|Dubai Company Formation -Company Formation United Arab Emirates|
Dubai Company Formation -Company Formation United Arab Emirates
Dubai has a unique set of selling propositions, namely:
Dubai/UAE has double taxation agreements = DTA with most other countries. EU freedom of establishment is not applicable. For approval of the permanent establishment according to tax laws, a commercially equipped business operation must be installed in Dubai/UAE, and active business must be transacted in UAE/Dubai.
Since only oil companies and banks are subject to taxation in the UAE/Dubai, and any other companies do not pay any taxes, this results in interesting opportunities for investment in Dubai/UAE. In order to be able to use the tax advantages, a permanent establishment according to DTA must be installed in Dubai. On the one hand, a Dubai company is no offshore company in this sense, since the UAE/Dubai also maintain double taxation agreements with many countries – including Sweden and Denmark – but on the other hand, the EU freedom of establishment is not applicable. Therefore, the following prerequisites for approval of a permanent establishment according to tax laws in Dubai must be met:
Under the stated conditions, for example the Swedish could be a majority shareholder of the Dubai company, but nevertheless Dubai/UAE has the sole right of taxation, provided that the Articles of Association state that all relevant decisions are made at the shareholders’ meetings, which exclusively take place in Dubai, at which the Swedish shareholder must be present. However, the UAE company law stipulates that 51% of the company shares must be held by persons resident in Dubai. As a rule, the founder will use a “sponsor”. This requirement may be omitted in case of company formations in the free zones. In the free zones, 100 % of the shareholders may be foreigners.
The basic requirement for all business activity in Dubai is one of the following three categories of licence:
These licences are all issued by the Dubai Economic Department. However, licences for some categories of business require approval from certain ministries and other authorities: for example, banks and financial institutions from the Central Bank of the UAE; insurance companies and related agencies from the Ministry of Economy and Commerce; manufacturing from the Ministry of Finance and Industry; and pharmaceutical and medical products from the Ministry of Health.
More detailed procedures apply to businesses engaged in oil or gas production and related industries.
Practising some trade activities (e.g. jewellery and insurance) requires the submission of a financial guarantee issued by a bank operating in Dubai.
In general, all commercial and industrial businesses in Dubai should be registered with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Fifty-one per cent participation by UAE nationals is the general requirement for all Dubai-established companies except:
In the past, each emirate followed its own procedures governing the operations of foreign business interests. In practice, however, Dubai and the other emirates followed the same general system, whereby foreign companies operated in one of three ways: with a local sponsor, through a partnership with a UAE national or company, or through a private limited company or public shareholding company incorporated by Ruler's decree.
Since 1984, steps have been taken to introduce a codified companies law applicable throughout the UAE. Federal Law No. 8 of 1984, as amended by Federal Law No. 13 of 1988 - the "Commercial Companies Law" - and its by-laws have been issued. In broad terms the provisions of the Law are as follows:
The Federal Law stipulates a total local equity of not less than 51% in any commercial company and defines seven categories of business organisation which can be established in the UAE. It sets out the requirements in terms of shareholders, directors, minimum capital levels and incorporation procedures. It further lays down provisions governing conversion, merger and dissolution of companies.
The seven categories of business organisation defined by the law are:
Joint Venture Company
A joint venture is a contractual agreement between a foreign party and a local party licensed to engage in the desired activity. The local equity participation in the joint venture must be at least 51%, but the profit and loss distribution can be prescribed. There is no need to license the joint venture or publish the agreement. The foreign partner deals with third parties under the name of the local partner who - unless the agreement is publicised - bears all liability.
In practice, joint ventures are seen as offering a suitable structure for companies working together on specific projects.
Public and Private Shareholding companies
The law stipulates that companies engaging in banking, insurance, or financial activities should be run as public shareholding companies. Foreign banks, insurance and financial companies, however, can establish a presence in Dubai by opening a branch or representative office.
Shareholding companies are suitable primarily for large projects or operations, since the minimum capital required is Dh. 10 million (US$ 2.725 million) for a public company, and Dh. 2 million (US$ 0.545 million) for a private shareholding company. The chairman and a majority of directors must be UAE nationals and there is less flexibility of profit distribution than is permissible in the case of limited liability companies.
Limited Liability Company
A limited liability company can be formed by a minimum of two and a maximum of 50 persons whose liability is limited to their shares in the company's capital. Such companies are recognised as offering a suitable structure for organisations interested in developing a long term relationship in the local market.
In Dubai, the minimum capital is currently Dh. 300,000 (US$ 82,000), contributed in cash or in kind. While foreign equity in the company may not exceed 49%, profit and loss distribution can be prescribed. Responsibility for the management of a limited liability company can be vested in the foreign or national partners or a third party.
The following steps are required in establishing a limited liability company in Dubai:
Branches and Representative Offices
The Commercial Companies Law also covers the formation and regulation of branches and representative offices of foreign companies in the UAE and stipulates that they may be 100% foreign owned, provided a local agent is appointed.
Only UAE nationals or companies 100% owned by UAE nationals may be appointed as local agents (which should not be confused with the term "commercial agent"). Local agents -- also sometimes referred to as sponsors -- are not involved in the operations of the company but assist in obtaining visas, labour cards, etc and are paid a lump sum and/or a percentage of profits or turnover. In general, branches and offices of foreign commercial companies are not licensed to engage in importing activity except for re-export or in the case of products of a highly technical nature.
To establish a branch or representative office in Dubai, a foreign commercial company should proceed as follows:
Branches and Representative Offices of Foreign Professional Companies
Branches and representative offices of foreign professional firms may be 100% foreign owned provided UAE nationals or 100% UAE owned companies are appointed as local agents. Such agents are not involved in the operations of the firm but assist in obtaining visas, labour cards etc and are paid a lump sum as remuneration. The Economic Department is the authority in charge of licensing such branches or representational offices.
In setting up a professional firm, 100% foreign ownership, sole proprietorships or civil companies are permitted. Such firms may engage in professional or artisan activities but the number of staff members that may be employed is limited. A UAE national must be appointed as local service agent, but he has no direct involvement in the business and is paid a lump sum and/or percentage of profits or turnover. The role of the local service agent is to assist in obtaining licences, visas, labour cards, etc.
Offshore-Companies in the United Arab Emirates
Since the year 2003 the United Arab Emirates allow the
formation of offshore companies in the Jebel Ali Freezone in Dubai. With
this step Dubai is positioning itself as a regional alternative among
the worldwide network of offshore locations such as Liechtenstein,
Madeira, Malta and the Canal Islands.
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