Mention in conversation the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the small Persian Gulf country of around 9 million people perched between giant neighbours Saudi Arabia to the west and south and Oman to the east, and you’ll likely think of Dubai, the dynamic city famed for its man-made islands, plush hotels and extraordinary shopping malls, where the tallest free-standing structure in the world, the incredible Burj Khalifa, climbs over 2,700 feet into the sky.
But maybe not. Instead you might be thinking of the country’s massive oil and gas wealth which bankrolled most of the glitz and glamour now on show to the world. Perhaps it’s the mouth-watering perks associated with setting up a business in one of the dozens of free zones scattered across the UAE that exercises the mind. Or could it be export financing and other useful services offered by a highly trusted banking sector peppered with familiar multinational names such as HSBC, Barclays, Citibank and others.
Whatever thoughts fill the mind, companies across the world are literally queuing up to set up in and take advantage of the UAE’s free zones. No wonder when the perks mentioned earlier are listed one on top of the other. Dubai-based law firm Helene Mathieu Legal Consultants says the advantages are:
- No personal income or capital gain taxes in the UAE
- 100% ownership of the business
- No corporate taxes for 50 years
- 100% repatriation of capital and profits
- Modern efficient communications
- No recruitment problems
- Attractive working environment
- No currency restrictions
- Excellent support services
But the advantages don’t stop there. There’s land as well as pre-built warehouse, factory and office accommodation units for lease if required. Add to that abundant and inexpensive energy and excellent transport links whether by air, land or sea.
Helene Mathieu Legal Consultants says, “There are a whole panoply of factors to consider when determining which free zone would be most appropriate for the establishment of a new business entity. These factors include, for example, location, infrastructure and facilities, licensing process of the proposed activity, and the prestige of a particular free zone.
“For example, in Dubai there are Jebel Ali Free Zone and Dubai Airport Free Zone which activities include import, export, manufacturing, processing, assembling, packaging, distribution, consolidation, storage and logistics. Dubai Healthcare City serves as a hub for healthcare-related businesses; Dubai Media City caters for broadcasting, advertising, and public relations; Dubai Internet City provides web-based services, IT support, and software development.”
But there a couple of points to bear in mind for those looking to deal directly with the UAE’s domestic market. Free zones are not considered to be a part of that in terms of business. So you’ll need to appoint a local dealer or agent who’ll trade with any local company on your behalf. That’s after you’ve paid the required customs duties, of course. And when it comes to hiring expatriate employees, as many foreign companies do, they’ll need to ensure workers apply for and acquire the necessary visas and permits.
And finally, the minimum cost of setting up a business in a free zone? Around $40,000, suggests Helene Mathieu Legal Consultants, but there’s a lot of variation depending on the type of business and its particular requirements.
For more information, check out the Helene Mathieu Legal Consultants website here.