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What is ESR in the UAE?

Home page » Blog, news, reviews about the UAE » What is ESR in the UAE?
Author of the article:
Anthony Bovkun
UAE Real Estate Specialist
Date:  29.01.2024
Reading time: 10 min.
Views:  38

In a modern business world where boundaries are blurring and economic principles are constantly evolving, understanding key regulatory requirements is critical to success. One of these requirements, which has become widespread in the UAE, is the ESR, or Economic Substance Regulations. This article is designed to give you a deep understanding of this important aspect of doing business in the UAE.

Let's start our journey around the ESR world in the UAE by immersing ourselves in its definition and purpose.

ESR (Economic Substance Regulations) and its purpose in the context of the UAE

The introduction of ESR in the UAE was part of a broader international movement to combat tax evasion and artificial tax structures. The UAE has been under pressure from the European Union and other international organizations to tighten its tax rules and make sure that companies registered in the country actually do business there.

The introduction of the ESR was an important step for the UAE in improving its relations with the European Union and other international organizations. This has helped the UAE remove itself from the EU's tax blacklist and strengthen its position as a reliable business partner on the international stage.

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The ESR, or Economic Substance Regulations, is a set of legal requirements introduced in the UAE in 2019. The purpose of these requirements is to ensure that companies registered in the UAE have a real economic presence in the country. This means that they must have actual operations, management, assets, personnel and documentation in the UAE.

Thus, ESRs are aimed at creating a transparent and fair tax regime in the UAE, preventing abuse and tax evasion. They also help strengthen the UAE's reputation as a jurisdiction that meets international standards in tax legislation.

Scope of ESR

ESRs apply to all companies registered in the UAE, including those located in Free Economic Zones (Free Zone) and offshore companies. However, there are certain exceptions that will be discussed later.

ESRs apply to certain activities that are defined as "relevant activities". This includes banking, insurance, investment management, leasing, parent companies, shipping, holding companies, intellectual property, and distribution and service centers.

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Companies that engage in one or more of these activities must meet ESR requirements and prove that they have a sufficient economic presence in the UAE.

However, there are exceptions. Public companies, non-profit organizations, and companies that do not engage in any of the "relevant activities" are exempt from ESR requirements. Companies that are fully managed by UAE citizens and are not part of a multinational group are also exempt.

Overview of the importance of ESR for commercial enterprises in the UAE

ESRs play an important role in the UAE's business climate. These requirements help ensure that companies in the UAE are truly doing business and contributing to the country's economy, rather than just using it as a tax haven. This helps improve the UAE's reputation as a reliable and transparent business partner.

For companies that meet ESR requirements, this provides additional benefits. They can avoid double taxation, gain access to the UAE's network of international tax agreements, and improve their corporate reputation.

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However, on the other hand, ESRs also entail additional obligations. Companies should keep detailed records of their activities, submit annual reports, and be prepared for regulatory scrutiny. Failure to comply with ESR requirements may result in fines and other penalties.

It's important to note that ESR isn't just about taxes. They are also related to corporate governance, risk management, and strategic planning. Therefore, companies must ensure that they have the right structures and processes in place to meet these requirements.

Special conditions for companies in free economic zones and offshore companies

Companies registered in free economic zones and offshore zones are also subject to the ESR. They must prove that their main business originates in the UAE, and that they have a sufficient number of employees and assets in the country. However, in some cases, these companies may be subject to special conditions and exceptions.

For example, holding companies that operate in free economic zones or offshore zones may be exempt from certain ESR requirements. Such companies typically have fewer reporting obligations and may not require a large number of employees or assets in the UAE.

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However, even in these cases, companies must be prepared to prove that they are actually doing business in the UAE. This may include providing evidence about the location of the governing council meetings, the location of the company's assets, the existence of contracts with local suppliers and customers, etc.

It is important to note that regulators in the UAE regularly update and clarify ESR requirements. Therefore, companies registered in free economic zones and offshore zones are advised to regularly consult with legal and tax advisers to make sure that they meet all relevant requirements.

Criteria and requirements for economic presence

To meet ESR requirements, companies must prove that they have a real economic presence in the UAE. This means that they must have actual operations, management, assets, personnel, and documentation in the country. The criteria may vary depending on the type of company's business, but in general they include::

  1. Proof that the main activity of the company takes place in the UAE.
  2. Availability of a sufficient number of qualified employees in the country.
  3. Having a physical office or other place of work in the UAE.
  4. Proof that key decisions are made in the UAE.
  5. Availability of assets required for the company's operations.
  6. Providing documentation confirming the company's actual operations in the UAE, including financial statements, contracts, invoices, etc.
  7. Proof that the company is making a significant contribution to the UAE economy.

It is important to note that these criteria are not exhaustive and may be supplemented or modified by regulators. Companies are encouraged to update their information regularly and consult with legal and tax advisors to make sure they meet all the requirements.

Examples of evidence of economic presence may include:

  • Lease agreements confirming the presence of an office or other place of work in the UAE.
  • Employment relationship documents confirming the presence of employees in the UAE.
  • Documents about the ownership of assets such as real estate, equipment, etc.
  • Financial transaction reports confirming the conduct of business operations in the UAE.
  • Documents confirming that key management decisions are made in the UAE.

Exceptions and special cases

Although ESRs apply to most companies registered in the UAE, there are certain exceptions. In particular, state-owned companies, non-profit organizations, and some other categories of businesses may be exempt from ESR requirements. In addition, special conditions and requirements may apply for certain types of activities.

For example, holding companies that only engage in asset ownership activities in the UAE may be exempt from certain ESR requirements. However, they still need to be prepared to prove that their main activity takes place in the UAE.

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Companies that are fully managed by UAE citizens and are not part of a multinational group may also be exempt from certain ESR requirements. However, they must be prepared to prove that they have a real economic presence in the UAE and that their activities meet ESR requirements.

In addition, some activities, such as intellectual property activities, may be subject to additional ESR requirements. For example, companies that develop and use intellectual property may be required to prove that they have a sufficient number of qualified employees and assets in the UAE, and that their activities make a meaningful contribution to the country's economy.

ESR preparation and reporting

An important aspect of ESR compliance is the preparation and provision of reports. Companies must regularly collect and submit documents confirming their economic presence in the UAE. This may include financial statements, lease agreements, employment relationship documents, asset ownership documents, and other evidence of their activities in the country.

Companies must submit annual reports on their activities, including information on the type of activity, number of employees, assets, income and expenses. Reports should be prepared in accordance with the established formats and deadlines.

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It is important to note that companies must retain all their documents and records for at least six years. This ensures that compliance with ESR requirements can be checked at any time.

Failure to comply with the reporting requirements may result in fines and other penalties, including revocation of the license or refusal to renew the license. Therefore, companies are advised to closely monitor compliance with all ESR requirements and regularly consult with legal and tax advisors.

Penalties and penalties for non-compliance with the ESR

Failure to comply with ESR requirements may result in serious penalties and penalties. In particular, companies can be fined from $ 13,600 to $ 81,700 for non-compliance with ESR requirements, as well as for providing false or misleading information. In some cases, the company may be deprived of its license or registered in the "black list". In addition, losing your license or being blacklisted can have long-term negative consequences for the company's reputation and ability to do business in the UAE and beyond. Therefore, companies are strongly encouraged to carefully monitor compliance with all ESR requirements.

List of possible penalties and sanctions

  1. A fine of up to $ 13,600 for non-compliance with ESR requirements.
  2. A fine of up to $ 81,700 for providing false or misleading information.
  3. Revocation of a business license, which can lead to significant financial losses.
  4. Inclusion in the "black list" of companies that violate ESR requirements, which may affect the company's reputation and its ability to conduct business in the UAE and abroad.

It is important to note that these penalties and penalties may be imposed for each year in which a company fails to meet ESR requirements. This can lead to significant cumulative financial losses.

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In addition, in the event of serious violations, the regulatory authorities may decide to suspend or revoke the company's license to do business in the UAE. This can have serious consequences, including loss of customers, revenue, and reputation.

It is also worth noting that getting blacklisted can lead to additional difficulties, including problems with obtaining funding, entering into contracts, and working with other companies.

In light of these potential sanctions and penalties, companies are strongly encouraged to pay due attention to compliance with ESR requirements and consult regularly with legal and tax advisers.

Conclusion

Compliance with ESR requirements is critical for doing business in the UAE. This helps to improve the country's reputation in the international arena, and also ensures transparency and honesty in relations between companies and the state.

Frequently Asked Questions

ESRs in the UAE are regulatory requirements introduced in 2019 to ensure that companies have a real economic presence in the country, including operations, management, assets, personnel and documentation.

ESR requirements apply to all companies registered in the UAE, including free economic zones and offshore companies engaged in certain types of activities, such as banking, insurance and investment management.

Exceptions to the ESR include state-owned companies, non-profit organizations, and companies that do not engage in "relevant activities." Companies that are fully managed by UAE citizens and are not part of a multinational group may also be exempt.

 

Companies must prove that their main business takes place in the UAE, they have qualified employees, offices and assets in the country, and that key management decisions are made in the UAE.

Non-compliance with ESR requirements is subject to fines ranging from $ 13,600 to $ 81,700, possible license revocation, blacklisting, and other long-term negative business consequences.

Companies need to keep detailed records of their activities, submit annual reports and be prepared for regulatory reviews, and regularly consult with legal and tax advisers.

Compliance with the ESR improves the UAE's reputation as a reliable and transparent business partner, promotes transparency and integrity in relations between companies and the state, and strengthens international business relations.

What is ESR (Economic Substance Regulations) in the context of the UAE?

ESRs in the UAE are regulatory requirements introduced in 2019 to ensure that companies have a real economic presence in the country, including operations, management, assets, personnel and documentation.

Which companies are covered by the ESR?

ESR requirements apply to all companies registered in the UAE, including free economic zones and offshore companies engaged in certain types of activities, such as banking, insurance and investment management.

What exceptions exist for ESR requirements?

Exceptions to the ESR include state-owned companies, non-profit organizations, and companies that do not engage in "relevant activities." Companies that are fully managed by UAE citizens and are not part of a multinational group may also be exempt.

 

What are the main ESR requirements for companies?

Companies must prove that their main business takes place in the UAE, they have qualified employees, offices and assets in the country, and that key management decisions are made in the UAE.

What are the penalties for non-compliance with the ESR?

Non-compliance with ESR requirements is subject to fines ranging from $ 13,600 to $ 81,700, possible license revocation, blacklisting, and other long-term negative business consequences.

What actions do companies need to take to comply with the ESR?

Companies need to keep detailed records of their activities, submit annual reports and be prepared for regulatory reviews, and regularly consult with legal and tax advisers.

How does ESR affect the reputation and business climate in the UAE?

Compliance with the ESR improves the UAE's reputation as a reliable and transparent business partner, promotes transparency and integrity in relations between companies and the state, and strengthens international business relations.

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