The Manager of Saudi Arabia’s VAT Project, Hammoud Alharby has confirmed companies suffering financial losses will not be exempted from VAT and sectors which generate more than 375,000 Riyals will have to register for the tax. Registration will be optional for sectors generating up to 185,000 Riyals. Alharby confirmed the draft VAT law will be issued in the next fortnight. Its provisions will come into force in January 2018. The penalties are expected to include paying half of the value of the tax due in addition to the tax payment if the business fails to register or if a mistake is made in the tax return.
This week the spotlight is on legal and regulatory developments in Oman, where the Deputy Chairman of Oman’s Shoura Council, Mohammed Al Ghassani has suggested Oman is considering plans to allow foreigners to buy property outside of integrated tourism complexes if they meet certain conditions. The aim would be to boost the housing market and the economy.
Elsewhere, the country’s Telecom Regulatory Authority will announce a third mobile operator in September following an invitation to tender last year. Omantel and Ooredoo are currently the two Mobile Network Operators in the country and Renna and Friendi are the two Mobile Virtual Network Operators. It is expected to be in the first week of September and all the proposals are currently being reviewed. The aim is to increase competition in the Sultanate’s telecommunications sector.
Egypt's Parliament has approved the country’s new Investment Law. It will now be referred to the President for further consideration. Under the law, there will be tax exemptions of up to 50% for investors in the country's poorest regions and other incentives in sectors like electricity and renewable energy. It will also provide a service centre for investors which will be aimed at being a one-stop shop. Authorities will have 60 days to provide investors with all of the necessary authorisations.
The Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions has introduced new Islamic Finance guidelines. The new guidelines cover competitions and trophies in Islamic Sharia, including their modern applications, investment, gold transactions-regulating criteria and re-purchase standards. The aim is to help scholars decide whether financial activities and products conform with Sharia law.
This week the spotlight is on legal and regulatory developments in free zones in the GCC where Qatar’s Cabinet has called for a draft law specifying regulations for economic zones in the country to be issued. The call follows a review by the Council of Ministers of the Advisory Council’s recommendations regarding the law. If approved, the Council of Ministers, following a proposal from the board of directors of the Economic Zones Company (Manateq) will be able to establish one or more economic zones. All types of companies, partnership contracts or other legal entities, owned by one or more natural or legal persons will be able to be established in the zone. It will not matter if they are foreigners or nationals. They will be exempt from having to obtain any other licence, approval, permission or registration in the country. They will also be free to transfer any of their capital, income, profits or investments outside the State without restrictions.
Elsewhere, Dubai’s Land Department has announced it is preparing an action plan to regulate lease registrations in the Emirate’s free zone areas. The regulatory system will be implemented in phases by Dubai Investments Park. It will include updating relevant data for all properties under their jurisdiction and registered in the Land Department’s Ejari system.
Qatar’s Financial Centre has announced it has introduced legislation to allow Investment Clubs and Foundations to be set-up. Foundations will be established under the QFC Foundation Regulations and Rules and will have their own legal personality. Their structure will be flexible and will be able to be used for succession planning, asset protection and employee share plans. Their constitution needs to be provided to the Financial Centre’s Authority but will remain a confidential document. Investment Clubs will be companies limited by shares and will be incorporated under the QFC Investment Clubs Regulations and Rules. To ensure they do not have to be authorised, Investment Clubs should not be carried on ‘by way of business’. They will be able to pool funds by up to 15 members and investing in a portfolio of assets and securities. In certain circumstances, a member will be able to exit by selling their shares back to the Investment Club. The Regulations also provide for the Investment Club’s assets to be valued and for disputes over valuations to be resolved. Both entities will be able to be 100% foreign owned and will be able to trade in the currency of their choice. They may also benefit from unlimited repatriation of profits.
Sources at Kuwait’s Public Authority of Manpower have announced employees who entered the country with an employment contract for the public sector then transferred to work with the private sector then went back to the public sector can transfer back to the private sector without the intervention of the Supreme Committee. The sources added the implementation of Administrative Decisions cannot be backdated. The transfer requests which are related to employees who have been moving in and out of the public sectors before the relevant Administrative Decision was issued should not be subject to the prohibition.
Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers has approved new power regulations to expand the Saudi Water and Electricity Company’s (WEC) remit. The amendments mean WEC, as the Kingdom’s main water buyer, will be able to purchase desalinated, purified, treated and untreated water. The aim is boost water and electricity distribution in the country.
Lebanon’s Environment Minister, has announced new hunting regulations are on the way. Hunting any animal was banned in the country in 1994. New legislation was agreed in 2004 but has never been enforced. Prospective hunters will have to pass physical and mental health exams. In addition they will have to pass reading and practical exams on hunting laws, before receiving a license. They will have to be able to identify bird species which can be hunted as well as annual hunting quotas. Those who cannot read or write will be able to take an oral exam. Hunting will also now be limited to certain areas and hunting in nature reserves will be banned. This year’s official hunting season will run from September 2017 to January 2018.
Qatar’s Cabinet has approved a draft VAT Law and its Executive Regulations. The Cabinet also approved a draft income tax law and its draft executive regulation. If approved further, the amendments will replace Qatar Law No. 21/2009 and Qatar Law No. 17/2014. In addition, a draft Ministerial Decision issuing the Executive Regulations to the selective tax law were approved. It include provisions on tax entitlement, declarations of loss or damage of selective goods, inspection of damaged goods, registration, tax declaration, rules of payment of tax for locally produced goods, maintenance of accounting systems, accounting records and control and inspection rules.