New UAE law on charity and donations: Fines, what's banned and what's allowed?

What happens to bank accounts via which illegal donations are made? Can I financially support a family member in distress?

  
Sharjha UAE, moored boats in sea with Sharjha Court house. Image used for illustrative purposes

Sharjha UAE, moored boats in sea with Sharjha Court house. Image used for illustrative purposes

Getty Images/SM Rafiq Photography.
UAE - A federal law regulating donations prohibits individuals from collecting charity funds without prior authorisation in the UAE.

Law No. 3 of 2021 authorises charitable associations, federal, local and private entities and institutions established by laws, decrees or decisions to collect, receive and make donations.

Here are all your questions answered by the Ministry of Community Development.

Q. How are donations defined?

Any type of money in cash or in kind, transferred or fixed, including national currency, foreign exchange, bonds, cheques and shares raised to be spent on charity.

Q. What happens to bank accounts via which illegal donations are made?

The executive regulations of the law specify the rules and measures of controlling, and closing such bank accounts.

Q. Is a person allowed to raise or collect donations for helping others?

Individuals are prohibited from collecting donations except through authorised entities. Licensed entities are not allowed to raise funds without the approval and permission of competent authorities.

Q. What about supporting a family member in distress?

The law does not prohibit support for family members, as long as it does not involve members of the public.

Q. Is it permissible to collect funds from relatives and friends to donate to a charity outside the UAE?

Any donations or funds outside the UAE must be done through the procedures laid down by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Individuals are not allowed to do so.

Q. Can entities advertise fundraisers?

Authorised entities are not allowed to promote or advertise fundraisers without the approval of the competent authority.

Q. Is it permitted to donate through social media or Internet?

An individual is prohibited from establishing, organising or performing any act with the aim of collecting or accepting donations from the public by any means of collection unless he or she obtains a permit specifying the mechanism and channels of collection or fundraising. Donations can be raised through the media and the Internet in coordination with the competent authorities in the UAE.

Q. May I donate through charitable associations’ donation boxes at shopping malls and mosques?

The donation boxes are monitored by relevant government authorities. Entities are not allowed to collect donations without the approval and permission of competent authorities.

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Q. What is the penalty for violators of the law?

— Profiting from donations: Dh200,000 to Dh500,000 fine and imprisonment.

— Harming public order, national security or public morals while raising funds: Dh200,000 to Dh500,000 fine and imprisonment.

— Using donations for purposes other than for which they were intended: Dh150,000 to Dh300,000 fine and imprisonment.

Q. How does the law deal with in-kind food or pharmaceutical donations?

Authorised entities may not accept any food or pharmaceutical donations for distribution outside the UAE, unless they meet the following conditions:

— Validity not less than six months from the date of delivery

— Materials are collected, transported and distributed appropriately to ensure their validity, safety, usage or consumption.

— All materials must be stored properly.

Q. Can donations be collected or received from outside the UAE?

Licensed and authorised entities are not allowed to collect or receive donations, grants or subsidies from any person or entity outside the UAE, unless they comply with the regulations and procedures set by the executive regulations of the law.

Q. Are there any authorised entities to collect donations?

— Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation

— Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation

— Emirates Red Crescent

— Al Maktoum Foundation

— Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charitable Establishment

— UAE Water Aid; Noor Dubai

— Dubai Cares

— Al Jalila Foundation

— Dar Al Ber Society

— Beit Al Khair Society

— Dubai Charity Association

— Sharjah Charity International

— Humaid Bin Rashid Al Nouimi Foundation

— International Charity Organization

— Al Ihsan Charity Association

— Saud Bin Rashid Al Mualla Charitable and Humanitarian Est

— Um Al Quwain Charity Society

— Saqr Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi Charity and Humanitarian Foundation

— Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Charitable Educational Foundation

— Hamad Bin Mohammed Al Sharqi Foundation for Humanitarian Affairs

— Fujairah Charity Association

— Other government entities and authorities such as Zakat Fund, Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation, among others.

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