Plus questions about reclaiming VAT on purchases in the UK and the rights and benefits for an employee after they have been made redundant, answered by our consumer advocate.
On Your Side: Property must be valued at Dh1m for residence visa
A few years ago, I bought two apartments in Dubai. Together, these have recently been valued at Dh1.8 million. When I bought them, they were being marketed on the basis that the investor would be granted a residence visa with a validity of three years. I did have a residence visa, but it expired because I was out of the country for more than a year. I understand that the law regarding the issuance of residence visas for property investors has since been amended. I would like to move back to Dubai, but when I attempted to reapply for a visa, I was refused because one property has to have a minimum value of Dh1m and not the total value of my investment. The fact that I have two properties must count for something, especially as I have had a visa in the past. KA Dubai
I have spoken with the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs, part of Dubai Residency and Nationality Department, about this issue and it has confirmed that a property-related residency visa, known as a multi-entry visa, has to relate to the title deeds of just one property and this must have a value in excess of Dh1m. It appears that the evidence for this is based on the paperwork at purchase and is based on the purchase price rather than the current value. If KA paid more than Dh1m for either of the apartments, he should be eligible to apply for a property-related visa.
I will soon be going back to the UK for a three-week holiday, but while I am there I plan to do some shopping, including for some expensive electrical items. I have been told by friends that I can claim tax back at the airport when leaving, but they couldn't explain anything to me in detail. Someone else has since told me that I have to be out of the UK for a full tax year before I can claim any tax back. Is this true? PT Abu Dhabi
You are referring to the facility that allows you to reclaim Value Added Tax (VAT). Although you have to be UK non-resident for tax purposes, there is no requirement to have been a non-resident for a full tax year. However, if you do not become so, your rights to reclaim the tax are rescinded. The scheme allows people to claim a refund on most items purchased from any shop operating the VAT Retail Export Scheme provided they are to be taken outside of the European Community. The scheme is voluntary and shops do not have to partake. To qualify, you must be an overseas visitor, not domiciled in the UK, or a non-resident for tax purposes. At the time you buy the goods, the retailer will ask you to provide proof that you are eligible to use the scheme, so you would need to show your passport. You must complete the correct paperwork before leaving the UK and have the receipts.
When leaving the UK, you must present your goods and the refund form to HM Revenue & Customs at the airport. After your VAT refund form has been certified by customs, you can post the form back to the retailer to arrange payment of your refund, post the form back to a commercial refund company to arrange payment of your refund or hand your form to a refund booth to arrange immediate payment. An administration fee may be charged.
I have been made redundant and was given one month's notice. I started working with the company in March 2010. Am I right in thinking that for every year worked, I should get one month's gratuity? What am I entitled to for redundancy on top of the normal gratuity? I still haven't received a formal letter confirming my redundancy, so I am waiting to see what it says in this, however, my contract says "as per labour law". In terms of a ticket to my home country on cancellation of my visa, does my final payment include the ticket home or is it additional? FN Abu Dhabi
Your entitlement depends on the UAE Labour Law and any extras that may be written into your contract. There is no additional payment for being made redundant and it's rare that an employer will offer more than it has to. You are entitled to the full end-of-service gratuity for the time worked, calculated as 21 days of pay for each year of service, pro rata for partial years.The figure is calculated in your current basic salary, not allowances, but should include any commission or bonuses that have formed a regular part of your pay. This means payable monthly or quarterly, rather than any annual bonuses. If you are planning to return to your home country, your employer is required to pay your airfare. Whether you are also entitled to payment for your annual flight will probably depend on the wording in the contract, but you are unlikely to have two flights paid for. If you remain in the UAE and take up a new job, the responsibility for repatriation moves to your new employer.
Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com