Finance and economy

This page explores aspects related to business, finance and economy in the UAE. It points out key entities responsible for issuing licences for starting businesses, availability of financial services and markets, banking and insurance services, taxes and duties levied and related laws including those relating to consumer protection.

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      i.        Commerce and industry


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According to the UAE Economic Report 2009 released by the UAE Ministry of Economy at the end of May 2010 the non-oil sector contributed 71.6 per cent, compared to 66.5 per cent in 2008, underscoring the success of the nation's economic diversification initiatives.

The UAE believes that fair and friendly economic policies are vital in the growth of its commerce and industry. The UAE’s Ministry of Economy envisions driving a diversified, competitive, knowledge economy strengthened and supported by national resources.

Federation of UAE, Chambers of Commerce and Industry was formed to encourage free trade. 


    ii.        Online payment

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Most federal ministries, entities and local government departments in the UAE have adopted electronic payment to enable customers to settle the fees of government services online on a 24/7 basis in a secure environment. There are many ePayment options for users to choose from. These include eDirham devised by the Ministry of Finance, credit cards and direct debit from bank accounts.



   iii.        Licences and permits

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There are three categories of licences for business activities in the UAE: Commercial Licences, Industrial Licences and Professional Licences. Most federal and local government entities in the UAE offer online permit and licence services.


Department of Economic Development in the Ministry of Economy issues licences and regulates all private businesses in the UAE. The UAE Government’s aim is to reduce paperwork and increase transparency in its functioning and policies to boost the private sector and further enrich the economy. The ministry’s online services with regard to registration, trademark, certificate of origin and other services take a step towards hassle-free formalities.


Abu Dhabi and Dubai Government portals offer detailed guidance on how to set up businesses in the emirates. You can also seek assistance from the local Chamber of Commerce or business councils in planning and setting up your business



   iv.        Taxation


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Income tax

The UAE does not levy income tax on individuals.


Corporate tax

There is no corporate tax either; except for oil companies and branches of foreign banks. The UAE has always been supportive of businesses; even those owned by expatriates.


The free zones further supported the businesses by adhering to unique laws regarding ownership, taxation and labour. Abu DhabiDubaiSharjahRas Al KhaimahAjman, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah, Governments have set up free zones that offer investors several benefits such as 100% ownership of the enterprise, 100 per cent repatriation of capital and profits, no minimum capital investment, no corporate or personal tax and no need for a local partner.



Currently, The UAE does not impose Value Added Tax (VAT).


Customs duty


Passengers travelling out of or entering the UAE with more than 100,000 AED in cash or other financial instruments will have to declare it at the customs.



When importing and exporting, some goods are exempt from duty. For example, if you invest in Abu Dhabi’s industrial sector, products manufactured within the industrial zones are excluded from tax when exported to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries as well as the signatory states of the Arab Free Trade Agreement and machineries and raw materials imported to the zones are excluded from taxes. Find out more by visiting the website of Federal Customs Authority.


Duty free shopping

You can enjoy the benefits of duty free shopping at Abu DhabiDubai and Sharjah airports. Read about the duty free allowances at:

Abu Dhabi airport

Dubai airport (PDF, 115 KB) (Read about the import definitions by the Dubai Customs)

Sharjah airport



Hotels, hotel apartments, resorts etc. in the UAE charge:

10 per cent tax on the room rate

10 per cent service charge on the room rate

City tax (ranging from 6 to 10 per cent)


From the year 2014, guests checking in at a hotel in Dubai are required to pay ‘Tourism Dirham Fee’ per room per night of occupancy (for a maximum of 30 consecutive nights). The fee ranges from 7 to 20 Dirhams depending on the category/grade of the hotel.


Double Taxation

The UAE has signed an agreement with several countries on the avoidance of double taxation. The UAE Ministry of Finance issues Tax Domicile Certificate to individuals and companies.


Useful links:

·         Working as an Expatriate in Abu Dhabi – Abu Dhabi government portal

·         Investing in Abu Dhabi’s industrial sector – Abu Dhabi government portal

·         Business laws in the UAE – Abu Dhabi government portal

·         Tax exemptions in UAE – Abu Dhabi government portal

·         Dubai economy – Dubai government portal

·         Why Dubai – Dubai government portal

·         Cost of setting up in Dubai – Dubai government portal

·         Economic history of Dubai – Department of Economic Development

·         Economic free zones in Dubai – Department of Economic Development


Customs authorities in the UAE:

·         General Directorate of Customs, Abu Dhabi

·         Dubai Customs

·         Department of Seaports and Customs, Sharjah  

·         Hutchison Ajman International Terminals

·         Customs Department, Ras Al Khaimah

·         Port of Fujairah



·         Regulation No. (2) of 2006 concerning the Municipality Fee on Sales of Hotel Establishments in the Emirate of Dubai (PDF, 1.85 MB) 

·         Executive Council Resolution No. (2) of 2014 approving the Tourism Dirham in the Emirate of Dubai (PDF, 372 KB) 

·         Executive Council Resolution No. (10) of 2014 amending the Executive Council Resolution No. (2) of 2014 approving the Tourism Dirham in the Emirate of Dubai (PDF, 308 KB)


    v.        Finance

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Financial and administrative system

The Ministry of Finance is responsible for implementing all fiscal, monetary and industrial policies related to UAE’s economic development. Its vision statement is ‘Global-leading Ministry in financial management, contributing in achieving a sustainable competitive environment’.


The UAE’s finance system largely rests on banking, foreign exchange and remittances, insurance and reinsurance and financial markets.



Central Bank regulates banking, foreign exchange and remittances in the UAE. Banking activities largely encompasses commercial banking and investment banking.


·         Links to commercial banks in the UAE 

·         List of locally established banks operating in the UAE (PDF, 10 KB)

·         List of foreign banks operating in the UAE (PDF, 10 KB)

·         List of investment banks(PDF, 16 KB)

·         List of institutions licensed to conduct banking, financial, investment, brokerage and money changing activities (PDF, 23 KB)

·         List of financial investment companies operating in the UAE (PDF, 19 KB)

·         List of money changers in UAE (PDF, 88 KB)

·         List of finance companies operating in the UAE (PDF, 73 KB)

·         List of financial & monetary intermediaries (PDF, 16 KB)

·         Links to banks' charges in the UAE


Read about banking guidelines in the UAE.

·         UAE Basel II-Guidelines for Banks

·         Revised Draft Corporate Governance Guidelines

·         Bank Provisions


Islamic banking

In October 2013, H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum launched a strategic plan for developing the Islamic economy sector. The plan includes 7 key pillars and 46 strategic initiatives. The pillars are aimed at making Dubai the global reference and hub for Islamic financing, the main platform for Islamic e-commerce and Islamic digital economy, the main centre and reference for knowledge, education, and research in all pillars of the Islamic economy, and the most reliable centre for Islamic economy standards and certification. One of the initiatives was to establish Dubai as the hub of Islamic banking centre.


Read about the importance of having an International Bank Account Number (IBAN).


Financial services

National bonds

Each National Bond is a saving certificate (mudaraba certificate). These saving certificates represent the pool of funds received from the Bond Holders and which are held by and invested and managed on their behalf by National Bonds Corporation PJSC, as the Mudareb, in accordance with the Islamic Shari'a.


Double taxation

Corporates and individuals can apply to the Ministry of Finance for availing Tax Domicile Certificate to avoid double taxation.


Value Added Tax (VAT) Certificate

Corporates and individuals can apply to the Ministry of Finance for Value Added Tax (VAT) Certificate to exempt them from value added tax in various countries, regardless of the existence of an agreement.


Financial transactions

The UAE has made financial transactions easier with eDirham G2 and Emirates ID card.

·         eDirham G2

The eDirham G2 from Ministry of Finance is a smart card that can be used to pay for governmental and non-governmental services electronically.


·         Emirates ID card

Banking authorities in the UAE have made it possible to withdraw cash from ATMs using the Emirates ID card. They are also working to double the Emirates ID card up as a prepaid card that could be used to pay utility bills and traffic fines and at third-party retail outlets. Master or Visa enabled eDirham cards could be used anywhere in the world to make any sort of online and direct payments. 



Insurance Authority regulates and supervises the insurance sector in the UAE in accordance with Federal Law No. 6 of 2007. Many companies provide Islamic insurance (Takaful) services.


Financial markets


The UAE established Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA) stating its purpose to be the achievement of the following objectives:

1.    To provide the opportunity to invest savings and funds in Securities and Commodities in a manner that serves the interest of the national economy, secures the integrity and accuracy of transactions, ensures interaction of the forces of supply and demand in order to determine prices and protection of investors by establishing the bases for sound and just dealings between the various investors


2.    To develop investment awareness by conducting studies and presenting recommendations


3.    To work to secure financial and economic stability


The index issued bearing the name of the Emirates Securities Market (ESM), also called the SCA index, is the official index of the UAE capital market. You can view the live market feeds on the SCA website.


Read more about the financial markets in the UAE.





UAE nationals working in government and private sectors are eligible for pensions and other retirement benefits after reaching the retirement age of 60 or serving a minimum 20 years in total.

General Authority for Pensions and Social Security manage pensions across the UAE.

In Abu Dhabi, the Abu Dhabi Retirement Pensions and Benefits Fund manage pensions.

Foreign workers are not entitled to pension but are entitled to end-of-service benefits also known as gratuity or severance pay. 

Read about services and information related to retirement and pension in Abu Dhabi

Read about services and information related to retirement and pension from government and private sector in Dubai. 

 Useful links:

·         Emirates Investment Authority

·         Department of Finance – Abu Dhabi emirate

·         Abu Dhabi Investment Council

·         Department of Finance – Dubai emirate

·         Investment Corporation of Dubai 

·         Sharjah Investment and Development Authority

·         Finance Department – Ras Al Khaimah emirate

·         Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority

·         Investment and Development Office – Ras Al Khaimah emirate

·         Finance Department – Fujairah emirate

·         Al Etihad Credit Bureau

·         UAE Banks’ Federation

·         Dealing with banks and obtaining loans in Dubai – Dubai government portal 

·         Retirement (for UAE Nationals) – Abu Dhabi government portal 

·         Financing your business – Dubai government portal


Laws and regulations:


Federal Law No. 10 of 1980 regarding the Central Bank, the monetary system and organisation of banking (PDF, 1.32 MB)

 Federal law No. 6 of 1985 regarding Islamic banks, financial institutions and investment companies (PDF, 115 KB)

Major selected circulars and notices issued by UAE Central Bank to all banks and financial institutions 


Loans and credit

Federal Law no. 6 of 2010 on credit information (PDF, 198 KB) 


Foreign exchange and remittances

·         Regulations regarding licensing and monitoring of exchange business – Central Bank 

·         Anti-Money Laundering and Suspicious Cases Unit (AMLSCU) – Central Bank 

·         Non-Financial Anti Money Laundering/Anti-Terrorist Financing (AML/CFT) Regulations – DIFC

·         Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Policy and Process – Dubai Multi Commodities Centre



·         Decisions, regulations and instructions– Insurance Authority


Financial markets

·         SCA Law and Functioning Regulation

·         Rules and Regulations – Securities and Commodities Authority   

·         Dubai Law No. 9 of 2004 in respect of DIFC (PDF, 9 MB)

·         Laws and regulations regarding DIFC

·         Rules and Regulations – Dubai Mercantile Exchange

·         Legal framework – Dubai Financial Services Authority

·         Decision No. (197/R) of 2006 concerning the fees prescribed for debt instruments and Islamic sukuk (PDF, 56 KB)

·         Rules and Regulations – Dubai Diamond Exchange





·         Forms for various eServices – Insurance Authority  

·         Insured services application forms – General Pension and Social Security Authority 



   vi.        Consumer Rights and protection

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The UAE Government passed Consumer Protection Law to safeguard consumer rights and interests. The consumer protection law prohibits unfair trade practices, curbs unreasonable market manipulation, bans sale of sub-standard, fake, expired products and monitors pricing amongst other necessary measures to ensure consumer confidence and create an atmosphere of transparency in the market.


H. H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, recently launched Customer Charter for Federal Government services. The charter enlists commitment of service providers and duties and responsibilities of consumers




  vii.        Businesses in the UAE

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The UAE is constantly working to improve its commercial transparency and introduce dynamic regulations that aid the formation of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and have the ability to react to global financial challenges.
Sheikh Mohammed Establishment for Small and Medium Enterprises provides advice and financial aid to young and enterprising Emiratis wishing to set up business in the UAE.
Department of Economic Development in the Ministry of Economy issues licences and regulates all private businesses in the UAE.  
Abu DhabiDubai, SharjahRas Al KhaimahAjman, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah governments have set up free zones. Free zones complement and contribute to the country’s growth and development. Their legal status is unique, as the companies operating within them are legally treated as foreign companies or companies operating outside the UAE. 
Free Zones offer investors several benefits such as 100% ownership of your enterprise, 100% repatriation of capital and profits, no minimum capital investment, no corporate or personal tax and no need for a local partner. Added to these advantages are ready-made offices, factories, warehouses and easy start-up and licensing procedures.

Ministry of Finance offers Suppliers Registration and eProcurement to boost transparency in awarding contracts and giving business to enterprises.  


Value Added Tax (VAT) 



The UAE is considering levying Value Added Tax (VAT) from January 2018. The rate of VAT is likely to be 5 per cent.


VAT will provide the UAE with a new source of income which will be continued to be utilised to provide high-quality public services. It will also help government move towards its vision of reducing dependence on oil and other hydrocarbons as a source of revenue.


Implication of VAT for individuals  

VAT, as a general consumption tax, will apply to the majority of transactions in goods and services. A limited number of reliefs may be granted.


As a result, the cost of living is likely to increase slightly, but this will vary depending on an individual’s lifestyle and spending behaviour. If an individual spends mainly on those things which are relieved from VAT, he is unlikely to see any significant increase.


The government will include rules that require businesses to be clear about how much VAT an individual is to pay for each transaction. He will have the required information to decide whether to buy something.


Implication of VAT for businesses

Businesses will be responsible for carefully documenting their business income, costs and associated VAT charges. Registered businesses and traders will charge VAT to all of their customers at the prevailing rate and incur VAT on goods/services that they buy from suppliers. The difference between these sums is reclaimed or paid to the government.


VAT-registered businesses generally:

  • must charge VAT on taxable goods or services they supply
  • may reclaim any VAT they have paid on business-related goods or services
  • keep a range of business records which will allow the government to check that they have got things right


VAT-registered businesses must report the amount of VAT they have charged and the amount of VAT they have paid to the government on a regular basis. It will be a formal submission and it is likely that the reporting will be done online.


If they have charged more VAT than they have paid, they have to pay the difference to the government. If they have paid more VAT than they have charged, they can reclaim the difference.



The UAE needs to coordinate VAT implementation with other GCC countries because she is connected with them through ‘The Economic Agreement between the GCC States’ and ‘The GCC Customs Union’. The GCC has always worked together in designing and implementing new public policies as such collaborative approach is best for the collective development of the region.


Read more about VAT on the website of Ministry of Finance.




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