On 9 October 2023, the UAE Federal Tax Authority (FTA) released a Corporate Tax Guide for Non-Resident Persons.
In this document, the UAE FTA provides general guidance to natural persons or juridical persons who are not considered Resident Persons for UAE Corporate Income Tax (CIT) purposes and who derive income from the UAE to help them understand whether they are subject to tax in the UAE as Non-Resident Persons.
The Corporate Tax Guide explains when a Non-Resident Person must register for UAE CIT purposes and which types of income are liable to UAE CIT.
Practical explanations and examples are also provided to help clarify key concepts such as “Permanent Establishment” (PE), “State Source Income”, and “Nexus in the UAE”.
Aurifer has singled out the 30 most relevant clarifications in the Corporate Guide for Non-Resident Persons.
Check out the 30 highlights extrapolated from the Corporate Tax Guide for Non-Resident Persons:
1. State Sourced Income vs. PE
State Sourced Income and income attributable to a PE in the UAE are not necessarily mutually exclusive. This is because State Sourced Income can be attributable to a PE.
2. State Sourced Income vs. UAE Nexus
State Sourced Income and income from a nexus in the UAE are not necessarily mutually exclusive. This is because State Sourced Income includes income from a nexus in the UAE.
3. Non-Resident Person and Small Business Relief
Small Business Relief under Article 21 of UAE CIT Law (Federal Decree-Law No. 47 of 2022 on the Taxation of Corporations and Businesses) is only available to Resident Persons. Instead, Non-Resident Persons are not eligible for Small Business Relief under UAE CIT Law.
4. UAE CIT Residence and Double Tax Treaties
Being a Resident Person under UAE CIT Law does not automatically mean that a Resident Person is also a UAE tax resident where a double tax treaty (DTT) between the UAE and a foreign country applies. This is the case of an individual spending less than 183 days in the UAE in a calendar year where the relevant DTT requires physical presence of at least 183 days for an individual to be considered a resident in a Contracting State.
5. Irrelevant Factors for PE Purposes
The determination of whether a Non-Resident Person has a PE in the UAE cannot only be based on the following factors:
6. Fixed Place of Business for PE Purposes
A fixed place of business does not have to be actually fixed to the soil if there is a clear link between the place of business and a specific geographical location in the UAE. For example, a floating restaurant, attached to a hot air balloon and supported by a crane that makes the restaurant mobile, is a fixed place of business and may constitute a PE for a Non-Resident Person.
7. Multiple Locations for PE Purposes
If part of a cohesive project, business activities such as construction/installation projects performed at various locations can constitute a fixed place of business and therefore a PE for a Non-Resident Person.
8. Premises at Disposal for PE Purposes
A Non-Resident Company has a PE in the UAE if its employees in the UAE have relatively free access to a client’s premises through long-term access cards or desk assignments over an extended period.
9. Hotel Rooms and PE
A Non-Resident Company has a PE in the UAE if its employees work from hotel rooms and the company does not have formal office space in the UAE since the hotel premises are essential at their disposal.
10. Home Office PE
A Non-Resident Company does not have a PE in the UAE if its employees work from home occasionally. This applies even if the company provides its employees with a laptop and other connectivity instruments such as a data card or remote connectivity, where, among other things, home office is merely an option given by the company to its employees.
11. Manager Travelling to the UAE for Meetings
A manager of a foreign company, authorized to make management decisions, on a business trip to the UAE to meet some clients and discuss potential business opportunities does not necessarily create a fixed PE if his duties do not relate to the day-to-day management of the foreign company.
12. Land in the UAE and PE
A foreign company, providing engineering/consulting services, which acquires and leases real estate in the UAE to an unrelated event management company to organize various conferences, does not have a PE in the UAE. However, the foreign company would have a nexus in the UAE and hence would be subject to UAE CIT on the taxable income attributable to the immovable property.
13. Exploration/Extraction Activities and PE
Exploration and extraction activities can constitute a fixed PE for a Non-Resident Person. Exploration activities include the case of vessels used for the prospection of natural resources offshore and the extraction of natural resources through a mine, oil or gas well, quarry, or any other place of extraction. Extraction activities must be interpreted broadly to include, for example, all oil and gas extraction places, whether onshore or offshore.
14. Automatic Equipment and PE
A PE may also exist if the business of a Non-Resident Person is carried on mainly through automatic equipment, and the activities of the personnel are restricted to setting up, operating, controlling, and maintaining such equipment. Instead, a PE does not exist if the Non-Resident Person merely sets up the machines (e.g., gaming and vending machines) and then leases them to other enterprises.
15. Splitting of Contracts and Construction PE
A construction PE exists in the UAE also in case of splitting-up of contracts regarding a building site or a construction project, some or all of which are carried on for less than 6 months (also counting preparatory works) at different locations. This is the case of:
The General Anti-Abuse Rule under Article 50 of UAE CT Law (Federal Decree-Law No. 47 of 2022 on the Taxation of Corporations and Businesses) can address these splitting practices. No splitting-up of contracts occurs in the case of the execution of multiple and simultaneous contracts by a foreign company.
16. Storage/Delivery of Spare Parts
A foreign company maintaining a place of business in the UAE for storage and delivery of spare parts to its customers has a PE in the UAE if maintenance and repair of appliances is also offered at that location. This is because such an activity goes beyond solely storage and delivery, being a core activity for the foreign company.
17. Warehouse in the UAE
A foreign company maintaining a very large warehouse in the UAE for online selling of goods to UAE customers has a PE in the UAE. This is because the storage and delivery activities performed through the UAE warehouse represent an important part of the foreign company’s sale/distribution business.
18. Warehouse Operated by Logistics Company
A logistics company operating a warehouse in the UAE on behalf of a Non-Resident Person to which the logistics company is not related does not create a PE for the Non-Resident Person unless the latter has unlimited access to a separate part of the warehouse for the purposes of inspecting and maintaining the goods or merchandise stored therein.
19. Preparatory/Auxiliary Activities and Purchasing Office
A foreign company purchasing goods (e.g., cars and other vehicles) for clients through a purchasing office in the UAE has a PE in the UAE since the purchasing office represents an essential and significant part of the foreign company’s business, so these activities cannot be considered preparatory or auxiliary.
20. Preparatory/Auxiliary Activities Performed for a Third Party
Preparatory or auxiliary activities refer to activities carried on by an enterprise solely for itself (e.g., employee training). Instead, if a Non-Resident Person performs activities traditionally of a preparatory or auxiliary nature for another person (e.g., advertising for other persons), the same would constitute a PE for the Non-Resident Person as it is not solely conducting such activities for itself.
21. UAE Subsidiary as PE for the Parent
The existence of a subsidiary company in the UAE does not, by itself, create a PE of its foreign parent company since a subsidiary is an independent legal entity. Even though the business carried on by the subsidiary is managed/overseen by the parent company, that does not automatically imply that the subsidiary company is a PE of the parent company. Only when the subsidiary is acting as an agent or has been incorporated to artificially split/dissect cohesive business activities of the foreign parent may it constitute a PE.
22. Digital Nomad and PE
An individual working remotely (e.g., a “digital nomad”) from the UAE for a foreign employer does not create a PE for a Non-Resident Person if the individual performs activities that do not have a core role in the Non-Resident Person’s business. This is the case of activities performed by an internal accountant. However, if the activities performed by an individual have central importance in generating income for the Non-Resident Person, a fixed PE may exist.
23. Physical Presence in the UAE: Travel Restrictions
An individual does not create a PE for a Non-Resident if he is present in the UAE due to an unpredictable temporary and exceptional situation beyond his control (e.g., a pandemic), which occurred while the individual was already in the UAE. This clause does not apply if an individual travels to the UAE knowing that he would likely be unable to travel outside due to imminent travel restrictions.
24. Physical Presence in the UAE: Act of War
An individual does not create a PE for a Non-Resident if he is present in the UAE due to an unpredictable temporary and exceptional situation beyond his control (e.g., an act of war) that occurred while the individual was already in the UAE. This clause does not apply if an individual travels to the UAE because of a war commenced before the individual decided to travel in the UAE.
25. Agency PE: Company Representatives
An individual creates an agency PE for a Non-Resident Person if he regularly concludes contracts in the UAE on behalf of the Non-Resident Person or negotiates contracts in the UAE on its behalf and the Non-Resident Person concludes such contracts without any material modification to the terms of the contracts. This is not the case for representatives of a pharmaceutical company who actively promote medicines produced by that pharmaceutical company by contacting doctors in the UAE who subsequently prescribe these medicines to their patients.
26. Agency PE: Subsidiary
The activity of a subsidiary can give rise to an agency PE in the UAE for the parent company even though the subsidiary does not have the authority to conclude contracts on behalf of the parent company with UAE customers. This is the case of a distribution company working exclusively for a foreign pharmaceutical company to help it conclude contracts with potential customers in the UAE, even if the contracts are concluded and executed directly by the foreign company.
27. Agency PE: Independent Agent
A Non-Resident Person does not have an agency PE in the UAE if the person acting on behalf of the Non-Resident Person is an independent agent and performs activities for the Non-Resident Person in the ordinary course of business. This applies to a company acting as a distributor of goods/services of a foreign company that it procures on its own account from that company. In this case, the distributor is neither acting on behalf of the foreign company nor selling property that the foreign company owns, but the property sold to the end customers is owned by the distributor.
28. State Sourced Income: Income Generated Due to a Contract
UAE CiT applies to income accruing in, or derived from, the UAE (State Source Income). Income generated due to a contract is an example of State Source Income. This is the income earned by a foreign company that transfers the work of executing a contract to build a government facility in the UAE to another foreign company for a fee.
29. Nexus in the UAE: ATMs
UAE CIT is imposed on juridical Non-Resident Persons who have a nexus in the UAE. A juridical Non-Resident Person is considered to have a nexus in the UAE if it derives income from any immovable property in the UAE. This is the case of a foreign bank operating and maintaining ATMs in various malls, hotels, and movie theatres in the UAE, from which it earns service fees. The ATMs would also constitute a PE for the Non-Resident Person since they are used to carry on the foreign bank’s business in the UAE on a regular/recurrent basis.
30. Nexus in the UAE: Wind Turbines
UAE CIT is imposed on juridical Non-Resident Persons who have a nexus in the UAE. A juridical Non-Resident Person is considered to have a nexus in the UAE if it derives income from any immovable property in the UAE. This is the case of a company installing a wind turbine fixed on the seabed in a location that falls within the UAE’s territorial waters and deriving income from the power generated by the turbine. The wind turbines would also be considered to have a PE for the Non-Resident Person since they would be regarded as an installation to exploit renewable energy.
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