instance, if a tour company pays AED 15,750 VAT on hotel rooms, they can claim back a portion of this by registering for VAT.

Recovery of VAT Paid on Entertainment

Based on usage, businesses can claim back part of the VAT paid on entertainment expenses:

  • 100% recovery if incurred fully for business purposes
  • 50% recovery if used partly for business and personal
  • 0% if used completely for non-business reasons

To claim input tax, original VAT invoices and records must be maintained as proof. All entertainment expense documents should clearly specify the VAT amount charged. Proper invoices validate input tax claims during VAT audits.

VAT Reporting Procedures

VAT registered entities must file mandatory VAT returns every 3 months or as required by the Federal Tax Authority (FTA) in UAE.

Returns must accurately capture:

  • VAT collected from customers
  • VAT paid on expenses
  • Net VAT owed to the government

All entertainment costs and input tax amounts should be tracked separately. Digital and physical records must be preserved for 5 years in case of a tax audit.

Impact of VAT on Entertainment Expenses

VAT on entertainment leads to more costs for consumers and businesses. Careful spending decisions, budgets and analysis help minimize unnecessary expenses.

Checking GCC VAT rates also helps – entertainment VAT varies across GCC states like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman. Prudent planning is key.


The standard 5% VAT rate applies on most entertainment goods and services in the UAE barring select exempt categories like public transport and education.

All businesses must register for VAT once revenues exceed the AED 375,000 per annum threshold. This allows them to claim back portions of input tax paid on entertainment expenses.

With the right knowledge and compliance, companies can optimize their VAT obligations. This ensures smooth operations and avoids penalties.


Which entertainment services are exempt from VAT?

Public transportation, healthcare, education and bank charges on accounts do not attract VAT.

What is the VAT registration limit?

Businesses with over AED 375,000 in annual revenues must register for VAT.



Ms. Vibha Modi, CA, is supported by 13+ Years of Corporate Tax, International Taxation and Accounting Expertise.

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