We are Aurifer. We are a boutique
tax firm established in Dubai.
Aurifer assists in tax controversies with the tax administration. We guide you through initial stages of securing tax treatment through agreements with the tax authorities, through administrative controversies after an audit, and finally before the courts through our partnership with renowned law firms.
Who we serve
for governments and businesses to understand the implications to their organization.
Global top tier businesses
Law and services firms
Early 2010’s, following the financial crisis and multiple tax scandals, such as the Panama papers and LuxLeaks, the BEPS initiative was launched by the OECD and the G20. The BEPS initiative is a set of international recommendations meant to prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (international tax avoidance).
As part of the BEPS initiative, Transfer Pricing (TP) rules were put on the agenda worldwide as a means to avoid tax evasion. The first detailed and comprehensive TP rules were designed in the 1990’s. The US published regulations in 1994 and the OECD published guidelines in 1995.
Saudi Arabia is member of the G20 and was expected to adopt a comprehensive set of rules to tackle tax avoidance through transfer pricing rules. Recently, it published these By-Laws on Transfer Pricing (GAZT Board Resolution No. [6-1-19] 25/5/1440H (31/12/2018 G).
KSA’s Income Tax Law had already implemented general anti-TP avoidance measures and approved the arm’s length principle, similar to other GCC Member States. However, these new By-Laws are going a lot further in terms of defining the applicable transfer pricing principles and documentary requirements. The new obligations trigger important compliance obligations and require extensive preparation.
What is a transfer price?
A transfer price is the price agreed between entities of a same group for their internal transactions (‘controlled transactions’). Transfer pricing legislation targets the relocation of profit within the Group: one entity located in a tax haven invoices its supplies (services or goods) at an artificially high price to another entity located in a high tax jurisdiction, successfully decreasing its taxable base.
In order to avoid this artificial profit shifting, the transfer price is required to comply with the arm’s length principle. This principle requests that the controlled transaction price is determined as if the transactions were made between unrelated parties.
Who needs to comply?
All taxable persons under the KSA Income Tax Law including mixed ownership entities subject to both Income tax and Zakat must comply with these By-Laws.
Exclusive Zakat payers are not subject to TP bylaws, but must comply with CbCR requirements if they meet the threshold.
The By-Laws determine the applicable methods and documentation inspired directly by the OECD guidelines and BEPS reports.
KSA has approved the 5 OECD transfer pricing methods:
- Comparable Uncontrolled Price Method
- Resale Price Method
- Cost Plus Method
- Transactional Net Margin Method
- Transactional Profit Split Method
A transfer pricing method other than the ones above can be adopted, provided the taxable person can prove that none of those methods provides a reliable measure of an at arm’s-length result.
In line with the OECD recommendations, KSA requires:
- A Master File and Local File to detail the Group and entities' transfer pricing policy (notably an explanation of the applied transfer pricing method) to be prepared on an annual basis at the time of the income tax declaration (only for MNE Group with an aggregate arm’s length value of controlled transactions exceeding SAR 6,000,000 during any 12 month period);
- The Country by Country Report (CbCR) to be submitted no later than 12 months after the end of the concerned reporting year for MNE groups with a consolidated turnover of more than SAR 3.2 billion.
In addition, it requires a 'Controlled Transaction Disclosure Form’ to be submitted on an annual basis along with the income tax declaration (no threshold applies).
The By-Laws do not mention the language in which the documentation is to be maintained and filed. However, the FAQs mention that GAZT encourages to maintain and submit documentation in the official language.
It is important to note that these obligations are already applicable to fiscal years ending on 31 December 2018. This implies that the concerned companies must start preparing the required documentation. The latter must be ready within 120 days following the end of the fiscal year, i.e. by the end of April 2019 for the first concerned MNEs. However, a 60 day extension has been provided for the purposes of maintaining the Local File and Master File.
The draft contains certain exceptions for maintaining the Local file and the Master file. Are exempt from these obligations:
- Natural persons;
- Small Size Enterprises;
- Legal persons who do not enter into Controlled Transactions, or who are a party to Controlled Transactions where the aggregate arm’s-length value does not exceed SAR 6,000,000 during any 12 month period.
Where the price is not at arm’s length, GAZT can adjust the tax base accordingly. This can result in a higher tax liability if part of a tax deduction is rejected or if it considered that the KSA entity should have charged a higher price to its foreign affiliate.
GAZT can also be informed of any TP adjustments made in another country, on a controlled transaction made with a KSA resident, if a treaty is in place with this country. GAZT can ensure the changes by the foreign authority are in line with the arm’s length principle. GAZT can subsequently make the appropriate adjustment to take into account the increase in the taxable base by the foreign tax authority.
In case GAZT disagrees with the adjustment, it can communicate and discuss with the respective foreign authority. An existing mutual agreement procedure ('MAP') with the foreign authority will be necessary.
Advance Pricing Agreements
An APA can safeguard companies against tax reassessments, as it provides for an agreed transfer price by the Tax Authority regarding specific transactions.
The By-Laws do not currently provide for an Advance Pricing Agreements (APA) procedure.
Tax Audit and penalties
GAZT has been working on TP for many years and is well prepared to enforce the new TP requirements. A specific tax unit, with experienced auditors, has been created to guarantee the correct implementation of these laws.
The By-Laws do not foresee penalties in case of non-compliance. However, the common penalties relating to corporate income tax apply.
Impact on the GCC
Any GCC company performing controlled transactions with a KSA company will have to comply with the KSA TP rules. The valuation of its intra-group sales must comply with the valuation methods recommended by the KSA TP rules.
In addition, GCC affiliates with a KSA headquarter will have to prepare a local file describing their own transfer pricing policy for the transactions with their KSA related parties. Important accounting information will also have to be gathered and transmitted to the KSA headquarter to be compiled in the CbCR.
Concerned entities must start to plan immediately. Practically this does not only encompass preparing the documentation. Companies must also keep evidence of the invoiced work, especially when intangible (e.g. management fees might be requested to be evidenced by proof of rendered services: announcements of internal seminars, memoranda, presentations, emails…). This implies to retain all data regarding intra-group transactions and to draft and maintain the required documentation or information and keep it up to date.
Finally, these new KSA By-Laws open the door to the implementation of TP rules in the other GCC countries, and notably in the UAE. The UAE committed to introducing a CbCR by joining the BEPS Inclusive Framework earlier in 2018.
UAE increases attractiveness as holdco location
The Double Tax Treaty (“DTT”) between the UAE and the KSA provides a significant tax incentive for businesses operating in the two contracting states. A positive impact on investment and trade between the two contracting States is expected in the aftermath of its entry into force.
This is the first DTT signed between two GCC countries. KSA is a member of the G20 and a key player in the GCC economy and on the global oil markets. It is keen to reinforce its promising investment environment. On the UAE side, the signing of this DTT reinforces its status as a regional hub for foreign investments and shows its commitment to its continued attractiveness and excellence.
Both contracting countries are members of the BEPS inclusive framework and signed the Multilateral Instrument (“MLI”). Signing such a bilateral DTT is a new step towards compliance with BEPS minimum standards – notably regarding transparency and tax avoidance. It goes hand in hand with the extensive TP legislation recently published in KSA.
This article highlights the key features of the DTT and analyses its tax implications for businesses operating in the two contracting states.
1. About the Treaty
Due to lengthy negotiations, the treaty is based on the 2014 OECD Model Tax Convention, even though the model was updated in 2017.
However, the KSA has already included this DTT in the list of its Covered Tax Agreements (“CTA”) in the MLI. It is yet to be included by the UAE, since the UAE signed the MLI shortly after the treaty.
2. Key Features
Only the “residents” of the contracting states shall benefit from this treaty.
This residence principle is generally adopted by the KSA in most of its recent treaties, contrary to the UAE which has recently opted for a citizenship criterion, such as for its recent DTT with Brazil.
As a primary definition for “resident”, the treaty uses the standard language of the OECD Model Tax Convention.
An additional interesting provision is that the DTT expressly qualifies as resident, any legal person established, existing and operating in accordance with the legislations of the contracting states and generally exempt from tax:
• if this exemption is for religious, educational, charity, scientific or any other similar reason; or
• if this person aims at securing pensions or similar benefits for employees.
Although the treaty does not specify whether the residence concept is applicable to businesses established in the Free Zones (UAE) or the Special Economic Zones (KSA), the competent tax authorities are required to coordinate to determine the requirements and conditions to be satisfied to be entitled to any tax benefit granted by this treaty.
Permanent Establishment “PE” Clause
The PE clause is largely based on the OECD Model Tax Convention, but features two elements inspired by the UN Model. It notably qualifies:
• As a PE: a building site, construction or installation project after 6 months (12 in the OECD Model)
• As a service PE: providing services, including consultancy services, by an enterprise through employees or other personnel engaged by the enterprise for such purpose if their presence lasts for a period or periods aggregating more than 183 days in any 12-month period
Taxes covered, rates and double taxation elimination
The DTT covers income tax and Zakat in the KSA and income tax in the UAE, inspite of the absence of a federal income tax law in the UAE.
No withholding tax regime applies in the UAE. The table added to this article shows the impact on the withholding tax rates in the KSA and the consequences of the treaty.
The DTT will not apply for royalty payments in case the beneficiary has a PE in the source country (exceptions apply). Similarly, excessive interest payments made between related parties shall not benefit from the DTT exemption.
The treaty provides for source country taxation only on income from natural resources exploration and development. The elimination of double taxation is performed through the tax credit method.
Zakat and the Treaty
Zakat is covered by the treaty (for the KSA). An interesting provision, introduced in several DTTs concluded by Saudi Arabia (e.g. Georgia, Mexico and Kazakhstan), states that “In the case of the KSA, […] the methods for elimination of double taxation will not prejudice the provisions of the Zakat collection regime.”
This provision may have an impact on Zakat for UAE businesses, considering the recent update of the Zakat implementing regulations. This notably impacts PE headquarters that might be subject to Zakat in the KSA, if specific criteria are met.
3. MAP and other provisions
The treaty provides for a Mutual Agreement Procedure (“MAP”) which can be requested to the competent authority in any of the contracting states within 3 years from the first notification of the action resulting in taxation not in accordance with the provisions of the Convention.
Investments owned by Governments (e.g. investments of Central Banks, financial authorities and governmental bodies) shall be exempt from taxes in the other contracting state. The income from such investments (including the alienation of the investment) is also exempt. The exemption does not include immovable properties or income derived from such properties.
There is no provision in the treaty for non-discrimination, assistance in the collection of taxes or territorial extension.
The entitlement to the benefits of the treaty will not be granted in case the main purpose of the transactions or the arrangements at stake is proved to be the enjoyment of such a benefit.
Even though this DTT between the KSA and the UAE is largely based on the OECD model 2014, the PE definitions it provides adopted from the UN model, broadens the scope of the activities taxable in the source countries, and will require specific attention.
The relief of withholding tax on royalties and interests, along with the MAP will reinforce the business relationships between these two countries. It is regretful that there is not a clear framework for Free Zone or Special Zone companies.
Finally, it is to be expected that the treaty will soon be notified by the UAE as a CTA under the MLI. In such case, businesses willing to benefit from this DTT will have to satisfy the Principal Purpose Test for the concerned transactions or other investment arrangements.
Since the introduction of its Anti Dumping law in 2017, the UAE has recently imposed anti dumping duties again to tackle goods dumped on the UAE market. Even though many countries have had a legal framework in place to take such measures since a long time, the UAE only adopted Federal Law No. 1 on Anti-dumping, Countervailing and Safeguard Measures in 2017.
This law implemented the 2011 GCC Common Law on Anti-dumping, Countervailing and Safeguard Measures. The law only applies to trade practices by non-GCC countries and not between GCC States.
Dumping occurs when goods are exported to the UAE at substantially lower prices than the sales price in the country of export. The sellers can for example offer these lower prices because of subsidies or other financial support provided by the government of the exporting country.
In a wider perspective, as illustrated by the US-China trade war, countries are increasingly looking at trade measures to tackle trade imbalances. In 2015, the US decided to impose a 500% antidumping duty on Chinese steel.
In January 2019, the UAE Cabinet decided to increase customs duties applicable to rebar and steel coils from 5% to 10% as a means to provide trade protection to iron producers in the UAE. This article discusses the provisions of the mechanics of such trade measures in the UAE.
Dumping measures are taken after a complaint by the UAE industry or the minister. The complaint demonstrates the link between imports and similar domestic products and the damage caused to the domestic industry.
If the complaint is accepted, an investigation will be started and notified in the Official Gazette and UAE’s top two newspapers.
An Advisory Committee will send questionnaires to interested parties to obtain essential data, notify the countries concerned, inspect the exporter’s facilities, hold public hearings and prepare a preliminary report before making a decision.
The investigation will be terminated in cases the complaint is withdrawn, the dumping margin is less than 2% of the export price, the volume of imports is less than 3% of the total imports or if there is insufficient evidence to support the dumping claim.
What is the damage?
The damage caused to the domestic industry may take the form of material damage (e.g. a drastic drop in sales volume), a threat of material damage or material retardation to the establishment of a domestic industry.
The damage can be demonstrated by an increase in the volume of imports which leads to a significant depressing or suppressing effect on domestic prices.
Determining the dumping margin
The dumping margin is the fair comparison between the normal value and the export price of these goods. This will be the base for levying anti-dumping duties or alternative measures.
The normal value is the comparable price at which the goods under complaint are sold, in the ordinary course of trade, in the domestic market of the exporting country. The export price is the price at which goods are exported to the UAE. It is generally the value at ex-factory level.
Imposing anti-dumping measures
During the investigation, provisional measures can be taken for 4 months. Provisional measures can be for example imposing temporary duties or requesting a security deposit upon import.
The investigation will be suspended or terminated if the exporter is willing to increase prices or cease exports at dumped prices.
The final decision of the investigation will either include the termination of the provisional measures or the imposition of a definitive measure. A definitive measure will be in the form of a duty valid for a maximum of 5 years or until the damaging effects of dumping have been eliminated (or any other trade measure).
The anti-dumping duty on imports of car batteries from South Korea is a prime example of a definitive measure imposed by the UAE since the introduction of the law. The duty remains effective for 5 years starting from 25 June 2017 onwards.
The Advisory Committee will review these measures to ensure that they have the desired effect on the domestic economy. A review will also take place on the need for imposing anti-dumping duties for new exporters of like goods from the same country.
Effect on customs valuation and VAT
In the GCC, anti-dumping duties are levied over and above the normal customs duties applicable on on imports of goods. Customs duties and VAT are intrinsically linked. VAT applies on top of these customs duties. Since in the EU VAT also applies on top of anti dumping duties, presumably VAT also applies on top of anti-dumping duties.