UAE corporate tax

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A Comprehensive Guide to UAE Corporate Tax

Taxes can be daunting; not paying taxes on time and the right amount can lead to severe penalties. 


Welcome to the world of UAE corporate tax, a topic that might sound daunting at first, but don’t worry, we’ve got your back! We’re here to break it down into bite-sized, easy-to-digest pieces, ensuring you get the full picture without the headache.


So, what’s the big deal about the UAE corporate tax? Until recently, the UAE was known as a tax-free haven, but things have changed a bit. Now, there’s a new kid on the block: corporate tax. But here’s the deal- it’s not as scary as it sounds, and you’ll want to know plenty of details, whether you’re running a business or just curious about how things work in the UAE.


In this blog, we’re going to guide you through the ins and outs of UAE corporate tax, from the basics of what it is and who needs to pay it to how to calculate it for your business. And we promise to keep things simple, straightforward, and as casual as a chat over a cup of Arabian coffee.

Introduction to UAE Corporate Tax Law

The UAE stands out as a hub of innovation and growth in the dynamic global business landscape. But even in the land of endless opportunities, taxes are a reality that businesses must navigate. The introduction of corporate tax in the UAE marks a significant shift, aligning the nation with global tax practices while offering a competitive edge.

What is UAE Corporate Tax?

Corporate tax, simply put, is a tax on the profits of corporations. This concept was introduced in the UAE to diversify the economy and meet international tax standards. The UAE Ministry of Finance (MoF) announced in January 2022 that it would introduce a federal corporate tax on business profits for the first time, effective for financial years starting on or after June 1, 2023. 


This new corporate tax UAE is part of the Ministry of Finance’s commitment to transparency and international tax standards.

Who is Affected?

The corporate tax applies to all businesses and commercial activities in the UAE, except for those involved in natural resource extraction, which remain subject to emirate-level taxation. 


Whether you’re a startup in a bustling city centre or a multinational in a free zone, understanding your tax obligations is crucial.

UAE Corporate Tax Law Qualifying Income and Entities

Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty: what income qualifies for corporate tax and who needs to pay it in the UAE? It’s simpler than you might think, so let’s break it down step by step.

What Counts as Taxable Income?

When discussing taxable income for UAE corporate tax, consider it your business’s yearly earnings after some adjustments. It’s like taking your company’s profit or loss and tweaking it according to specific rules.


Your company should always keep track of its earnings and report them. This is done by preparing financial statements. If you’re following international rules (IFRS) or simpler ones for smaller businesses (IFRS for SMEs), that’s great. But, if your business makes less than AED 3,000,000, you can just track cash coming in and out.


Not all money your business makes or loses gets counted the same way. Here’s a quick rundown:


  • Unrealised gains or losses, basically money you expect to make or lose but haven’t yet, can sometimes be left out, depending on your choice.
  • The money you make from dividends or moving assets around your group of companies is usually not taxed.
  • If you’re restructuring your business, some gains or losses from this process might not count.
  • There are certain expenses the law doesn’t let you deduct. Keep an eye on these.
  • When your business deals with related companies, make sure these transactions are at arm’s length, meaning they’re done as if they weren’t related.
  • If your business is part of a larger group, you might be able to share losses to reduce the total tax bill.

Special Consideration for Corporate Tax in the UAE Free Zone

In the UAE, Free Zone companies get a special deal on corporate tax. If they check all the right boxes, they enjoy a 0% rate on certain incomes. Let’s unpack what it takes to get this benefit and what it means:

Who Qualifies?

To be in the clear for this special 0% tax, a Free Zone company must:


  1. Really set up shop in a Free Zone with enough business activity.
  2. Earn an income that qualifies.
  3. Choose not to be taxed under the regular UAE corporate tax rules.
  4. Follow strict pricing rules for transactions between related companies.
  5. Keep audited financial records.

If you miss any of these, the company won’t qualify for the tax relief for 5 tax years.

What Counts as Qualifying Income?

Income from dealings with other Free Zone companies counts. But there’s a catch. If the income comes from certain activities the law doesn’t favour, the usual 9% tax applies.


If a Free Zone company does business directly in the UAE mainland or abroad through a permanent setup, that part of the profit gets taxed at 9%. This rule prevents companies from avoiding tax while operating outside Free Zones.

Avoiding Double Taxation

The UAE has treaties with other countries to prevent the same income from being taxed twice. If a Free Zone company makes money abroad, these treaties can help reduce the tax burden.

Real Estate in Free Zones

Not all income from real estate in Free Zones enjoys the 0% rate. Income from certain properties, like commercial ones dealing with non-Free Zone entities or from residential units, faces the 9% tax. Commercial property is real estate in a Free Zone used for business, not as a residence or hotel. 


In short, Free Zone companies can get a significant tax advantage but must play by the rules. From keeping proper records to earning the right kind of income, every detail matters for staying on the 0% side of corporate tax.

How to Calculate Corporate Tax in UAE?

Calculating corporate tax might seem complex, but with the right approach, it can be straightforward. Let’s walk through the process, step by step, to understand how UAE corporate tax is calculated.

Small Business Relief

You might catch a break if your business makes AED 3 million or less annually. Up until the end of 2026, qualifying small businesses can choose Small Business Relief. This means, for tax purposes, it’s like they made no taxable income at all. So, no corporate tax to pay. But you’ve got to meet certain conditions to get this perk.

Standard Calculation Without Relief

Not all businesses will fit into the small business category or might choose not to use the relief. Here’s how the tax adds up if you’re going the standard route:


  • The first AED 375,000 you make is tax-free. 
  • Anything over AED 375,000 is taxed at 9%.

A Quick Example

Imagine your business made AED 1 million in a year. Here’s how you’d figure out your tax:


  • AED 375,000 of your income isn’t taxed.
  • The remaining AED 625,000 (AED 1,000,000 minus AED 375,000) is taxed at 9%. So, 9% of AED 625,000 equals AED 56,250 in tax.

Add it all up, and your corporate tax in Dubai would be AED 56,250 for that year. Remember, any tax credits you have can lower this amount.


Staying on top of your corporate tax obligations is crucial in the UAE. If you’re late submitting your tax return, there’s an initial penalty of AED 1,000. This penalty increases by AED 1,000 for every month your submission is delayed, capping at AED 10,000. But it’s not just about being timely; it’s also about keeping accurate records. The law requires that all your financial records and information be updated. Failing to do so can cost you AED 10,000 for each infraction. 

How 6 Pence Helps

At 6 Pence, we understand the ins and outs of UAE corporate tax and beyond. We’re here to make things simpler for you. With our expertise, navigating the complexities of tax and employee management becomes a breeze. 


We offer various services tailored to support your business every step of the way. From staff outsourcing to payroll management, we’ve got you covered. Each service is designed to ease your business processes, ensuring compliance and efficiency.


We’re strategically located across the Middle East, with offices in Iraq, Bahrain, Oman, and Dubai. This means wherever you are in the region, we’re with you, ready to provide the support you need.


Interested in making your business operations smoother? Reach out to us. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is qualifying income in UAE corporate tax? 

Qualifying income refers to the earnings a business generates subject to corporate tax in the UAE. This typically includes profits from business operations, but exemptions may apply for certain incomes, such as those earned by companies in free zones under specific conditions.

Is business tax-free in UAE? 

Historically, the UAE was known for its tax-free business environment. However, with the introduction of corporate tax for financial years starting on or after June 1, 2023, businesses are required to pay tax on their profits. Nonetheless, personal income and certain other incomes remain tax-free.

Who pays corporate tax in UAE?

Corporate tax is paid by companies operating in the UAE on their taxable profits. This includes both local and foreign businesses. Certain sectors, like oil and gas extraction and other natural resource-related industries, may have different tax arrangements and are typically taxed at the emirate level.


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