March 2021 / United Arab Emirates

March 21 2021

UAE retail sales forecast to hit $58 billion in 2021: analysis

Retail sales in the UAE are expected to rebound and grow by 13% to reach $58 billion by the end of 2021, supported by pent up consumer demand in the second half of the year, Covid-19 vaccination efforts and Expo 2020 Dubai, new analysis from Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry has projected. 

The analysis, based on recent data from Euromonitor, predicted that UAE retail sales are forecast to maintain 6.6% annual growth in the medium term to reach $70.5 billion by 2025, with store-based retailing growth forecast at a CAGR of 5.7%, while non-store retailing is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 14.8%.

Progress related to the UAE’s vaccination campaigns is expected to boost demand in the second half of this year and attract consumers and tourists back to traditional stores. Expo 2020 Dubai, scheduled to kick off in Dubai this October, is expected to be a major catalyst for the recovery of the retail sector, in addition to the support and incentives provided by governments to business sectors at the federal and local levels.

The UAE currently leads the Middle East and North Africa region in terms of household spending on e-commerce at $2,554 per household, which is twice the value of the global average of $1,156, and four times the value of the average in the MENA region ($629).

According to JLL, Dubai saw 110,000 square metres (sqm) of retail gross leasable area (GLA) completed in 2020, which brings the emirate’s total retail stock to 4.2 million sqm.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi retail space stock remained unchanged at 2.8 million sqm. During 2021, Dubai is expected to see 761,000 sqm of retail GLA added to the market, while 293,000 of new retail GLA is expected in Abu Dhabi by the end of the year.

As new retail space in the UAE continues to come online in the short term, the market has become more favourable to tenants, due to expected lower rents and more available options, a trend which should support the recovery of retail businesses.

The analysis added that the Covid-led digital shift has created new growth opportunities for regional expansion for traditional retail and e-commerce companies based in the UAE, especially in markets with large populations, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria and Morocco.

March 29 2021

Tax Authority Details Conditions for VAT Adjustments on Bad Debt Relief

The UAE Federal Tax Authority (FTA) has confirmed conditions to be met in order for a supplier to benefit from the VAT bad debt relief scheme. The four conditions are as follows:

  • The goods and services should have been supplied and VAT on the supply should have been charged and accounted for. The FTA considers that this condition will be satisfied where the supplier has charged VAT on the tax invoice and has also accounted for VAT to the FTA via its tax returns.
  • The consideration for the supply should have been written off in full or in part as a bad debt in the accounts of the supplier. It is important to note that the bad debt relief can only be taken to the extent of the consideration written off in the accounts.
  • A 6-month period should have passed from the date of the supply. A supplier must wait for 6 months from the date of supply to initiate the process of bad debt adjustment. The FTA considers that during the course of these 6 months, the supplier should engage with the customer to recover the debt and collect the outstanding amount.
  • The supplier should have notified the customer of the amount of consideration for the supply that has been written off. The FTA considers that the notification issued to the customer must at least contain the following information in addition to any other information that the supplier may choose to include:
    • invoice number and date of the tax invoice which has not been paid by the customer; and
    • amount of consideration that has been written off by the supplier.

It should be noted that there is no specific method to notify the customer. Notification can be sent through a letter, email, etc. by post or any other similar communication.

The FTA published public clarification VATP024 related to adjustments on account of bad relief on 29 March 2021. It provides guidance on the application of provisions of article 64 (1) of Federal Decree-Law No. (8) of 2017 on Value Added Tax.

March 10 2021

Tax Authority Announces VAT Application on Supplies and Services Provided by Artists and Social Media Influencers

The Federal Tax Authority (FTA) has confirmed that VAT applies to supplies and services provided for consideration by artists and social media influencers (SMIs). The FTA specified that such supplies and services include inter alia:

  • online promotional activities performed on behalf of other businesses (such as product promotion in a blog or a video, or the promotion of a business on a social media post);
  • physical appearances, marketing and advertising related activities;
  • providing access to any social media influencers' networks on social media, and
  • any other services provided by SMIs for a consideration.

The FTA specified that artists and SMIs based in the UAE and making taxable supplies (including zero-rated supplies), are required to register for VAT (provided the value of their taxable supplies and imports reaches the mandatory registration threshold of AED 375,000 in the last 12 months). They may also voluntarily register for VAT if the value of their taxable supplies and imports or taxable expenses incurred in the last 12 months exceeded, or is expected to exceed in the next 30 days, the voluntary registration threshold of AED 187,500.

The FTA also specified that for the purposes of computing the threshold, artists and SMIs should take into consideration all the taxable supplies they made, even if such supplies do not fall within the scope of their core artistic or influencer activity. Artists and SMIs must issue tax invoices for all supplies subject to the standard rate of 5%.

The FTA clarified that if a non-resident artist or SMI contractually provides services to a VAT registered recipient in the UAE, the non-resident artist or SMI would not be required to register for VAT in the UAE (the UAE resident recipient of such services would have to account for VAT under the reverse charge mechanism). Where an artist or SMI provides services to unregistered UAE-based individuals or businesses, and the place of supply falls within the UAE, there is no registration threshold. Therefore, where an artist or SMI provides any services to such an unregistered recipient, they will be required to register for VAT in the UAE and charge VAT on the related supply.

The FTA confirmed that the VAT implications of artists and SMIs supplies should be assessed on a transaction-by-transaction basis.

The FTA announcement was published in the latest Basic Tax Information Bulletin on 7 March 2021 in the FTA's official website.

Note: The FTA launched the Basic Tax Information Bulletins to provide guidance to businesses and taxpayers with regard to the application of laws, executive regulations and tax procedures.