UAE nears $1tn in non-oil foreign trade in 2023  

UAE nears $1tn in non-oil foreign trade in 2023  
UAE nears $1tn in non-oil foreign trade in 2023  

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Saudi Arabia offers 30-year tax exemption to MNCs moving regional HQs to Riyadh: official gazette 

RIYADH: Multinational companies relocating their regional headquarters to Saudi Arabia will enjoy a three-decade-long exemption from income tax, as per the official gazette. 

In December 2023, Saudi Arabia introduced a tax incentive initiative to attract foreign companies and encourage them to establish their regional hubs in the Kingdom, Umm Al-Qura reported. 

The Kingdom had previously announced that it would not award any deals to any foreign company or commercial entity with a Middle Eastern base outside Saudi Arabia starting from Jan.1, 2024. 

Over 200 international firms became eligible to procure government contracts in Saudi Arabia as they opened regional headquarters in Riyadh by the end of 2023.  

According to the Kingdom’s official gazette, eligible firms can take advantage of a 0 percent income tax rate for corporate entities and withholding taxes for a period of 30 years under this initiative. This benefit becomes immediately accessible upon obtaining their regional headquarters license. 

Furthermore, these companies will experience relaxed Saudization requirements and streamlined work permit provisions for the spouses of executives stationed at these regional headquarters. 

The tax regulations take effect immediately upon their official publication in the gazette, aligning with the existing tax and zakat regulations within Saudi Arabia, as indicated in the national classification of economic activities. 

Article 3 of the regulations outlines the tax incentives granted to regional headquarters that meet the qualification criteria set forth by the Ministry of Investment. These incentives include a 0 percent income tax rate on qualified income and a 0 percent withholding tax on various payments, provided the companies meet specific conditions, according to the Kingdom’s first Arabic-language daily newspaper. 

However, exemptions from withholding tax are not applicable under certain circumstances, such as non-approved activities or instances of tax avoidance outlined in the rules. 

According to Article 4, these tax incentives are granted for a period of 30 years to regional headquarters engaging in qualified activities, subject to renewal. The countdown for these incentives begins upon obtaining the regional headquarters license and ceases upon the expiration of the 30-year term or the cessation of regional headquarters operations. 

To ensure compliance, Article 5 stipulates several actual economic requirements for regional headquarters. These include possessing a valid license issued by the Ministry of Investment, maintaining appropriate assets and operational expenses in Saudi Arabia, and generating revenue from approved activities within the country. 

The regulations also mandate adherence to specific record-keeping and reporting procedures, with the Zakat, Tax, and Customs Authority responsible for monitoring and verifying compliance with these requirements. 

Failure to meet the economic requirements may result in penalties, fines, or even the suspension or cancellation of tax incentives, as outlined in Articles 11 and 12. 

Furthermore, the regulations affirm that regional headquarters are considered residents of Saudi Arabia for international treaty purposes, provided they meet residency criteria outlined in the Income Tax Law. 

These measures reflect Saudi Arabia’s concerted efforts to attract foreign investment and bolster its position as a regional business hub. 

Several international firms from various sectors, including energy, technology, health care and hospitality, have now established their headquarters in Riyadh.  

Some of the noted firms that relocated their headquarters to the Kingdom are Northern Trust, Bechtel and Pepsico from the US, and IHG Hotels and Resorts, PwC, and Deloitte from the UK. 

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