UAE Company Setup Q&As

What is the corporate tax rate in the UAE?

The corporate tax rate for businesses in the UAE is zero. The only exceptions to this rule are oil, gas and petrochemical companies and branch offices of foreign banks. In these instances, tax is levied on a sliding scale up to 55%.

What is the personal tax rate in the UAE?

The personal tax rate in the UAE is zero. No tax is levied on any personal income.

Are any taxes payable in the UAE?

There are two notable taxes payable in the UAE. 1) Customs tax is payable on goods coming into the Emirates and is levied at a standard rate of 5%. Tobacco and alcohol are subject to a higher rate, while other goods are entirely exempt. Free zone businesses are also usually 100% exempt from paying customs tax. 2) VAT is levied in the UAE at a flat 5% on most goods and services, with the exception of exports outside the GCC and a few other goods and services such as education and medical equipment.

How long does it take to establish a business in the UAE mainland?

Providing you experience no delays to your application, it is usually possible to establish a UAE mainland business in a matter of weeks.

How long does it take to establish a business in a UAE free zone?

It may be possible to register a free zone business within a week. This process may take longer depending on the nature of your business.

How do I choose my UAE company name?

There are several naming conventions that will impact your choice of UAE company name. In short, you cannot include location identifiers such as Dubai, UAE, or even Global. Your trading name must also not include obscene or indecent words or any words relating to God, in either English or Arabic. If you wish to name your company after yourself, you must include both your first name and your family name. You must also check that your chosen company name has not been registered by anyone else.

How do I set up a UAE free zone business?

The easiest way to establish a free zone business is to work with a company formation specialist. A company formation specialist can manage your free zone application for you, including visa applications, liaising with all relevant authorities to ensure the process runs smoothly.

How do I set up in the UAE mainland?

There are two ways to set up on the UAE mainland. You can register directly with the Department of Economic Development and apply for your licence online. Alternatively, you can work with a company formation specialist who can manage your application for you.

What are the benefits of setting up in a free zone?

There are many benefits to setting up in a UAE free zone. As well as 0% corporate and personal tax, you will also benefit from import and export tax exemption, the ability to own 100% of your company and to repatriate 100% of your profits.

What are the benefits of setting up in the mainland?

The main benefit of establishing a UAE mainland business is the ability to trade directly within the UAE market – something which is not possible with a free zone setup. Mainland businesses are also able to take on government contracts.

Do I need to work with a local partner to start a UAE business?

If you wish to set up in the UAE mainland you are required to do so with a local partner. The only exception to this rule are professional services businesses which can be owned 100% by foreign nationals. The local partner must be an Emirati national and will hold a 51% stake in your business. Local partners are paid a fee for their services and you are usually able to retain 100% of your profits.

How do I find a local partner in the UAE?

A company formation specialist can help you find a local partner should you need one.

Can I own 100% of my UAE business?

There are a number of ways to maintain 100% ownership of your UAE business. Setting up in a free zone is the easiest way to do this. It is also possible to own 100% of a mainland professional services company. 

Does a local partner have a controlling stake in my UAE company?

Technically yes. Your local partner must hold a 51% stake in your business. However, profits are not split down these lines and local partners play no role in decision making.

How do I apply for a UAE residence visa?

There are several ways to apply for your UAE residence permit. You can apply online via the eChannels portal, the website of the Ministry of Interior or the website of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) of your chosen Emirate.

Can I apply for visas for my family and staff?

Yes. Whether you set up in a free zone or in the UAE mainland, it is possible to apply for visas for your dependants and for domestic staff. The number of visas you can apply for will depend on where you set up, the nature of your business and the size of your company premises.

How do I open a corporate bank account in the UAE?

Once you have your UAE business licence you can apply to open a corporate bank account. Some banks allow you to do this online though it is advisable to visit a branch in person to discuss your needs. A business formation specialist can advise on this process and arrange meetings with appropriate financial institutions if you wish.

How do I apply for a UAE business licence?

There are two ways to apply for a UAE business licence. You can either apply directly to the Department of Economic Development or Municipality of your chosen Emirate, or apply via a free zone. In either case, it is advisable to work with a company formation specialist when making your application to ensure the process runs smoothly.

How do I choose my UAE business activity?

There are thousands of permitted business activities to choose from in the UAE. The one best suited to you will depend entirely on the nature of your business. It is also possible to combine more than one business activity under a single licence. A business formation specialist can help you pick the most relevant business activity for your company.

What licence types are available in the UAE?

There are three main types of UAE business licence:

 Professional: This includes all professional services such as consultancy.
 Commercial: This covers all types of trading activities.
 Industrial: Covering all industrial and manufacturing activities.