This week the spotlight is on legal and regulatory developments in Qatar, where the country’s Finance Ministry has announced it will establish a General Tax Authority. The Ministry also announced they will not introduce Income Tax on individuals or VAT in 2019. The Authority will be established as a stand-alone entity but will be supervised by the Finance Ministry. It will be responsible for implementing all tax laws. The Authority will be able to set up all related bylaws, procedures and instructions to implement tax legislation. It will also review and assess tax return forms submitted by establishments and collect taxes from relevant entities. In addition, it will represent the country in the relevant international and regional organisations as well as at international conferences and events. Finally, it will have the power to sign agreements with other countries to prevent double taxation. The Ministry added they will issue additional exemptions for key economic sectors and will not impose tax on investments in shares and profits. However, they will introduce an excise tax on goods which negatively affect health from the start of next year. It will include a 100% tax on tobacco and its products and energy drinks and a 50% tax on sugary drinks.
The UAE’s Prime Minister has issued the Implementing Regulations to Federal Law No 3/2016 on the rights of the child in line with Cabinet Decision No 52/2018. The Regulations cover child labour, procedures for reporting violations of children’s rights in educational institutions, terms of reference of the Child Protection Unit, conditions for child protection specialists, preventive and protection measures, foster family conditions and obligations, and child custody regulations for guardians. Employing a child will require special permission from the Human Resources and Emiratisation Ministry. The child should not be under 15 and must be medically fit for work. The Regulation also bans children from entering hazardous places including laboratories or places where toxic gases are emitted, as well as quarries, mines, conflict zones, environmental disasters, adult entertainment centres, explosives manufacturing facilities and other high risk workplaces.
Bahrain’s Central Bank has launched a consultation on draft crypto-asset platform operator rules. The consultation ends on 31 December 2018. The proposed framework will cover licensing requirements, financial resources and measures to safeguard client or customer interests, technology standards and cyber security risk management measures, reporting and other requirements. The aim is to provide a regulatory framework for licensing and supervising crypto-asset services including those provided by a platform operator as a principal, agent and as a custodian, in or from the Kingdom.
This week the spotlight is on legal and regulatory developments in the UAE, where the Federal Government reportedly plans to adopt a new maritime law. It is understood the first draft will be ready in early 2019. It will then be circulated for a consultation and submitted to the Government to review.
It will support port infrastructure in the country with the aim of attracting participation in its shipping industry and address the issue of diversity of shipping facilities. It will also include provisions for freight forwarders, cargo and ports. In addition, it will cover the UAE National Ship Registry, as well as environmental pollution, health and safety and logistical operations.
Elsewhere, the country’s Health and Prevention Ministry has approved a draft federal law on legal protection for non-medically trained persons providing emergency assistance and relief. The Head of the Emirates Emergency Division of the Emirates Medical Society said the law will come into force in 2019 and will make the UAE the first Arab nation to apply this type of law. It will protect people from civil or criminal prosecution when providing bona fide assistance or relief to another person in an emergency. The law also covers the requirement to inform the authorities in emergency situations and the provision of ambulances or other rescue operations.
Bahrain’s Real Estate Regulatory Authority has urged property managers and owner association managers to apply for a license from the Authority ahead of the 4 January 2019 deadline. Real estate brokers, sales agent and developers have already had to apply for licenses. Property managers and owner association managers are the latest categories to be regulated by the Authority. From 5 January 2019, property managers and owner association managers who operate without a license will be breaking the regulatory regime and will have the penalties outlined in Bahrain Law No. 27/2017 imposed on them.
Preparations for VAT in Oman are continuing. Comments made by a representative of the Finance Ministry in a seminar organised by the Oman Chambers of Commerce and Industry indicate VAT implementation could be introduced as early as 1 September 2019. Industry body meetings, including the financial sector and the telecoms industry, are now starting, with a view to the Government devising practical guidelines for dealing with VAT compliance requirements.
This week the spotlight is on legal and regulatory developments in Oman, where the Sultanate’s Manpower Ministry has announced it has launched an updated version of its automatic updates licensing service on Omanisation in firms. The new system provides Omanisation rate indicators electronically and has a colour coding system. Green means the target has been achieved while yellow means the firm is 50% of the way towards meeting the target. Red means the target is not being met at all. The aim is to improve Omanisation rates in the Sultanate. The rates will be displayed when firms submit work permit applications and will affect the speed of work permits being issued in the case of those firms categorised as green or yellow. If a firm is categorised as red it will be shut down.
Elsewhere, according to local newspaper reports, the Manpower Ministry has announced employees in three sectors will have to agree to alcohol and drug tests. The oil and gas, port and airport and electricity and water sectors are affected. The aim is to increase workplace safety in these sectors and amends occupational health and safety provisions.
Under the amendments, employers must proactively ensure workplace facilities are alcohol and drug free. They may also carry out unannounced searches on company property and managers will be able to decide when a search or screening process may be carried out. In a separate development, the Oman Society for Petroleum Services has announced they are preparing to introduce guidelines to require their members to put policies and procedures in place to enforce this new regulation.
The UAE’s President has issued a Decree-Law amending the country’s 1987 Penal Code (Federal Law No. 3/1987) and Federal Decree-Law No. 24/2018 was published in the Official Gazette on 7 October 2018. Under the changes, the law now covers foreign and domestic bribery in both the public and private sectors and international organisations. Its provisions apply outside the UAE’s territory, to anyone who commits any of the offences set out in the Code, if the criminal or victim is a UAE citizen or if the crime is committed by a public or private sector employee, or if it involves public property. The amendments to Articles 82, 170, 201, 225, 234-237, 257 and 280 have immediate effect and bring the country more into line with other countries.
Qatar’s Cabinet has approved a Decision establishing a committee to regulate non-Qatari ownership and real estate use. The Decision has been issued in line with Qatar Law No. 16/2018 which states non-Qataris may own and use real estate in the areas in line with the relevant conditions, controls, benefits and procedures. It stated a committee would be established and would be Chaired by a Justice Ministry representative. Individuals from the relevant authorities would also be members. The committee will propose areas where non-Qataris can own and use real estate and propose the terms and conditions of their ownership and use of real estate. It will also propose the benefits, incentives and facilities granted to property owners and non-Qatari users. In addition, it will propose fees and services in the areas determined by the Cabinet and any other functions ordered by a Ministerial Decision. The Decision also sets out how its members will be paid.
Weekly Spotlight: Licensing and Promoting Investment Funds Agreement Reached in the UAE Between Multiple Regulators
This week the spotlight is on regulatory developments in the UAE, where the country’s Securities and Commodities Authority, Dubai’s Financial Services Authority and Abu Dhabi Global Market’s Financial Services Regulatory Authority have announced they have finalised an agreement on the licensing of domestic funds by each authority for promotion across the UAE. The regulators have agreed to establish common rules to implement the agreement which amongst other things introduces passporting ‘mutual recognition’ for promoting and supervising investment funds and encourages foreign firms licensed in financial free zones in other countries to operate in the UAE.
In addition, the regulators have agreed a common legislative framework in their respective jurisdictions will be introduced to enable them to facilitate regulatory coordination between them in licensing domestic funds once the legislation has been approved.
They have also confirmed funds, licensed in line with the agreement and the licensing regulations, may be promoted in or from the financial free zones in the UAE, in line with the provisions of the agreement and the licensing regulations. Under the agreement, a notification and registration facility will be established by each regulator to facilitate the promotion and sale of domestic funds, set up in the UAE, in either the Dubai International Financial Centre or Abu Dhabi Global Market, to potential investors based anywhere in the UAE and under a single licence. The agreement was signed by the Securities and Commodities Authority’s CEO, the Dubai Financial Services Authority’s Chief Executive and Abu Dhabi Global Market’s Financial Services Regulatory Authority’s CEO.