x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

UAE remittance tax on expats is a non-starter, say bank experts

A tax on remittances to overseas countries has been dismissed as neither feasible nor advisable.

ABU DHABI // A tax on remittances to overseas countries has been dismissed as neither feasible nor advisable.

Hamad Buamim, chief executive of Dubai Chamber of Commerce and a member of the UAE Central Bank board, said he he had heard that the levy was being considered by the Dubai government.

But imposing a tax solely in Dubai would be pointless, since expatriates would simply transfer money home from other emirates, said Ali Al Nuaimi, a Federal National Council member for Ajman and a former bank chief.

At the federal level, taxation could not be imposed without a law passing through the Cabinet and the FNC and approved by the President, Sheikh Khalifa, and no such law is being considered.

“At the local level, they cannot control it,” Mr Al Nuaimi said. “A person can go to Sharjah and send money. If it is at the federal level, it will take a long time. Nothing official has been said to us, maybe the government is discussing this internally, but no information has come out. It is just talk for now.”

The suggestion was also dismissed by Yousef Al Neaimi, chairman of Ras Al Khaimah Chamber of Commerce and a board member of RAK Bank.

“The country has a free economy,” Mr Al Neaimi said. “Any person who works in the country, employee or owners, when they first came they came knowing it was a free economy without taxation. So I do not think this idea would be welcomed.”

He said imposing a tax on remittances would be an indirect way of imposing an income tax.

“That means we have introduced taxation in the country,” he said, and the UAE was not ready for such a step.

“We still need capital and investors and the people working here in the country – they are partners.”

Bloomberg News reported last week that three bankers heard about the proposal after receiving a circular from the Ministry of Finance. The ministry had asked for their views.

Financial experts have repeatedly advised expatriates to keep their money outside the country in case they encounter difficulties here, such as losing their job.

Richard Taylor of UKTaxDubai.com and a chartered financial planner with PIC Middle East said last month such problems could lead to accounts being frozen.

Others send money to their home countries to support family members.

Jocelyn, from Dubai Maids, said a large number of their maids did just that.

“This is a bad idea, it would affect a lot of maids,” she said.

If such tax were to be imposed, she said many would be forced to send smaller amounts home.

A marketing specialist in Abu Dhabi, said he came to the UAE for work so that he could support his family in Egypt. “I am sure people will find ways around it, like send money home with friends, or travel to Oman and transfer money,” he said.

“Not everyone has a big salary and expats here usually have a home outside the country and a family they need to support.”

osalem@thenational.ae