UAE's FTA clarifies VAT application for e-commerce

The UAE's e-commerce has been growing exponentially over the last few years

  
Image used for illustrative purpose. VAT implementation in UAE.

Image used for illustrative purpose. VAT implementation in UAE.

Getty Images

UAE - The UAE's Federal Tax Authority (FTA) on Wednesday further clarified that though five per cent value-added tax (VAT) will be applicable to general e-commerce purchases however there are a number of special rules that apply specifically to e-commerce transactions.

It said the tax will also be applicable on digital services including supply of domain names, web hosting and remote maintenance programmes and equipment, software, images, text and information provided electronically such as pictures, screen savers, electronic books, documents and other digitised files such as music, movies and games on demand and online magazines.

Other services identified under the banner of "electronic services supplies" include the supply of advertising space on a website and the rights associated with that advertisement, and political, cultural, artistic, sports, scientific, educational or entertainment broadcasts, including broadcasts of events, live streaming via the internet, the supply of distance learning services, and services of any equivalent type that have a similar purpose and mission.

The growth of e-commerce sector picked up even further in the wake of coronavirus pandemic with UAE residents on average spending over Dh6,000 a year.

"In light of the increasing importance of the e-commerce sector, clear mechanisms for procedures have been identified. Value-added tax, as it relates to the supply of goods and services through electronic means, contributes to supporting the activities of this vital sector, which depends on a locally developed digital and technological infrastructure," said Khalid Ali Al Bustani, director-general of FTA.

It added that taxable persons should charge VAT to customers when supplying taxable goods or services at the standards rate of 5 per cent or at a rate of zero per cent where law permits. If the supplies are exempt from tax, these supplies are not treated as a taxable supplies and therefore no VAT needs to be charged on these supplies.

Anurag Chaturvedi, CEO of Chartered House, said many international service providers, who do not have place of establishment in the UAE, are still unaware of the registration requirement for VAT in the UAE when they provide services to the UAE consumers.

As per the Article (18) of Decree Law, a non-resident shall register for tax and makes supplies of goods or services, there is no threshold limit applicable to the non-residents. "This means if a consumer in the UAE buys a service/product from an online platform (social media, e-commerce, education, games, arts, fashion, music or any other services), the non-resident shall register for the VAT within the stipulated time and comply with local tax legislation," added Chaturvedi.

As per the UAE legislation, the place of supply of electronic services shall be UAE if the use and enjoyment of the supply is within the country. Pursuant to Article (31) of the Decree law, provision of electronic services are subject to tax.

"If Netflix is being used by an end-user in the UAE, the service is subject to tax in the UAE. Many international service providers, who do not have place of establishment in the UAE, are still unaware of the registration requirement for VAT in the UAE when they provide services to the UAE consumers," added Charuvedi.

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