Illustration of a woman explaining the GCC Value Added Tax (VAT) Agreement.

What is the GCC Value Added Tax (VAT) Agreement?

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The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is an economic alliance between six countries – Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain. These countries came together in 2016 to sign a framework agreement for introducing value-added tax (VAT) across the region in a unified way. This has become known as the GCC VAT agreement.

Why Did GCC Countries Want a Shared VAT Agreement?

There were several motivating factors that led to the unified VAT deal:

Increase Government Revenues

VAT provides a way for GCC governments to collect tax revenue on goods and services sold in their countries. As oil revenue declines in the long run, new tax sources will be essential to fund public infrastructure projects and other government spending. VAT can generate billions in stable tax income.

Enable Smoother Trade Between Member Countries

Having an aligned VAT policy between all GCC countries allows goods, services, investments and more to flow across their borders without disruption. Rather than each country having drastically different tax regimes, the VAT deal enables freer trade and economic cooperation in the region.

Modernize Tax Systems

The GCC knew they would likely face budget deficits in the future as populations grow and oil reserves eventually decline. Implementing VAT is a way to get their tax collection systems upgraded to be equipped for the 21st century challenges ahead.

What Details Were Decided in The VAT Agreement?

On February 24, 2016, the GCC VAT Framework Agreement was approved with the following key pillars:

  • Standard VAT Rate Set – The standard rate of value added tax for all sectors was set at 5% across all GCC countries. Certain goods can be zero-rated or exempt.
  • Destination-Based Taxation – VAT is applied based on where the good or service ends up (the destination) rather than where it originated. This enables easier trade across GCC borders.
  • Unified Registration Requirement – Businesses must register for VAT if their annual turnover exceeds 375,000 AED (~100,000 USD) in most GCC countries. This threshold enables small business exceptions.
  • Agreed Administrative Procedures – Standard procedures for VAT returns, invoices, audits and more were decided. This enables consistent compliance across GCC members.

When Did VAT Go Into Effect Based on The GCC Agreement?

While the VAT agreement was made in 2016, additional time was required to legally implement this tax policy consistently across all member countries.
The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia led the charge by activating VAT on January 1, 2018. Other GCC countries soon followed suit with their own VAT roll-out before the end of 2018.

How Do Businesses Comply with VAT in GCC Countries?

Any business that exceeds the annual turnover threshold for mandatory VAT registration must comply with applicable regulations. Here is an overview of key compliance requirements:

VAT Registration

  • Register with tax authority to collect and report VAT
  • Charge 5% VAT on taxable goods & services
  • Issue valid VAT invoices to customers

Managing VAT Obligations

VAT Refunds

  • Recover VAT paid on business expenses
  • Carry forward excess input tax to next tax period

Frequently Asked Questions

Are all goods and services taxed at 5%?

No. Certain categories like basic food items or healthcare are zero-rated. Some sectors like financial services are exempt.

When do I need to file VAT returns?

Most companies file returns quarterly. Those with over 10 million AED in revenue file monthly returns.

Can I register voluntarily if under the threshold?

Yes, you can register even if below the 375,000 AED mandatory threshold to claim VAT refunds.


The GCC VAT agreement enabled member countries to consistently roll out value-added tax in 2018. Businesses operating there with taxable turnover over 375,000 AED must comply. Overall, this deal has bolstered economic ties between GCC countries and equipped their tax regimes for the 21st century.
I hope this expanded version better explains each key section related to the GCC VAT deal and provides more value to readers. Please let me know if you would like me to modify or add anything.



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

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