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corporate tax in UAE

Applicability of UAE Corporate Tax regime to Free Zone Entities

Following is the possible applicability of the UAE Corporate Tax Regime to the entities or businesses in the Free Zones in UAE. This is not the final law released by the Ministry of Finance, however this is extracted from the Public Consultation Document on UAE Corporate Tax by the Ministry of Finance, UAE and this needs to be re-confirmed with the final law to be issued by the Ministry before taking any decision.


Free Zones are an important part of the UAE economy and have been central to achieving the country’s aim of encouraging foreign direct investment and enhancing the ease of doing business.


Whilst companies and branches that are registered in a Free Zone (hereafter referred to as “Free Zone Persons”) will be within the scope of the UAE CT and subject to tax return filing requirements, the UAE CT regime will honour the tax incentives currently being offered to Free Zone Persons that maintain adequate substance and comply with all regulatory requirements.


In line with the original intention and purpose of Free Zones, a Free Zone Person can benefit from a 0% CT rate on income earned from transactions with businesses located outside of the UAE, or from trading with businesses located in the same of any other Free Zone. The 0% CT rate may also apply to income from certain regulated financial services directed at foreign markets.


A Free Zone Person that has a branch in mainland UAE will be taxed at the regular CT rate on its mainland sourced income, whilst continuing to benefit from the 0% CT rate on its other income.


Where a Free Zone Person transacts with mainland UAE but does not have a mainland branch, the Free Zone Person can continue to benefit from the 0% CT rate if its income from mainland UAE is limited to ‘passive’ income. This would include interest and royalties, and dividends and capital gains from owning shares in mainland UAE companies.


The UAE wishes to maintain its status as the leading regional hub and headquarter location and, therefore, the 0% CT regime will also apply to transactions between Free Zone Persons and their group companies located in mainland UAE. However, to ensure the CT neutrality of such transactions, payments made to the Free Zone Person by a mainland group company will not be a deductible expense.


Finally, a Free Zone Person located in a Designated Zone for Value Added Tax (VAT) purposes can benefit from the 0% CT rate on income from the sale of goods to UAE mainland businesses that are the importer of record of those goods.


To prevent Free Zone businesses from gaining an unfair competitive advantage compared to businesses established in mainland UAE, any other mainland sourced income will disqualify a Free Zone Person from the 0% CT regime in respect of all their income.


A Free Zone Person will at any point in time be able to make an irrevocable election to be subject to the regular CT rate.


Where a Free Zone Person benefits from the 0% CT regime in respect of mainland sourced income, such income will be within the scope of withholding tax (to be applied at 0%).


Reach out to Spectrum Auditing for further details. Call us today for any kind of assistance at +971 4 2699329 or email [email protected] to get all your queries addressed. Spectrum is your partner in your success.



Balaram Vuchidi

Managing Director
+971 50 9866 466
[email protected]
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