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Foreign Company Tax Registration in UAE

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Starting a business in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as a foreign company brings huge opportunities. But, it also brings important legal duties. One of the first rules is to get your Tax Registration Number (TRN) for corporate tax. You must do this within 30 days of starting.

Failing to register on time, can lead to steep penalties from the Federal Tax Authority (FTA). So, it is crucial to get your TRN as soon as you begin earning income in the UAE.

This comprehensive guide takes you through the tax registration process in easy-to-understand steps. Are you setting up a new company or expanding an existing one to the UAE? If so, following this advice will help you register smoothly.

Do You Need to Register for Corporate Tax in the UAE?

Before going through the registration process, let’s clearly understand:

What types of foreign companies require tax registration in the UAE?

Any foreign company must register for corporate tax. They must do this if they earn income from any commercial activity in the UAE.

Do you have a physical office, shop, or employees in the UAE? Or do you do all transactions online, remotely, or just temporarily in the country? As long as your company derives income from the UAE, you need to register.

Here are some examples of foreign companies that need a TRN:

  • Overseas retail companies have stores or franchises in the UAE. They sell products and earn revenue from local operations.
  • Ecommerce firms ship products to customers in the UAE. They do this from either overseas or local warehouses. Their income from UAE sales makes them liable for tax.
  • If they work in IT, software, digital marketing, consulting, or recruitment. They have clients, contracts, or projects in the UAE. Their fees and commissions are considered UAE-source income.
  • Manufacturers supply products to importers or distributors. These products eventually reach the UAE market. The revenue earned from such supply arrangements must be registered.
  • Any company that has licensed its technology, products, F&B recipes, or other IP to businesses in the UAE. The licensing fees and royalties are taxable income.
  • Constructing a temporary pavilion or installation for a UAE exhibition or event. The income is considered UAE-source.

In essence, even one-off or short transactions with no physical presence count. They need registration if they result in UAE income.

When does the 30-day registration deadline start?

Foreign companies have 30 days to register for tax. The countdown starts from their first transaction or income from the UAE.

For instance, the deadline would start from the:

  • First sale to a customer located in the UAE
  • Date of signing a service contract with a UAE client
  • Effective date of an IP licensing agreement for the UAE market
  • Launch date of a company website targeting customers in the UAE
  • Start date of providing digital marketing services to UAE brands

Missing the 30-day deadline can lead to non-compliance penalties of up to AED 375,000. So it is critical to register on time.

This sets the stage for timely tax registration. Let’s now see the step-by-step process:

Step-by-Step Process for Corporate Tax Registration

Follow these key steps. They will help you register your foreign company with the Federal Tax Authority (FTA).

Image depicting a step-by-step process for corporate tax registration in the UAE

Step 1: Documents Required for Registration

Keep these documents ready before starting the registration process on the FTA portal:

  • Copy of your overseas trade/company license
  • Certificate of Incorporation
  • Proof of address – lease agreement or utility bill for your offshore headquarters
  • Passport copy of company manager or director
  • NOC letter from tax authority in country of incorporation
  • Details like incorporation date, capital, activities, shareholders, etc.

Having all the documents in order in advance prevents hassles later.

Step 2: Fill the Tax Registration Form on the FTA Website

Go to the FTA website and access the Tax Registration Form. Fill in all the required information accurately including:

  • Full legal name as per incorporation certificate
  • Corporate address and contact details overseas
  • Business activities to be conducted in the UAE
  • Bank account details that will be used locally
  • Names and details of directors, shareholders, and managers
  • Contact person for tax matters
  • Description of your tax presence globally

Providing correct information avoids rejection and delays. Double check before submitting.

Step 3: Apply for Local Emirates ID of Foreign Company Manager

To complete tax registration, the manager or director named in your application must have a valid Emirates ID. Visit any Tas’heel service center with documents to submit an application.

Step 4: Make the Registration Fee Payment

Once your form is submitted, you need to pay the non-refundable tax registration fee of AED 2,000. This can be paid instantly online through the FTA website.

Step 5: Obtain your TRN

Typically within 10-15 days, the FTA will review your application. Once approved, your company’s Tax Registration Number (TRN) will be issued via email.

This step finishes the tax registration process for foreign companies in the UAE.

What Tax Obligations Apply Post Registration?

Once you receive your TRN, you need to meet the following ongoing tax rules in the UAE:

Quarterly Provisional Returns:

  • You must file an estimated provisional tax return every 3 months. You must use the required form and declare your revenues and taxes.
  • This helps the FTA monitor that you are accurately paying taxes on time.
  • Due dates for provisional tax returns are April 30, July 31, October 31, January 31.

Annual Final Tax Return:

  • Within 4 months after your financial year end, you must file a final tax return with your audited financial statements.
  • This declarers your total actual revenue earned from the UAE along with taxes owed for the year.
  • An auditor’s report must be included confirming the accuracy of the return.

Paying Taxes on Time:

  • Having a TRN allows you to pay VAT, excise tax, customs duties, corporate income tax, and any other taxes.
  • Tax payments should be made on the FTA portal on or before the due dates to avoid penalties.

Inform Changes in your Business:

Annual Renewal of TRN:

  • You must renew the tax registration each year. Do this by submitting a renewal form and paying the fee.

Your tax advisor can help manage these ongoing responsibilities smoothly.

Consequences of Not Registering for Tax

Tax administration is stringent in the UAE. Avoiding tax registration can backfire with harsh penalties.

Financial Penalties:

  • Fines can be up to AED 375,000 for non-compliance. The amount depends on how late you register after starting to earn income.
  • Additional 17% penalties on any taxes that went unpaid due to lack of registration.
  • There are daily penalties for other violations. These include not informing about business changes, inaccurate returns, and missed deadlines.

Business Disruption:

  • Your company’s bank accounts in the UAE may be suspended freezing access to capital.
  • Immigration sanctions may lead to an inability to process new visas or renew existing ones.
  • Your licenses and contracts may be suspended till compliance is met.
  • Transactions like importing, payments to suppliers, etc. will get blocked without a TRN.

Reputational Risks:

  • Being non-compliant can damage your brand’s image and credibility with UAE partners and clients.
  • Government blacklists of law-breaking companies may restrict you from tenders, contracts, collaborations etc.

It simply isn’t worth trying to avoid registration to lower taxes since consequences are severe. Timely compliance prevents issues.

Conclusion – Prepare for Smooth Sailing

As we’ve seen, registering for corporate tax as a foreign company in the UAE is mandatory upon earning ANY income from the country. By following the steps in this guide, you can ensure timely compliance.

Here are the key takeaways:

  • Determine your obligation to register within 30 days of first UAE income
  • Prepare all the required documents beforehand
  • Fill the form carefully and pay the registration fee
  • Obtain your TRN within approx. 2 weeks
  • Regularly fulfill post-registration tax obligations

Tax registration sets the strong foundation for your foreign company’s success and growth in the UAE in a legal, compliant manner. You can avoid penalties and operate smoothly.

We hope you found this detailed guide helpful for smoothly completing corporate tax registration in the UAE. Let us know if you have any other questions!

FAQs

Can I register without having a physical office in the UAE?

Yes, even foreign companies without an office must register if they earn any income from the UAE. Physical presence is not required.

How much is the registration fee?

The one-time registration fee is AED 2,000. It must be paid while submitting the application form.

Can I import goods to the UAE without registering for tax?

No. Clearing imported goods requires a valid TRN proving your tax registration.

Can I renew my Dubai work visa without registering for tax?

No, immigration will require your TRN to renew employment visas for staff every 2-3 years.

Can I correct errors in my registration later?

Yes, you can modify details later on the FTA portal or by email. But provide accurate information upfront to avoid delays.

Can my local partner or distributor register on my behalf?

No, the tax law requires foreign suppliers to register directly for activities earning UAE income. A local partner cannot register on your behalf.

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VIBHA MALIK MODI

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

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