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Starting a business in the UAE can take several different forms. The process of company formation differs according to which emirate you choose to set up in.

The advantages of setting up in the UAE are numerous. Most businesses do not pay direct taxes on corporate profits or personal income and customs duties stand at four per cent, with many exemptions.

What’s more, there are no foreign exchange controls, trade quotas and the dollar is pegged to the UAE dirham.

Costs in other key areas such as import duties, labour, energy, and financing are also highly competitive.

The UAE is privy to an extensive foreign trade network, giving investors access to global marketing outlets for their goods and services. Dubai is also a major re-export hub for the region.

UAE company advantages

  • 100 per cent foreign ownership
  • Banking confidentiality guaranteed by law
  • No public registry
  • 100 per cent exemption from corporate and income taxes
  • Zero foreign currency restrictions
  • Full repatriation of company profits and capital
  • Low set-up costs compared to onshore companies
  • No physical office requirements, so no employee or labour-related costs
  • No share capital requirement
  • Ability for offshore company to act as a holding company

The UAE federal government oversees the entire country, but each of the seven individual emirates also has its own laws and regulations in place related to company incorporation and financial oversight.

There are also three company set up options:

  • In a free zone, where no local partner is required
  • As an offshore business
  • As a wholly local business outside of a free zone, which requires a local sponsor agreement

All business owners looking to secure a trade licence are also required to declare their core services and the nature of their business. This is an extremely important decision, as once formally established, the company is not allowed to perform any other service outside of the agreed scope of services.