Navigating 2024’s Corporate Tax Shifts: UAE Business Zones Demystified

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In 2024, corporate tax rules are changing for companies operating in special business areas of the UAE called “designated zones”. Major zones like JAFZA, DAFZA, and ADGM will charge a 9% tax on yearly profits over AED 375,000.

New 9% Tax Rate and Profit Thresholds

The UAE is introducing a 9% federal corporate tax from June 1st 2023. This means all eligible businesses in specified zones will start paying taxes on yearly profits over AED 375,000 from next year.
Here are the key details on the new corporate tax rate and thresholds:

Tax Percentage

  • 9% – Companies will pay 9 dirhams in tax for every 100 dirhams of profit

Profit Threshold

  • AED 375,000 – You only pay the 9% rate on any profit exceeding 375,000 dirhams per year

Taxable Profit

  • The 9% tax applies to your global profit, not just UAE revenue

“Businesses will need to carefully assess how the new 9% tax rate applies to their worldwide revenues and profit flows when budgeting for 2024 onwards.

For example:
If a business makes AED 500,000 worldwide profit a year, it crosses the AED 375,000 threshold. It would pay 9% tax on the amount over, which is 125,000 dirhams. So tax payable is 9% of 125,000 = AED 11,250 per year.
Understanding these profit thresholds correctly lets you properly estimate your tax liability coming soon.

Designated Zones Impacted

The new 9% corporate tax will apply to all eligible businesses that operate in UAE “designated zones” from June 2023.
But what are designated zones? These are special economic or free zones in the UAE governed by independent regulations.
Here are the major designated zones that will mandatorily apply the new tax rules from next year:

  • Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA)
  • Dubai Airport Free Zone (DAFZA)
  • Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC)
  • Dubai World Trade Center Authority (DWTCA)
  • Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM)

Notably, zones like DMCC, DHCC and several subzones within the above jurisdictions are excluded and not classified currently as designated zones.

However, companies in these zones may still fall under corporate tax if they meet other eligibility criteria.
The key trigger points are:
a) Having turnover over AED 375,000
b) Engaging in activities covered under the Commercial Companies Law
Use this table to check if your company could be impacted:

Designated Zones like JAFZA, DAFZAMandatory tax required
Mainland, Other Free ZonesOnly if turnover and activities meet threshold

“The complexity of exclusions and thresholds across different UAE zones will require careful analysis by companies to determine tax registration requirements” according to a joint statement by the Big 4 consulting firms.

Corporate Tax Timelines

With corporate tax taking effect from June 2023, here are the key timeline dates for companies in designated zones:

  • June 1st, 2023 – New corporate tax effective
  • December 31st, 2023 – First tax year closing
  • June 30th, 2024 – First tax return deadline
  • January 1st, 2025 – Transfer pricing rules introduced

To transition smoothly, businesses should:

  • Appoint tax accountants or advisors
  • Forecast tax liability impact
  • Assess structure changes
  • Update processes for compliance
  • Confirm tax registration and account setup

Missing key deadlines can risk penalties and interest charges. So closely tracking the timeline is essential.

5 Ways Corporate Tax Will Impact Businesses

Paying income taxes can significantly affect costs and operations for companies in designated zones.

1. Increased Financial Costs

With an extra 9% tax rate on profits over 375K AED, businesses will experience higher tax expenses impacting cash flow. Carefully budgeting for this is crucial.
As per estimates from consulting firm McKinsey, average tax costs could increase by AED 240,000 per year for a zone-based company generating AED 5 million in annual profits.

2. Structural Changes May Be Needed

Some firms may consider moving activities to other zones or mainland to optimize taxes. But changes can disrupt operations, so review carefully.
In a survey by HSBC, almost 34% of businesses said they are likely to alter corporate structure due to the new tax regime.

3. Investor Sentiment Could Be Impacted

Foreign investors into zones enjoy tax-free benefits right now. Adding tax could affect FDI flows, but the 9% rate still compares favorably globally.

4. Levels the Playing Field For Mainland Firms

Experts think that reducing tax advantages of zones could make mainland companies more competitive. But zones still offer other major incentives like 100% foreign ownership and repatriation of capital and profits.

5. More Resources Needed For Compliance

With tax filings, audits and other compliance aspects adding to administrative workload, companies must allocate appropriate staff and tools.
Failing to account for the tax changes in their business plans leaves firms at risk of financial penalties, disrupted operations and reduction in investor confidence.

How To Prepare Your Business for Corporate Tax

Here are 5 tips businesses in impacted zones should act on now:

1. Check your tax eligibility status

Confirm if your annual revenues and license type require mandatory registration under the new rules.

2. Estimate tax impact

Work with advisors to forecast additional tax costs based on prior financials and expected growth.

3. Review corporate structure

Assess if subsidiaries should be consolidated/relocated between zones/mainland.

4. Update processes

Implement software tools and accounting mechanisms to track data required for tax computations and filings.

5. Register with Federal Tax Authority

Apply for tax registration before June 2023 deadline to smoothly comply


Properly understanding how the new taxes apply can optimize financial outlay for companies.
In summary, corporate tax implementation requires detailed planning and preparation for smooth transition. Following the guidelines and advice here will enable businesses to adapt effectively.


Q: Will businesses in all UAE free zones need to pay the 9% tax?

A: No, only firms in the designated zones need to comply mandatorily.

Q: Can we move to a different free zone to lower tax impact?

A: Yes, but changes can be complex for larger companies. Do a cost-benefit analysis on relocation.

Q: Is corporate tax replacing VAT?

A: No. VAT and corporate tax are separate. Expect to comply with both from 2023.



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

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